Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads

Joel Best, Author
Joel Best, Author University of California Press $23.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-520-24626-3
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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.
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