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The long history of the con

Don’t Fall for It: A Short History of Financial Scams

by Ben Carlson, Wiley, 2020

In that great cinematic cultural touchstone of 1980s capitalism, Wall Street, Gordon Gekko famously proselytized that greed was good. Less well remembered is the remainder of the speech, when he adds: “Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.” It is that final point — that greed pushes humans onward — that best summarizes Gekko’s argument. But what happens later, when greed becomes overwhelming, the surge peaks, and humankind begins to slide down the other side?

These inglorious descents are the subject of Ben Carlson’s Don’t Fall for It, a slim volume that describes the financial industry’s worst frauds and examines the psychology of the protagonists and their victims. Carlson uses a simple classification to divide the men (and seemingly,

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The long nose of augmented reality

Every five years or so, I contemplate cutting my hair into a fringe. Experience should have taught me by now that this is always a bad idea, but nevertheless, I live in hope that perhaps this time, I’ll really look like a French model.

The last time I wanted to make a bad decision about my hair, L’Oréal hadn’t yet put out its Web-based augmented reality (AR) app that would allow me, in theory, to try out “countless” hairstyles and colors, just by uploading a picture of myself and applying a filter-style overlay. L’Oréal’s app was released in 2018, and although “countless” was a bit of an overstatement — there are 56 — I now know approximately what I’d look like in a bad wig. I’m no closer to deciding about the fringe.

It’s perhaps not fair to complain about the failures of AR just because this one app can’t

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Seven key actions business can take to mitigate the effects of COVID-19

At PwC’s Global Crisis Centre, we deal with crises every day. But as the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened, the volume of calls fielded by our teams has noticeably increased. By the end of February, the phones were ringing off the hook. Business leaders are concerned, and rightly so, for the welfare of their people and their organizations.

No crisis is an isolated, neatly contained incident, and the COVID-19 outbreak is exceptional by any standards. It comes with extreme scope and levels of uncertainty. It’s a situation that is well beyond the experience of most business leaders — the median tenure of a CEO is five years, and the last epidemic that approached anything near this scale was the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and lasted nine months. In much less time than that, COVID-19 has already infected more than ten times as many people,

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Caveat emptor, CEO


Management studies are a valuable source of insight for business leaders. But as many more studies are conducted and academics feel increasing pressure to publish, business leaders need to be cautious about the rigor and validity of the findings that they adopt and put to work. A short list of questions can help them choose wisely.

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It’s time to stop calling every firm that uses technology a tech company

Online cycling-class provider Peloton isn’t a tech company. Nor are ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, work-space provider WeWork, online fashion stylist Stitch Fix, meal delivery service Blue Apron, or content creator and curator Netflix, to name just a few that have been given that moniker.

The overuse of tech as the modifier du jour recalls the Internet-bubble age. In the late 1990s, companies that weren’t centered on clicks or whose online-oriented business was founded in vain added .com to their names to get Wall Street cred and attract venture capital. Now, it seems, tech is — or wants to be — a similarly magic word.

The overuse of tech as the modifier du jour recalls the Internet-bubble age.

To be sure, digital technology is an enabler, maybe the most powerful one since electric power. Technology’s capabilities have grown to the degree that it has not only become essential to doing

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Four different ways of knowing

The transition to a new decade often brings idealized images of the road ahead, for both companies and industries — and, of course, for the ways in which they should be led. However, as we have entered a 2020 with turbulence in politics, the climate, and markets, we have been offered something equally, if not more, valuable on which to focus: The concept of how we know what we know, and how that knowledge affects the leadership decisions we make.

The academic word for the study of ways of knowing is epistemology. You may have encountered the subject in grad school and then not thought much about it again. If yours was a Western education, perhaps culminating in an MBA, you traversed an instructional path bound by certain assumptions about what is true and what is not — along with acceptable methods for justifying your beliefs. This tradition, particularly

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