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What’s Les Reading

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror

Michael V. Hayden

For General Michael Hayden, playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you get chalk dust on your cleats. Otherwise, by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. "Play to the edge" was Hayden's guiding principle when he ran the National Security Agency, and it remained so when he ran CIA. In his view, many shortsighted and uninformed people are quick to criticize, and this book will give them much to chew on but little easy comfort; it is an unapologetic insider's look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment. How did American intelligence respond to terrorism, a major war and the most sweeping technological revolution in the last 500 years? What was NSA before 9/11 and how did it change in its aftermath? Why did NSA begin the controversial terrorist surveillance program that included the acquisition of domestic phone records? What else was set in motion during this period that formed the backdrop for the infamous Snowden revelations in 2013? As Director of CIA in the last three years of the Bush administration, Hayden had to deal with the rendition, detention and interrogation program as bequeathed to him by his predecessors. He also had to ramp up the agency to support its role in the targeted killing program that began to dramatically increase in July 2008. This was a time of great crisis at CIA, and some agency veterans have credited Hayden with actually saving the agency. He himself won't go that far, but he freely acknowledges that CIA helped turn the American security establishment into the most effective killing machine in the history of armed conflict. For 10 years, then, General Michael Hayden was a participant in some of the most telling events in the annals of American national security. General Hayden's goals are in writing this book are simple and unwavering: No apologies. No excuses. Just what happened. And why. As he writes, "There is a story here that deserves to be told, without varnish and without spin. My view is my view, and others will certainly have different perspectives, but this view deserves to be told to create as complete a history as possible of these turbulent times. I bear no grudges, or at least not many, but I do want this to be a straightforward and readable history for that slice of the American population who depend on and appreciate intelligence, but who do not have the time to master its many obscure characteristics."

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

Robert Gates

From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vivid account of serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House, he thought he'd long left Washington politics behind: After working for six presidents in both the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happily serving as president of Texas A&M University. But when he was asked to help a nation mired in two wars and to aid the troops doing the fighting, he answered what he felt was the call of duty.

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet (Jewish Lives)

Jeffrey Rosen

According to Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis was “the Jewish Jefferson,” the greatest critic of what he called “the curse of bigness,” in business and government, since the author of the Declaration of Independence. Published to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his Supreme Court confirmation on June 1, 1916, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet argues that Brandeis was the most farseeing constitutional philosopher of the twentieth century. In addition to writing the most famous article on the right to privacy, he also wrote the most important Supreme Court opinions about free speech, freedom from government surveillance, and freedom of thought and opinion. And as the leader of the American Zionist movement, he convinced Woodrow Wilson and the British government to recognize a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Combining narrative biography with a passionate argument for why Brandeis matters today, Rosen explores what Brandeis, the Jeffersonian prophet, can teach us about historic and contemporary questions involving the Constitution, monopoly, corporate and federal power, technology, privacy, free speech, and Zionism.

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Repeatability

Chris Zook with James Allen

Is radical reinvention the key to winning in today’s fast-paced world? Not judging by the results of some of the world’s best-performing companies. In Repeatability, Chris Zook and James Allen—leaders of Bain & Company’s influential Strategy practice—warn that complexity is a silent killer of profitable growth. Successful companies endure by maintaining simplicity at their core. They don’t stray from, or regularly discard, their business model in pursuit of radical renovation. Instead, they build a “repeatable business model” that produces continuous improvement and allows them to rapidly adapt to change without succumbing to complexity. Based on a multiyear study of more than two hundred companies, the book stresses the value of repeatability in business, showing how the “big idea” today is really made up of a series of successful smaller ideas driven by a simple and repeatable business model. Zook and Allen show how some of the world’s best-known firms combine a core differentiation model with speed, adaptability, and simplicity to land them at the top for long periods of time. These firms include: Apple, Danaher, DaVita, IKEA, Nike, Olam, Tetra Pak, Vanguard, and others.

Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Profit From The Core

Chris Zook with James Allen

When Profit from the Core was published in 2001, it became an international bestseller, helping hundreds of companies find their way back to profitable growth after the bursting of the Internet bubble. The 2007 global financial meltdown reaffirmed the perils of pursuing heady growth through untested strategies, as firms in industries from finance to retailing to automobiles strayed too far from their core businesses and suffered the consequences. In this updated edition of Profit from the Core, authors Chris Zook and James Allen show that a renewed focus on the core is more critical than ever as firms seek to rebuild their competitive advantage coming out of the downturn—and that a strong core will be the foundation for successful expansion as the economy recovers. Based on more than ten years of Bain & Company research and analysis and fresh examples from firms responding to the current downturn, the book outlines what today’s executives and managers need to do now to revitalize their core, identify the next wave of profitable growth, and build on it successfully.

Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2016


InsightOut

Tina Seelig

In this revolutionary guide, Stanford University Professor and international bestselling author of inGenius adopts her popular course material to teach everyone how to make imaginative ideas a reality. As a leading expert on creativity, Tina Seelig has continually explored what we can each do to unleash our entrepreneurial spirit. In Insight Out, she offers us the tools to make our ideas a reality. She clearly defines the concepts of imagination, creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurism, showing how they affect each other and how we can unlock the pathway from imagination to implementation, where our ideas then gain the power to inspire the imaginations of others. Drawing on more than a decade of experience as a professor at the Stanford University School of Engineering, Seelig shows readers how to work through the steps of imagination, ideation, innovation, and implementation, using each step to build upon the last, to ultimately create something complex, interesting, and powerful. Coping with today’s constant change, everyone needs these skills to conquer challenges and seize the opportunities that arise. Seelig irrefutably demonstrates that these skills can be taught, and shows us how to mobilize our own energy and bring new ideas to life.

Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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