Tag Archives: Summary

Summary: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century

In Wired for War, P. W. Singer explores the great­est revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb: the dawn of robotic warfare. We are on the cusp of a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make real the stuff of I, Robot and The Terminator. Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amaz­ing cast of characters, Singer shows how technology is changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself. Travelling from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to modern-day “skunk works” in the midst of suburbia, Wired for War will tantalize a wide readership, from military buffs to policy wonks to gearheads.


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Summary: Rescuing Prometheus: Four Monumental Projects That Changed the Modern World

Rescuing Prometheus is an eye-opening and marvelously informative look at some of the technological projects that helped shape the modern world. Thomas P. Hughes focuses on four postwar projects whose vastness and complexity inspired new technology, new organizations, and new management styles. The first use of computers to run systems was developed for the SAGE air defense project. The Atlas missile project was so complicated it required the development of systems engineering in order to complete it. The Boston Central Artery/Tunnel Project tested systems engineering in the complex crucible of a large scale civilian roadway. And finally, the origins of the Internet fostered the collegial management style that later would take over Silicon Valley and define the modern computer industry. With keen insight, Hughes tells these fascinating stories while providing a riveting history of modern technology and the management systems that made it possible.


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Summary: The Innovator’s Dilemma

The author shows how even the most outstanding companies can do everything right–yet still lose market leadership. Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. No matter the industry, he says, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know how and when to abandon traditional business practices. Offering both successes and failures from leading companies as a guide, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” gives you a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.


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Summary: To Engineer is Human

This book has its origins in the basic question: What is engineering? It sets forth the premise that understanding failure is essential to understanding and achieving success in engineering. Fundamentally, engineering is figuring out how things work, solving problems, and finding practical uses and ways of doing things that have not been done before. Successful engineers properly anticipate how things can fail, and design accordingly. Case studies of past failures thus provide invaluable information for the design of future successes.

Conversely, designs based on the extrapolation of successful experience alone can lead to failure, because latent design features that were not important in earlier systems can become overlooked design flaws that dominate the behavior of more complex systems that evolve over time. This paradox is explored in To Engineer Is Human in the context of historical case studies, which provide hard data to test the hypotheses put forward. Among the historical data points are the repeated and recurrent failures of suspension bridges, which from the 1850s through the 1930s evolved from John Roebling’s enormous successes—culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge—to structures that oscillated in the wind and, in the case of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, twisted itself apart and collapsed in 1940. Lessons learned from these cases and others are generalized to apply across a broad spectrum of engineering structures and complex systems. They also help explain why failures continue to occur, even as technology advances.

Summary by: Henry Petroski, Professor of Civil Engineering and History, Duke University


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Summary: The Polaris System Development: Bureaucratic and Programmatic Success in Government

To many the goal of the Polaris program seemed unachievable when first proposed: to produce a ballistic missile with a range of over a thousand miles that would be capable of being launched from a submerged submarine. Today a fleet of Polaris-carrying submarines constantly patrols beneath the seas as a key element in a national strategy of deterrence. Harvey Sapolsky examines the Polaris missile program, one of the most costly and successful ever undertaken by the federal government, and describes the bureaucratic strategies the Polaris proponents employed to control the threatening environment.

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Summary: Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America

Weaving historical source material with his own incisive analysis, Jack Beatty traces the rise of the American corporation, from its beginnings in the 17th century through today, illustrating how it has come to loom colossus-like over the economy, society, culture, and politics. Through an imaginative selection of readings made up of historical and contemporary documents, opinion pieces, reportage, biographies, company histories, and scenes from literature, all introduced and explicated by Beatty, Colossus makes a convincing case that it is the American corporation that has been, for good and ill, the primary maker and manager of change in modern America. In this anthology, readers are shown how a developing “business civilization” has affected domestic life in America, how labor disputes have embodied a struggle between freedom and fraternity, how corporate leaders have faced the recurring dilemma of balancing fiduciary with social responsibility, and how Silicon Valley and Wall Street have come to dwarf Capitol Hill in pervasiveness of influence. From the slave trade and the transcontinental railroad to the software giants and the multimedia conglomerates, Colossus reveals how the corporation emerged as the foundation of representative government in the United States, as the builder of the young nation’s public works, as the conqueror of American space, and as the inexhaustible engine of economic growth from the Civil War to today. At the same time, Colossus gives perspective to the century-old debate over the corporation’s place in the good society.

A saga of freedom and domination, success and failure, creativity and conformity, entrepreneurship and monopoly, high purpose and low practice, Colossus is a major historical achievement.


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Summary: The Visible Hand

The role of large-scale business enterprise—big business and its managers—during the formative years of modern capitalism (from the 1850s until the 1920s) is delineated in this pathmarking book. Alfred Chandler, Jr., the distinguished business historian, sets forth the reasons for the dominance of big business in American transportation, communications, and the central sectors of production and distribution.

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Summary: The Lexus and the Olive Tree

In this vivid portrait of the new business world, Thomas L. Friedman shows how technology, capital, and information are transforming the global marketplace, leveling old geographic and geopolitical boundaries. With bold reporting and acute analysis, Friedman dramatizes the conflict between globalizing forces and local cultures, and he shows why a balance between progress and the preservation of ancient traditions will ensure a better future for all. The Lexus and the Olive Tree is an indispensable look at power and big change in the age of globalization.


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Summary: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness — why some companies make the leap and others don’t. The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice.



Summary: The First 90 Days for Government

More than 250,000 public sector managers in the United States take on new positions each year and many more aspire to leadership. Each will confront special challenges–from higher public profiles to a greater number of stakeholders to volatile political environments–that will make their transitions even more challenging than in the business world. Now Michael D. Watkins, author of the best-selling book The First 90 Days, applies his proven leadership transition framework to the public sector. Watkins and co-author Peter H. Daly address the crucial differences between the private and public sectors that go to the heart of how success and failure are defined, measured, and rewarded or penalized. This concise, practical book provides a roadmap to help new government leaders at all levels accelerate their transitions by overcoming nine transition challenges, ranging from clarifying expectations to defining goals to building a team to managing personal stress. The authors also offer detailed strategies for avoiding major “transition traps.” Zeroing in on the challenges facing new government leaders, The First 90 Days in Government is an indispensable guide for anyone seeking to lead and succeed in the public sector.