BR 200: Inspired by Marty Cagan

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

*This is a really nice read if you are interested in Technology Product Management. I’d move this to “BUY It” in that case.

Comments: A really well written and well organized book that beautifully lays out the art and science of product management.

1. The job of the product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.

3 Steps to Building Products –

1. Is there a real opportunity?
2. Figure out what to build (build the right product) – is there enough evidence that it is valuable, useful and feasible?
3. Build it (building the product right).

2. Replace PRDs or Product Specs with a prototype. The majority of the product spec should be the high-fidelity prototype, representing the functional requirements, the information architecture, the interaction design, and the visual design of the user experience.

3. Fear, greed and lust. People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons. In the enterprise space, the dominant emotion is generally fear or greed. In the consumer space, the dominant emotions get more personal. If I buy this product or use this Web site, I will make friends (loneliness), find a date (love or lust), win money (greed), or show off my pictures or my taste in music (pride).

Book notes here.

BR 196: The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

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

Comments: I think I might have called this a “Priority 1” book if it wasn’t for business school. This was a very good refresher on how to think about predictions and data. As the ultimate data geek, Nate Silver does a very good job introducing us to the world of prediction and statistics.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Sometimes, predictions change the nature of the thing. If everyone is using an app that predicts highway x will have lesser traffic, everyone could end up on highway x.

2. Bayesian approach was to make a small prediction and keep improving on it. Probability was seen by Laplace and Bayes  as a step toward progress. Bayes theorem is concerned with conditional probability. Think probabilistically. Require you to accept that your subjective representations of the world are not truth.

3. Terrorist attacks are similar to earthquakes – high uncertainty. However, when you plot frequency and destruction wrought by terrorist attacks on a double logarithmic scale, it is a straight line!

The broken windows theory was embraced in the US despite limited scientific evidence perhaps because it is easier for police to imprison a 16 year old with drugs than solve a difficult crime.

Israel has taken the opposite approach – it treats small acts of terror as normal but has worked hard to eliminate large threats. Israel’s power law distribution curve looks different from what you might expect – due to their strategic choices.

Book notes here.

BR 195: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

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

Comments: First, I hope you get the audible version. The narrator makes a special book feel extra special. In some ways, that’s what this book is all about – feelings. It is about the feelings that go into building something special. Nike founder Phil Knight takes us on a wonderful adventure. In doing so, he shares things he did well and things he wished he hadn’t done. For example, he does a couple of downright wrong stuff (ethically). But, somehow you forgive him. You forgive him because of his authenticity and because you feel you might have done the same in that situation.

This is a book about Nike. But, really, it is a book about spirit, care and the joy of the pursuit. Very heartfelt and beautifully written.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Businesses are about money just as a body is about blood. You need it to operate but life is so much more than that. And, business IS personal.

2. You measure yourself by the number of people who measure themselves by you.

3. The art of competing is forgetting that competition exists.

Book notes here.

BR 192: The Seventh Sense by Joshua Cooper Ramo

the seventh sense, joshua cooper ramo

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

Comments: This is an interesting book. On paper, it is one that should have many fascinating takeaways. But, somehow, it fell short of the mark. I didn’t really have all that many interesting takeaways. And, I really expected to. Maybe it was a case of expectations versus reality.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A series of nodes connected to each other is a network. And, a connection of objects can change the nature of the object itself.

2. Power was asymmetric in the age of aristocrats. Since then, power has been going through a gradual decentralization. However, networks have been making power asymmetric via power law distributions.

3. Gate keeping is very valuable in the age of networks. Threatening to leave countries out of networks like the internet could be an effective way to enforce nuclear pacts.

(The author believes that we are in great danger of being wiped out by artificial intelligence.)

Book notes here.

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.

BR 179: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

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

Comments: Malcolm Gladwell is a masterful writer and weaves together many stories into a compelling book that asks us to rethink our traditional ideas of what constitutes an advantage.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. You may be better off being a big fish in a small pond. More people get discouraged and depressed being average at a top institution.

2. David and Goliath was a mismatched battle. As a slinger, Goliath actually stood no chance.

3. There is such a thing as a desired level of adversity. That’s how character is built.

Book notes here.

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.

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.

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.

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.