The Halo Effect

  • by Phil Rosenzweig
  • Narrated by Jim Manchester
  • 6 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Much of our business thinking is shaped by delusions that distort our understanding of the real reasons for a company's performance. The most pervasive delusion is the Halo Effect. When a company's sales and profits are up, people often conclude that it has a brilliant strategy, a visionary leader, capable employees, and a superb corporate culture. When performance falters, they conclude that the strategy was wrong, the leader became arrogant, the people were complacent, and the culture was stagnant.In fact, little may have changed -- company performance creates a Halo that shapes the way we perceive strategy, leadership, people, culture, and more. The Halo Effect unmasks these delusions and replaces mistaken thinking with a sharper understanding of what drives business success and failure. Drawing on examples from leading companies - and mercifully free of business jargon - The Halo Effect is for those thinking managers who want to separate fact from fiction in the business world.

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What the Critics Say

"Phil Rosenzweig has done us all a great service by speaking the unspeakable. His iconoclastic analysis is a very welcome antidote to the kind of superficial, formulaic, and dumbed-down matter that seems to be the current stock in trade of many popular business books. It's the right book at the right time." (John R. Kimberly, Henry Bower Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)
"Business books all too rarely combine real-world savvy with scientific rigor. Rosenzweig's book is an outstanding exception - it's a superb work and long overdue." (Philip E. Tetlock, Lorraine Tyson Mitchell II Chair in Leadership and Communication, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

slow start

First four chapters seemed like filler but after listening to the rest of the book, the author was just over emphasizing a point. The book gets progressively better.
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- michael

Pardoxical structure left me confused...

Like the vast majority of Americans, I consider myself above average intelligence, ;) so I'll try to explain my confusion from this book with a few summary style one-liners first:

1. "Let me tell you some stories to prove why storytelling is worthless to explain complex situations."

2. The Halo Effect leads people to explain wide variety of events with too much simplicity. (The book then proceeds to make wide pronouncements and explanations for business changes everywhere!?)

3. If a successful business person explains his or her success by saying "We stuck to good principles and built a high performing culture," they are deluded. If, however they say "I took calculated risks and focused on executing strategy" then they are great leaders.

On a less exasperated note, the book was worth it for the storytelling, if you can deal with what I saw as a thinly veiled ocean of contempt for business scholarship in general coming from the author. (I even agree much of the contempt is justified, but the tone it set wore me out, and I was glad for it to be over.)

The book suffers from some major logical problems, and that's why I say it confused me. Throughout, the author condemns selective data gathering, story selection, and simplified explanations, and then the book (by nature of being a book) is loaded with stories, data and simplified explanations that presumably were all selected and edited to bolster the point! The whole thing comes off a bit like the ancient liar paradox translated to a business book: "This business book says all business books are false." This leads to a weird effect: the more you agree with the book, the more you question the book!! Every time the author used an example from business to show that Journalists selectively saw and reported what they wanted to, I wondered "why did YOU choose this particular example? Aren't you doing exactly what the journalists did?" The book never even addressed that little snag.

Also, and perhaps most damaging in the long run, for the sake of simplicity, the author lumps a variety of fallacies and biases into "the Halo Effect." In the book you'll encounter: Statistical Bias from self reported data, Survivorship Bias, Narrative Bias, the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"; fallacy, misunderstanding of regression to the mean, and more. All of these mistakes are rolled into "the halo effect" when presented. This dogmatic dedication to "the halo effect" leads to some weird language in the book, like "If your data contain halos, you can't trust it." or "You can pile Halos to heaven, you won't get anywhere." (Paraphrased, I didn't look those up.)

Anyway, I actually enjoyed the stories from business and industry, but the logical argumentation just felt slightly tainted by self contradiction.

If you're into this idea of how hard it is to attribute success to leadership actions and individual decisions, I suggest "The Drunkards Walk" or "Fooled by Randomness" both books were far more readable than this, and didn't feel so angry. (Although admittedly, Fooled by Randomness has some arrogance beneath the writing, but I kind of liked it.)

Interestingly, I thought the reader's voice was great for letting the anger of the writing shine through. Maybe my perception of anger was due to that, I don't know.
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- Eric

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-02-2009
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.