The new book by Michael Lewis, "The Undoing Project," is a disappointment.

Lewis is the most unique journalist/writer in the country.


Because he can enter a field full of other writers, and develop rich articles and books about subjects that no one else has even thought about.

There must have been 1,000 journalists nationwide covering Major League Baseball a decade ago, but he came up with "Moneyball," about how the Oakland A's created great teams by using a new, data-based player-assessment strategy.

He also wrote "The Blind Side" about pro football, and "The Big Short," which focused on the economic meltdown in 2008.

All became big-grossing movies.

"The Undoing Project" is about two Israeli psychologists who created studies "undoing" our assumptions about the decision-making process.

Their papers showed how the mind errs, systematically, when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations.

But most of the book is about abstract "what ifs," not the real world.

The 362-page text starts well, however.

He talks with a general manager of the Houston Rockets pro basketball team about how they choose new players in the NBA draft.

There are many variables on whether a young player will be good, such as how old he is, how many parents does he have, does he play well against the best opponents, and will he be a hard worker after having millions in the bank.

Lewis suggests there are no firm answers but the discussion of possibly giving an 19-year-old dunkmeister $10 million of the owner's money is entertaining.

(The Rockets have been one of the best NBA teams in the league for the last decade).

But then Lewis, a Vanity Fair writer who makes the most complex situation sound simple, goes off into the abstract of decision-making.

He explains the lives of the two Europeans, both whom served in the Israeli army prior to become international celebrities in the world of academic behaviorism.

And he talks about their work in the enormous collegiate field of psychology and work-place economics.

One of the few examples of the duo's practical work in the business space is when they consulted with Delta Airlines on how to cut down on pilot error. To wit, pilots were landing at the wrong airports, or were on the wrong course until corrected.

The two experts suggested that everyone in the cockpit should have a voice in decision-making. Until then, the captain's vision was never challenged.

I wish he had added a dozen of those real-life examples.

But still, Lewis is the best.

It's just that he is not at the top of his game in "The Great Undoing."



Recommended for you