Kate's Reviews > What Do You Care What Other People Think?

What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard P. Feynman
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's review
Apr 05, 11

bookshelves: amer-culture, humor, science
Read in March, 2011

This book was in my re-read-me pile and I'm glad I read it. Feynman's anecdotes are always amusing and usually thought-provoking, and having read the compilation of letters to and from him that came out a few years ago, I had some more background to some of them - particularly the character of his first wife.

This book really shines in the second half which details Feynman's efforts to investigate the Challenger accident as part of a presidential commission. Not only is it fascinating, Feynman seems to have come to some basic truths about organizations: that, if everyone is focused on a single, attainable goal, (say, a moon landing,) and they don't spend their time worrying that they will be fired, defunded, etc, workers and managers alike are all willing to listen to problems that arise so they can be solved. However, when the goal is achieved or is more nebulous, and people still want to do the work they've been doing, but now suffer from having no single, attainable goal and must worry always that they will be fired or defunded or that their work is meaningless, managers stop wanting to hear anything negative because they're busy trying to offer happy reports to those who control the purse-strings. And the effect is that no one wants to bring up real problems because they feel they've been told not to, even when they have not been told so, because no one wants to be the one that destroyed NASA by saying "but the shuttle cannot be as safe as you are saying!" and thus politicians won't fund it.

It was quite startling to re-read such a book and find management theory lessons embedded in it. A little more proof that learning from reading is in the interaction of the reader with the book and not just in the book or in the reader.
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