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Comment: Cancelled library hardcover book with protective clear mylar jacket left on (can be removed by buyer if he/she chooses to reveal original dust jacket). Shows minimal reader wear, all the usual library marks, tape and stamps/stickers. Pages intact with no ink markings or highlighting. Strong binding. No pages have been folded or creased.
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Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads Hardcover – April 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1ST edition (April 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520246268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520246263
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,275,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sociologist Best (Damned Lies and Statistics) dissects the dangerous hula hoops of business, medicine, science and education in this light exposition on institutional fads. According to Best, American attitudes toward progress (colored by optimism, competitiveness, a belief in positive change and a fear of being seen as old-fashioned) serve as kindling to the fire of the next big cure, technological revolution, business management secret or teaching method. Best delineates stages of the fad life-cycle ("emerging," "surging," then finally "purging") and identifies conditions and players essential to creating a successful fad (a problem needs a solution, which is then proposed by originators and pushed by promoters), and though he makes an intuitive and immensely readable case, his book suffers from a dearth of hard data and case studies (the hypothetical "Dr. Michael" and "Professor Alice" used to illustrate Best's points feel contrived and simple). Similarly, his five rules for "fad-proofing" will work well for an individual, but those who adhere to his principles and swim against the tide in a large organization may find themselves reading this book in the soup line.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Best is author of Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists (2001) and several other books that take a fresh look at social trends. Although the title might suggest a whimsical look at the pop-culture fads that we all love to make fun of, this book focuses on a much lesser- but more insidious version: the institutional fad. Institutional fads occur in business, education, government, and medicine whenever normally rational people embrace novel solutions just because they are the latest, greatest thing. Since the definition of a fad is something that catches on and then quickly fades away, these passing solutions waste a lot of resources and can even leave damage in their wake. Some institutional fads that may not be all they were cracked up to be include multiple-personality-disorder diagnoses, business management systems such as Six Sigma, and the No Child Left Behind program. Best examines the life cycle and dynamics of fads and suggests some basic adages for becoming "fad-proof," such as "remember last time." David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Z. Freeman VINE VOICE on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Flavor of the Month is a 162 page essay/novel about institutional fads: why they exist, their different stages, and then a dissection on their pros and cons.

Although most of the observations are fairly obvious (institutional fads happen in cycles, etc) the information is well organized and presented. The major drawback to the book is that Best relies solely on "what if" stories. He creates fictional characters and places them in fictional situations to demonstrate how an institutional fad could begin, spread, and then fade away. The information would have been a lot more compelling if he were actually dealing with facts.

The book includes several copies of email forwards and other such jokes that you have probably seen repeatedly, and they get a little old, but add length to the book, which is their point I think.

I found Flavor of the Month easy to get through fairly quickly, but I'm not sure that I came away any more knowledgeable than before I opened the book. We all know that institutional fads happened, and I would rather have seen more examples of them happening in real life than a brief example of how they "could" effect a business.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Putney Mountain on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had read one of his previous books and thought it was okay. I was expecting this to have some entertaining examples of smart people falling for intellectual fads and some insights as to how that happens. Unfortunately, no such luck. All of the examples are ones that are widely known and there is really no insightful analysis. The book is quite short - all of the interesting content would barely fill a New Yorker article - and one gets the impression that this was just put together over a few weekends. I would have to say that the content is uniformly at the junior high school level. Save your money, no entertainment or enlightenment here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joel Best's "Flavor of the Month" illustrates, in some sense, the anatomy of institutional fads. Fads, Best writes, go through three notable stages: emerging, surging, and purging. Best devotes a chapter to each of these three 'periods' in the life cycle of a fad. Best also devotes a chapter exploring what he says are the spiral-like dynamics of trends (rather than the traditional pendullum or circular model).

One of Best's key insights, which guides his entire analysis, is the refusal to see fad-adoption as irreational. Instead of seeing the adopting and institution of fads as an "irratioanl exhuberance" (to quote Greenspan), Best attempts to explain the phenomenon as rational. First, he suggests, US culture (and many first world cultures) place prime value on change and "progress." Thus, there is always incentive to correct percieved imperfections and to "think outside the box" rather than remain static. Once the new idea comes along that promises to correct management, education, or other problems, the fad develops a kind of inertia: if those at the top sing its praises, those below experience pressure to get on board, and once they are on board, no one wants to be a "laggard." By the time studies come along showing the ineffectiveness of the fad, so much money may have been invested that there is little incentive to quit, but when enthusiasm weigns, it is generally done quickly and as quietly as possible.

Like other reviewers, my biggest problem with this book is that Best provides very few examples to support his points. It is one thing to describe how fad innovators use the rhetoric of change to get people to buy in, but it is quite another to say "and here are examples of what I mean.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
as someone has already written "fairly obvious but well organized." I enjoyed it - a readable excursion into the world of fads, and for comparison, non-fads. (For example, wristwatches [although perhaps having rare much older examples] really surged into the US market after 1915, and some people thought they were "fads" like hula hoops but obvious watches were not.)
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Danny Brassell on June 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
So what if this book just came out, and I tend to always read books that are sent to me from publishers for free? While Joel Best can often bore with statistics (he wrote the wonderful "Damned Lies and Statistics"), his point of this book is intriguing: Americans often fall for scams. He is not talking about the guys that buy Ab Rollers sold on late night infomercials (which I own, pitifully). Best is talking about how smart people in business, medicine and education cling to the next 7-step approach or easy-to-use carb diet. Education, in my opinion, suffers from this disease more than any other profession, as the pendulum has swung most recently to drilling letter sounds and endlessly assessing students as a part of the government's "No Child Left Untested" program. If nothing else, this book will get you thinking. You can read an anecdote from my own teaching experiences on the April 2006 blog of my website, [...] which archives awesome adult, young adult and children's books that are under 250 pages.
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