1. Read ASAP! · Career · Leadership · Management · Self Improvement

BR 237: Great at Work by Morten Hansen

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Morten Hansen kicks this book off sharing that he thinks of this book as the work accompaniment of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (he also has 7 work principles). As someone who thinks of the 7 Habits as the best book I’ve read, this is a bold claim. But, and here’s the best part, his book lives up. I found it insightful, useful, and applicable. This book was part of my end-of-year reflection and will be a big part of my “get better” themes for 2019. And, it is a book I wish I had when I started my career.

First 3 principles:

  1. “Do less, then obsess.” In sharing the difference between the South pole expeditions of Robert Scott and Ronald Amundsen, Morten Hansen makes an interesting point on focus. Amundsen focused completely on one form of transportation – dogs – while Robert Scott struggled with five.
  2. “Redesign your work for value.” Cutting priorities isn’t enough. We need to obsess about value. Value = Benefits to others x effectiveness x efficiency.
  3. “Passion + Purpose.” Purpose is when you make valuable contributions to others or society that you find meaningful and doesn’t do harm. Purpose asks what can I contribute while passion asks the opposite. Match both.

Every principle resonated. Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Creativity · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Management

BR 226: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This will be a fun read if you are a Pixar fan. I enjoyed Ed Catmull’s narration of the Pixar story as most other versions I’ve read focus largely on the genius of John Lasseter (who, as expected, is a key character in this book too). I think my rating for the book was tainted a bit because of the news around John Lasseter’s sexual abuse allegations. :-(

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. For all the care you put in artistry, visual polish doesn’t matter if you’re not getting the story right.
  2. Drawing well requires us to learn how to see. The difficulty with drawing is that we let our mental models of objects get ahead of us and get us to jump to conclusions. So, we lose track of what is actually on the page. Art teachers teach students to conquer this by getting them to draw an object upside down or by asking them to drag the negative space around the object – both of which don’t require mental models.
    This is applicable to problem solving. Don’t just look at the problem. Look at the context/situation around it. In Pixar, a scene could sometimes only be fixed by looking at the entire story or preceding scenes.
  3. If there is more truth in the hallways than meetings, you are in trouble. For managers who go out of the way to prevent surprises, get over it.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Leadership · Management · Philosophy · Psychology · Relationships

BR 189: Conscious Business by Fred Kofman

conscious business, fred kofman

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Conscious Business is an all star business book and deservedly so. It is one of those books that can fundamentally change your perspective. I didn’t find the principles necessarily new (lots of overlap with the 7 Habits way of life)- but I thought Fred Kofman’s spin on it was great. The only reason it wasn’t Priority 1 for me is because it goes into “How to” territory a fair bit. While it definitely helped illustrate points he was making, I think it works better for readers who are new to this sort of book.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Consciousness is our ability to be aware and to choose. I found this definition very powerful.

2. Kofman shared the steps to drive people crazy. I found this similar to the steps to creating a cult in Robert Greene’s book on Power. Essentially, it involves being very inconsistent and pretending to be open while not being so. The inconsistency drives people nuts. Sadly, such behavior is a common cause for schizophrenia.

3. Don’t question the emotion. Instead, question the underlying beliefs that lead to the emotion. For example, if Fred’s son believes that there are monsters in the basement, there is no point expecting him not to be scared. After all, we would be scared if we thought so too.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Management · Technology

BR 178: The Alliance by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

alliance

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: The contents and philosophy behind this book is very close to my heart as I’m heading to work at LinkedIn post school. A lot of it felt very familiar and true from my experience at LinkedIn over the summer. Thanks Reid – for sharing it with the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The best way to retain talent is to accept the fact that talented folks will want to leave. Plan for that.

2. Build talent management around “tours of duty.” These are “missions” of sort which challenge talented employees for a certain period of time and ensure a win-win scenario for both the company and the employee.

3. The best companies treat employee relationships as a two-way alliance. This lasts long after the employee leaves the company.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Leadership · Management · Skills

BR 176: High Output Management by Andy Grove

high output management, andy grove

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I finally got to reading this book thanks to Ben Horowitz publishing his foreword on his excellent blog. I read and loved the book and can see why Ben had such wonderful things to say. This book deserves its legendary status because it was one of the first examples of an incredible practitioner taking time out to share his wisdom and learning.

I nearly put this book down as priority 2 as Ben Horowitz outdoes this book with “The Hard Thing about Hard Things.” Other books have since lifted some of Andy’s insights and made them more commonplace. However, I decided against that as Andy Grove’s no nonsense style and piercing insights earns it a place among management classics.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Management by outputs – the reason we have “OKRs” or “Objectives and Key Results” as a unit of measurement across all top technology companies

2. Training is the leader’s job. The less the subordinate’s task relevant maturity, the moer the leader should spend time structuring and training the subordinate. Customers should not pay for a poorly trained employee.

3. Meetings are a vital management tool. Don’t waste time criticizing them. Instead, prepare hard and make them worthwhile.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Management

BR 174: The Outsiders by William Thorndike

outsiders, ceo, management

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is a very good book on the border of priorities 2 and 3. I debated pushing it down to priority 3 as I find myself becoming a tougher rater over time. The more books I’ve read, the harder it is to find new insight that truly changes the way I think. This book does a great job bringing together a few really good ideas. However, playing devil’s advocate again, I wonder if a long blog post / research paper would have sufficed.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Counter intuitive results require counter intuitive moves. Outsider CEO’s were most defined as they zigged when their opponents zagged.

2. CEO’s can spend their time (their most valuable resource) doing 3 things – investor relations, operations, or capital allocation. The outsider CEO’s spent most of their time on capital allocation, little on operations and almost none on investor relations. Nearly every one of them adopted some financial instrument that was under used – e.g. buy backs, mergers, acquisitions, etc.

3. They ran lean central teams and often hired strong COO’s who complemented their strengths.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Leadership · Management · Technology

BR 172: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Good book – especially if you are interested in technology. Lots of interesting points of view on why Google chose to operate the way they did. This is particularly applicable because many of the best known technology firms followed Google’s lead in terms of workplace environment.

I do think there’s an important causality issue in the book’s logic. Eric and Jonathan often make it sound that the way they built Google’s culture and norms resulted in Google’s success. I think it is the other way around – their extraordinary technical insight enabled them to build their unique culture and norms which, in turn, reinforced their technical superiority.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Open plan officers are important for creative work as they result in “collisions” of people that result in ideas being passed around. They are also important as they keep cross functional teams working together. It is just vital that you find ways to have workspaces where introverts can go and focus/get alone time as necessary.

2. Why have perks? Make the office a place where people really want to come to work. The more people want to work from home in jobs that require teamwork and creativity, the more you have a problem.

3. Bill Campbell style 1:1s

Book notes here.