3. SHELF it · Business · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 234: Subscribed by Tien Tzou

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

Comments: This felt like subscription economy 101.. I guess I expected more. :)

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. With subscriptions, product companies are replaced by companies who put the customer first.
  2. When we said newspapers and music were dead, what we were really saying is that the old business model was dead.
  3. The move from access to ownership means everyone is creating a subscription business. And the presence of sensors means even old manufacturers are embracing it. Schneider electric is making elevators default to most used floors for example.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Creativity · Novel Concepts · Psychology · Technology

BR 232: Algorithms to Live By Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

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

Comments: Really fun, geeky, book that doubled up as being insightful and applicable.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Explore/exploit: Exploration early in the lifecycle is the right strategy. Kids were considered intellectually deficient. But, as researchers opened up to the idea that they were in the exploration phase of their life, it made sense. Same with smaller social networks for the elderly.
  2. Wrong lesson from the marshmellow test. University of Rochester researchers exposed kids to an adult who promised to bring them better supplies but didn’t. When those kids were exposed to the marshmellow test, they did far worse.

    Willpower is important in enabling kids to be successful. But, it is likely more important for kids to grow up in an environment where they trust the adults they grow up with. Still a small sample (28 kids) but worth revisiting the learning.

  3. Prisoner’s dilemma has a dominant strategy that is worse for everyone. Unlimited vacation works like that because everyone wants to be perceived as a little more hard working. Equilibrium is 0.
    The only way companies can get around that is by shifting equilibrium – e.g. enforce x weeks of mandatory vacation.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Novel Concepts · Technology

BR 224: Quartz: The Objects That Power the Global Economy by Quartz

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

Comments: I love the Quartz daily brief and purchased their book almost as soon as they featured it. I expected quality content and they delivered. This book is a smart, nicely crafted, coffee table book. It covered topics like Bitcoin, the Lithium ion battery, iris scanners, and so on. Interesting read.

 

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

BR 220: Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

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

Comments: Hackers and Painters was an interesting read. This is unvarnished Paul Graham from before his Y Combinator celebrity days. His writing has been a lot more controversial of late. But, in this book, he shows up as a compelling writer sharing his notes on a wide variety of topics – from education to hacking to design to programming languages.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. The least sophisticated users tell you what you need to simplify and clarify while the most sophisticated users tell you what features you need to add.
  2. School was created as a means to keep kids busy while adults did work. (I’ve thought of this from time to time since I first read it)
  3. The difference between design and research seems to be a question of new versus good. Design has to be good while research has to be new. These two paths converge at the top – the best design surpasses others by using new ideas and the best research solves problems that are not only new but worth solving.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · Skills · Technology

BR 216: Product Leadership by Richard Banfield, Martin Ericsson, Nate Walkingshaw

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

Comments: There are few good books written on technology product management. So, I’d still recommend folks in product management to read it. However, the biggest challenge I had with this book was that it felt like a collection of quotes from various PMs around the world. I wish there had been more of a central thesis or hypothesis laid out.

Top 3 Learnings: 

1.  Product Management is the intersection between business, user experience, and technology.

Business: Primarily focused on optimizing a product to achieve business goals while maximizing return on investment
Ux: Voice of the customer and must be passionate about the customer and their problems.
Tech: Understand the stack and the level of effort involved.

2. The best roadmap is a strategic communication artifact that is focused on the big picture and conveys the path you’ll take to fulfill your product vision. Split roadmap into themes based on customer problems

3. The product leader as CEO idea is misleading. A better analogy would be the product leader as the captain of a sports team, a conductor of an orchestra, or a university professor guiding their class. Like the professor, conductor, or team captain, the product leader is an individual who succeeds only by bringing the whole team along with them, working toward a common goal.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · History · Technology

BR 209: The Master Switch by Tim Wu

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

Comments: I debated about whether this should be category 1 or 2. On the one hand, this book is very focused on the history of information empires in the United States. But, on the other, information empires are THE dominant corporations in today’s world. So, this book become a must read. :)

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Every information industry (phone, radio, film, tv, internet) has seen a struggle between open versus closed / decentralized versus centralized. Every one of these started out with hackers and hobbyists and then became the home of large monopolies.
  2. What we think is a by product of what we read and who listen to. Free speech and a marketplace of ideas are not as dependent on the values of a place as much as the structure of the information infrastructure.
  3. This isn’t as much a learning as much as a note that I remember so many stories from the book. The story of the creation of hollywood, the rise, fall and rise of AT&T, CBS, etc., still give me goosebumps. A hat tip to Tim Wu for a wonderfully written book.

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 207: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

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

Comments: Elon Musk’s book has a compelling narrative, a great inherent story and is very well written. It is not for everyone. However, if you are interested/intrigued by Elon Musk and/or have an interest in entrepreneurship, space or clean energy, this is a fascinating read.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. I found it fascinating to see how Musk kept buying himself career credit to do the next thing. His first tech company was a internet 1.0 version of Yelp meets Google Maps that exited for >$300M. This, then, gave him capital and credibility to work on X.com, which became PayPal. That, in turn, led to SpaceX.. And he chanced on Tesla because he was known to care a lot about clean energy.

2. Elon is a suitably weird/crazy, gifted person whose drive matches his considerable intellect. That said, he’s had to make some really big sacrifices to get to where he’s gotten to. He sees his mission as one that will save human kind (we care a lot about legacy as human beings) and his skills and experiences have positioned him beautifully for it. It isn’t for everyone. But, it is nevertheless inspiring to see him work toward what matters to him – even if his style occasionally is occasionally cold and un-empathetic.

3. I love Elon’s focus on first principles. His desire to understand the key drivers is phenomenal. The way he disaggregated the cost of a rocket’s components to get to understanding how over priced rockets are was, again, awe-inspiring.

No book notes. I treated this as a light read. :)