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Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads Hardcover – April 10, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›