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BR 143: The Everything Store by Brad Stone

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Comments: A very powerful insight into the one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this generation. It is symbolic that Bezos wanted to call Amazon “Relentless.com” because that is exactly what he is – relentless. Incredibly smart, incredibly driven, incredibly well read, and incredibly determined – a one in a billion combination.

A very inspiring story – there is a lot to learn from this book and from Bezos’ studied and researched style. I loved it. Must read for anybody interested in technology.

Top 3 Learnings
1. Bezos banned PowerPoint in Amazon’s meetings. Instead, he uses 1-6 page memos called narratives. He believes people can hide behind bullet points but it is impossible to not have clarity of thought if you are forced to write full sentences. He is absolutely right, of course. I’ve been using narratives in various projects and it means more thorough preparation than ever before.

2. As Bezos’ grandfather once taught him, it is harder to be kind than clever.

3. This learning isn’t so much from the book as much as it is as a synthesis on the man. The description that comes to mind when I think of is Bezos is “driven learning machine.” Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are examples. What’s amazing about these people is, aside from their penchant for learning, they are not afraid to take very big swings. It’s an awe inspiring combination and is a reminder that success isn’t a flash in the pan. As they illustrate, it’s a habit.

Book notes here

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BR 142: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

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Comments: If you love technology, you will find this book very interesting. It felt a bit gossip-y in that it focused a lot more on the dynamics of a handful of people who were responsible in building Twitter. You come to learn how Twitter nearly imploded multiple times but, against the odds, survived to change the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A strong board of directors is a key in every company as in life. It is very important to have people who have a long term interest in you who are then willing to call bullshit on your decisions and occasionally, guide you to move to a better place.

2. Complexity, conflict, clash of egos, etc., are not the words that come to mind when you think of the glory of a start-up’s journey to success. They’re part and parcel of the journey, however. And, it is worth remembering that no good comes without significant pain and learning. The book explores the path of these multi millionaires who all learnt some very tough life lessons in the process.

3. Twitter was founded by a bunch of geeks who saw it as a way of connecting with people. These weren’t people with strong social bonds or relationships. They understood the power of technology in helping people like themselves find connection. I thought it interesting that Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in the process of getting back at the girlfriend who dumped him. Scratching your own itch is a very powerful reason to build a company that changes the world.

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

BR 108: Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky

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Comments: I read this thanks to many favorable reviews and I walked away feeling a bit let down. I really couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

It’s definitely a very interesting book and describes the inside workings of Apple very well. Just didn’t think it was amazing.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Integrity. And here, I refer to Apple, the company. There is a certain ‘wholeness’ to everything Apple does. And their approach to communication, design showcases this from time to time. It’s one message and it’s always well delivered. That’s very hard to do in a big company.

2. Organizing the company around functional lines wherein you don’t need to ‘move up’ to management if you want to do better.

3. Maybe the whole purpose of the status quo is to change it. Change is the only constant in nature. Apple broke all traditional management beliefs and practices and became wildly successful. The nice thing here is that they lived their mission – to change the status quo.

And, of course, it will fascinating to see how Apple fare without Steve Jobs at the helm..

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BR 85: First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

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Comments: Thorough and well researched piece of work. This books beautifully synthesizes 25 years of research into what it takes to be a ‘Great Manager’ and puts it in front of our eyes.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The Greatest managers focus squarely on strengths

2. We gravely misunderstand the importance of ‘talent’. Conventional management tells us anything is possible and that if we set our mind to it, we can do whatever we want. Great managers understand that an attribute such as ‘calm under pressure’ is a talent and no amount of training can help hone it in people who don’t have that talent.

This ties right back to the 1st point. The simple idea is that we all have our own specific sweet spots – we need to find them and hone them!

3. Great managers build very close personal relationships with their top performers. How else can you get under their skin and push them? :)

And one last learning (this was a great book!), do check out the 12 questions.

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BR 84: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni


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Comments: This was the story of how a man-manager turned around an under-performing but team. This parable has a lot of truth in it and there is definitely something to learn from the approach.

Like all “good” books, the framework didn’t stand out. :)

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BR 76: Drive by Daniel H Pink

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Comments: Dan Pink shares a new wave to look at ‘drive’ and ‘motivation’. In essence, he begins the book by illustrating old ideas behind motivating people (eg: throw money at them) and then proceeds to discuss the theory behind motivation 2.0 i.e. that people are motivated by a) autonomy b) mastery and c) purpose..

This book is well summarized in this popular video by RSA Animate.

Add on Mar 16 2016: What I love about Dan Pink is that he takes a complex topic like “Drive” and motivating people and boils it down to 3 things – autonomy, mastery and purpose. This is incredibly hard to do and he does it really well.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Management · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Psychology

BR 39: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

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Comments: Great book. In many ways, it felt like a continuation of ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell but is a fantastic stand alone as well. It is exceptional as it brings about a framework for ideas that stick that is not too hard to apply in our own lives if we are disciplined enough.

What to expect: Lots of examples and proof that the ‘SUCCES’ principle is what makes great ideas stick. Great ideas are  S(imple), U(nexpected), C(oncrete), C(redible), E(motional) and are packaged in a S(tory).

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BR 32: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

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Comments: One of those acclaimed management books that gives you a  different perspective and shows you what can be done with a different approach. However, I found it idealistic and while easy to implement, not compelling.

What to expect: This is a story about a young man trying to learn management and his tryst with a manager who shows him the light..

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BR 30: Winning by Jack Welch

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Comments: Lots of good nuggets in here. It probably requires a bit of background about Welch and his work at GE as he talks about his pet topics like differentiation in detail. Also, I didn’t find the section on mergers and acquisition clear or, in my case, relevant.

What to expect: Jack Welch’s attempt at synthesizing his learnings on management. Many learnings are presented in his direct no-nonsense style that makes the book easy to get through.

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Management

BR 16: Iacocca – An autobiography by Lee Iacocca

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Comments: Nice book without being great. Iacocca tells us his life story and keeps us engaged.

What to expect: Iacocca did very well at Ford, rising up the ranks till he had an ego battle with the owner Henry Ford II and that obviously ended only 1 way. Iacocca then joined Chrysler and CEO and turned the company around in remarkable circumstances. Story of a very popular Italian American CEO.