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BR 252: Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

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

Comments: Got off to a promising start as it promised to detail how Bill Campbell became such an influential executive coach. However, it quickly just became a gushing list of platitudes. So, the book works as a lovely memoir if you knew Bill Campbell in some ways. For folks who’d like to learn more about the “how” behind Campbell’s magic, it falls short.

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · Design · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Technology

BR 249: Alchemy by Rory Sutherland

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

Comments: Book of the year. It’s impact on me was as follows – every time I hear someone say “that makes sense – should work” or something similar, I stop in my tracks and remind myself that things that the idea that things that make sense should work is a falsehood.” Alchemy has put in a reminder as strong as any that things that work don’t need to make sense and that a dash of alchemy is often what we need to solve problems. In that sense, its impact on me was profound.

Top 3 Lessons: 

1. The opposite of a good idea is often a good idea. The most successful supermarkets post recession were either really cheap or really expensive. Luxury brands work. So do mass market ubiquitous ones.

2. The Earl of Sandwich asked for a type of food that would allow him to eat without leaving the gambling table. The sandwich since has received mass adoption. But innovation happens at the edges. Not for the average user.

3. Why do we have reason? So many animals have survived just fine without it and evolution doesn’t plan for the future and predict reason will be necessary for us to send someone to the moon. One interesting theory is that we developed reason as a way of justifying our actions to others – a necessary investment in a legal and PR department in a highly social species.

It is honestly really hard to bring this down to a top 3.

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

BR 248: Valley of Genius by Adam Fisher

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

Comments: This book would be category 2 if you are a technology buff. It is a wonderfully put together collection of commentary of the story of Silicon Valley in a unique format – as excerpts from various interviews. I loved the first half of the book as there was a lot about the early history of the valley that was new to me.

Top Lessons:

  1. I was frequently reminded of the notion of clusters of talent. It happened at Fairchild Semiconductor (leading to Intel), happened at General Magic (leading eventually to the iPhone), and then at PayPal and so on.
  2. History doesn’t repeat itself.. but it does rhyme. A lot of the issues around content moderation were faced in “The Well” and a lot of what Napster struggled with was a precursor to Spotify.
1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Fiction · Technology

BR 239: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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

Comments: Ready Player One was a fun and riveting read that I’m sure I’m going to revisit. The book has a lot of references to 80s pop culture that I didn’t get – it still was that good. Great fiction transports you to a different world – and, as I was reading Ready Player One, I felt fully immersed in the world created by Gregarious Simulation Systems.

It changed my point of view on Virtual Reality from a skeptic to someone who believes it is likely to change how we think of life on this planet. It also inspired me to read more fiction.

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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.
2. BUY it! · Creativity · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · 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.
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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.