The $100 billion per year back pain industry is mostly a hoax

Read a new feature at Quartz on Crooked, the new book by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin.

Anyone who has endured back pain knows it is an erratic dictator. It takes hold of your psyche, demanding your attention and devotion before all else—before you can plan a hike, return to a work routine, pick up your child for a hug. So when someone offers to make that dictator disappear, it’s hard to resist—no matter what the price“People in pain are poor decision-makers,” says the investigative journalist Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, author of a new book, Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery. [QZ.com]

Read the NY Times review of T.R. Reid’s latest book

T.R. Reid’s new book A Fine Mess shows “What a World Tour of Tax Codes Can Teach the U.S. About How to Reform Its Own.”

Tax ranks high among global economic activities. Federal taxes alone constitute more than a quarter of the American economy. Including state and local levies brings the total tax burden to more than a quarter of Gross Domestic Product. Taxes account for about 45 percent of the economies of Denmark, France and Belgium, while in less prosperous countries like Chile and Mexico taxes are a fifth or less of the economy. Overall taxes, and disguised taxes like government fees, account for about 21 percent of the global economy. Given those numbers, researchers coming here from another planet might report back home that Earthlings love taxes, especially those humans living in rich countries, because high-tax countries tend to be the most prosperous. [NYTimes.com]

Read Bob Pozen’s HBR piece here

Bob Pozen has published a new article in the latest Harvard Business Review [HBR.org].

Each year most public companies issue reports describing the pay packages of their CEOs. In them compensation committees attempt to explain the rationale behind the pay figures to the shareholders, who often must vote to approve them. The issue is, in their reports many committees adjust performance numbers in obscure and inappropriate ways that lead to overly generous CEO pay. And they do so using nonstandard criteria that are difficult for even sophisticated institutional investors to decode. In this article, the former executive chairman of MFS Investment Management and an MIT professor of accounting and finance sort through the reports’ fine print and expose practices that stack the deck in CEOs’ favor: Adjusting earnings to be 100% higher than GAAP income. Paying out 80% of an incentive award for bottom-quartile performance. Choosing “peer companies” that are not comparable in size or in industry. And more. Shareholders should be more skeptical, say the authors, and comp reports must start providing much clearer explanations. But what’s needed most are new standards for compensation design and reporting [Download the full article here.]

Read two excerpts from Angela Zutavern’s book The Mathematical Corporation

Portions of Angela Zutavern’s new book The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible has been excerpted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (link below) and by MIT Sloan.

Why do leaders expect so much of themselves today? One reason is that society has become so interconnected—we face problems that, when institutions were more disconnected, we could ignore as “someone else’s.” But growth in knowledge and wealth has brought us to the point where we need to address insoluble problems that have long plagued society, such as disease, hunger, poverty, in new and better ways. And we need to do so together. [SSIR.org]

A new excerpt of Daniel McGinn’s Psyched Up at TIME

Read “Why You and Your Colleagues Need a Group Ritual” from Daniel McGinn’s Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed.

When the Belfast-born actress Laura Donnelly is working on Broadway, she likes to arrive at the theater several hours before the curtain. She eats a relaxed takeout dinner, does yoga, and then performs vocal exercises. “I warm up the same way before any play — I have my set routine,” says Donnelly, who is best known for her role in the TV series Outlander. But in the fall of 2014, when Donnelly starred alongside Hugh Jackman in the Broadway show The River, she put aside her traditional pre-performance routine and did something else instead. [TIME.com]