Book Notes: Our Iceberg Is Melting

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John P. Kotter and Holger Rathgeber,
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set the Stage

  • Create a sense of urgency – aid others see the importance for acing
  • Pull together the guiding team – build a team with leadership skills, credibility, communication, authority and analytical skills

Decide What to Do

  • Develop the change vision and strategy – clarify the future and how to get there

Make it Happen

  • Communicate for Understanding and Buy In – ensure that you get as much buy in as possible
  • Empower others to act – remove barriers to those who want to make the vision a reality
  • Produce short-term wins – create visible success as quick as possible
  • Don’t let up – press hard and fast after the initial wins.

Make it stick

  • Create a new culture – hold on to the new behaving and make them succeed until it is strong enough to replace the old traditions

Book Notes: The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with everything the concepts are simple but their applications are where they add real value.

Systems thinking – humans are really bad at seeing the impact of cause and effect where the effect is separated from the cause by time. There are three elements – reinforcing feedback which are engines of growth, balancing feedback which acts to slow things down near a target and delay which makes the consequences occur gradually. An important part is that people are actors in the system, not bystanders.

Building the learning organisation – to be able to have a learning organisation the first thing you need are individual learners. The way to achieve this is the pursuit of personal mastery through the tension built with individuals personal vision and striving towards it from their current position.

Mental Models – we all have our own model of the world which impact us constantly. These models our base on our personal experiences. The problem is that these can limit what we can achieve and how we can work with others.

Building shared vision – building a shared vision helps align mental models to the future. With having the same vision in everyone’s mind it is much easier to travel in the same direction. Very often people are told a vision but aligning on it is key.

Team learning – very often people learn things but that knowledge does not spread. This means that the team or organisation are destined to repeat the same problem again and again which wastes the teams energy and time. Building and sharing team learning improves the effectiveness of the organisation.

Book Notes: Crossing the Chasm

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents five different groups involved in the purchasing of purchasing of bussiness technology. Each of these have different characteristics, without understanding this and trying to just do the same thing companies fail. The key presented in the book is the chasm which needs to be crossed in order for the product to be a financial success.

Innovators: The Technology Enthusiasts – these people love the product for the technical genius. They don’t even fully care if it works, they just love to try things out.

Early Adopters: The Visionaries – these are the people who can see the potential of the product. They will likely buy it at a premium because they think it will give them an advantage over the competition. This is a great cash injection but care must be taken so as not to over promise to these people else it will hold you back later. Visionaries are lead by enthusiasts.

The chasm

Early Majority: The Pragmatists – this is where the money really is. The challenge is that these people want more than just your product – they want it to be supported, integrated etc. These are people with a budget which you need to win over without any major challenges.

Late Majority: The conservatives – they have a focus on stability, price, simplicity etc. Conservatives are lead by the pragmatists but are still very cautious.

Laggards: The Skeptics – you will never win these people over, they are negative about what you will deliver. You will never win them over but by minimising the distance between what you sold and what they got they will be unable to negatively influence.

Crossing the chasm

Companies which go hunting for sales at any cost end up satisfying no one and fail. The key is to be the largest fish in a small pond and to do that you need to carefully select a single market which you are going to invade, then link hitting the lead bowling pin other markets will fall later.

To put it simply, the consequences of being sales-driven during the chasm period are fatal

The key is not to target the biggest market, it is to target the one which has the biggest urgency for their problems to be solved. The target is a market which is

Big enough to matter, small enough to lead, good fit with your crown jewels

Then work out how to make your product easiest for them to buy.

Where as the initial product launch will get you to the chasm getting a “Whole Product” launched is what the majority need. The completion of the whole product will likely be made up with other companies such as partners and Allies. The challenge with these arrangements are a mismatch in company cultures, planning cycles, sides over selling etc.

Pragmatists will not buy unless they can compare, as such competition is a prerequisite of their bussiness.

Book Notes: Range

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book starts comparing Tiger Woods and Roger Federer – the former famous for his early start and continued effort in one area, the later choosing relatively late what he wanted to do. The importance here is “match quality” – where by you enjoy what you are doing. Where as Tiger was lucky that the thing which his father started him on he was matched to, other people who start equally early who are not a fit will give up or not put in the effort to be grate. As such there are some advantages in choosing after trying a variety of things to see which are are a match to.

This book explains how increasingly people get deeper and deeper into a field, the book highlights that this increasing domain expertise is no longer the holy grail which it used to be. With domain knowledge more easily accessible online the skills of searching and putting together information from different domains is key. A key point that the book makes is that, although team diversity can improve the situation having individual diversity is much more powerful.

Individuals are capable of more creative integration of diverse experiences than teams are

alva taylor and henrich greve

One of the key takeaways for me is the importance of taking complicated problems and trying to see similarities to other problems – the use of analogies is a very powerful way to see what work has already been done which on first sight may not entirely appear relevant. Varied analogies might then lead to solved works which can then be applied to the problem at hand.

Serial inventors are people who

  • high tolerance for ambiguity
  • systems thinkers
  • technical knowledge from peripheral domains
  • repurposing what is already available
  • adept at using analogous domains for finding inputs to the invention process
  • ability to connect disparate pieces of information in new ways
  • synthesizing information from many different sources
  • they appear to flit among ideas
  • broad range of interests
  • they read more (and broadly) than other technologists and have a wider range of outside interests
  • need to learn significantly across multiple domains
  • communicate with various individuals with technical expertise outside of their domain

Often if you’re too much of an insider, it’s harder to get good perspective

Where it is not possible to have people with range the next best is to have a team which practice active-openmindeness. Here, instead of trying to convince others that they are wrong, people try to ask questions to identify why they might be wrong. Through this people improve their own idea and perspective on how to solve the problem.

As such companies should build a Congruence (a social science term for cultural “fit” among an institution’s components – values, goals, vision, self-concepts, and leadership styles) which can aid in effective decisions making.

Consensus is nice to have, but we shouldn’t optimise happiness, we should be optimising our decisions.

Book Notes: The Dichotomy of Leadership

The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with the previous book Extreme Ownership the content itself is quite simple but it is the stories from Iraq along with the lessons which make it an interesting read.

  • People and mission – you have to care about the people and also the mission, the two (at times) might be opposing e.g. having to let some people go so that the company can remain viable not doing it may mean the business fails.
  • Micromanagement and la say fair – being too controlling can be bad and so can being too hands on, you have to balance both and find an appropriate middle which will change with different situations
  • Resolute but not overbearing – setting and expecting high standards also being pragmatic on which is critical for the mission and what is not
  • When to Mentor, when to Fire – most people just need help to grow but if this is not producing improvements then it is the tough call to have to let someone go which is important for the team not to have to carry someone who is not up to the job.
  • Train hard, but train smart – training is key to growth but the training effort needs to be targeted to improve the team not just repeating easy exercises.
  • Proactive not reckless – being proactive and pushing things forward but with consideration if things don’t go as planned. Sometimes proactivity removes time for opposition or valuable discussion and risk evaluation which is reckless.
  • Disciplined not rigid – being disciplined is important but having procedures for everything goes too far. There needs to be a balance where by the important procedures exist but there is also space for leadership at all levels.
  • Hold people accountable but don’t hold their hands – requiring the approval of all work means that the leader quickly becomes a bottleneck and although there is a place for people doing this to be accountable for their work there is also a need for the leader to actually lead and clearly explain the why so that the team have space.
  • Leader and a follower – a leader must lead but also know when to follow someone either more senior or more junior (perhaps with more specialised knowledge etc)
  • Plan but don’t overplan – planning is important as this help set the direction, assess risks and ensure alignment. The challenge is to know when to stop planning and when to start doing as the plan can never be perfect.

Humility is the most important quality in a leader

  • Humble not passive – humility is good but not if it means an unwillingness to push back, voice concerns, stand up for the good of the team or provide feedback.
  • Focused but detached – there needs to be a balance between looking into low level detail and thinking about the higher level picture. Neither on their own is sufficient and their balance is key.

Book Notes: Outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book provides a number of stories which highlight that the history and background have echoings for a long time to come. The fist story is about the importance of community of the duration of people lives. The impact that groupings by age have on future performance in sport, given that a child nearly one year older will be better than people at the other end of the year group physically. That genius is not an individual’s efforts but as a result of the opportunities people had e.g. Bill Gates having access to a computer terminal before most other people etc. The impact of culture in plane crashes where a hierarchical culture endangers lives. How number systems in asia gives them an advantage in maths. How people who herded animals are more aggressive than people who tended fields – animals are easier to steal than a field of potatoes – has impact for generations to come.

Book Notes: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents the following leadership laws:

  1. Lid – your level of impact is capped by your leadership abilities, grow leadership grow your potential for impact
  2. Influence – this is leadership. Management is about processes, entrepreneurship is about finding ideas and pioneering is about being first. Leadership is about influencing others through your character, relationships, knowledge and past success and failures, intuition and experience, plus abilities – certainly not title.
  3. Learning Process – leaders are learners, every day a small amount. There are no overnight leaders.
  4. Navigation – to see the bigger picture and to chart a course towards the goal
  5. Addition – make things better for the people who follow you by valuing others, growing ourselves and relate to others values
  6. Solid Ground – trust is the bedrock.
  7. Respect – people follow people stronger then themselves. Natural leadership is a start – one of the greatest pitfalls is relying on this and not growing. Respect others, have courage, success, loyalty and help others.
  8. Intuition – leaders see everything through a leadership perspective, this intuition is grown over time and is key so that when struggles come along they already see things through leadership.
  9. Magnetism – people attract people who are similar in age, gender, values, attitude, background, energy, abilities and leadership.
  10. Connection – leaders connect through openness and sincerity, vision, them (members), belief, direction and hope.
  11. Inner Circle – no leaders ride alone, it’s about having a great team with variety of skills to complement each other. A strong inner circle means better leadership.
  12. Empowerment – secure leaders give power to others. Keeping out of other people’s way is tough and insecure people don’t trust others so medle. Strong leaders give credit when things go well and take the blame when they don’t.
  13. Picture – people do what they see. As a leader you need to model the behaviours you want and you need to build a vivid picture of what you are trying to achieve.
  14. Buy-In – people buy into the person then the vision. Building personal relations is key to people buying into you.
  15. Victory – leaders find ways for the team to win, success is important for team morall and without it everything is much tougher.
  16. Momentum – a team with momentum is unstoppable. So with some victories and growing people builds momentum that means that the team will achieve more and more.
  17. Priorities – good leaders realise that being busy does not mean accouplishing things. Prioritisation is key – there is just not enough time to do everything.
    What are the 20% of tasks which are actually important. If things could be done 80% as well by someone else then delegate.
  18. Sacrifice – a leader has to give things up to grow. Be that giving up a well performing team to grow a new one or giving up personal time or location.
  19. Timing – timing is key. The right action at the wrong time gives the wrong result, so does the wrong action at the right time. Getting time and action to work together is critical.
  20. Explosive Growth – leaders who develop leaders – succeed, grow the top 20%, focus on strengths, treat individuals uniquely, invest time in others and impact people beyond their reach.
  21. Legacy – everything comes to an end so thinking for legacy and long term success is important. Many leaders don’t grow people in their team and leave a whole when they move on – don’t do this as your work will go to waste.

Book Notes: The Productivity Project

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quite often people think that productivity is about being busy , here the book focuses on what we accouplish. It is easy to get into a “factory” mindset focused on efficiency e.g. how many words did I write, however this is not productivity something such as writing a valuable book is.

To be productive we need three elements

  • Prioritise – not all tasks deliver as much value, limit to 3 per day
  • Biological Prime Time – work with your body, not against it find when you work best
  • Procrastinating – Tasks which are: Boring, Frustrating, Difficult, Unstructured or ambiguous, Lacking meaning, Lacking intrinsic reward – we naturally differ thing which match these criteria, instead we should lean on them e.g. if a task is boring how can we make it interesting?

Sometimes procrastinating is just a symptom that your life just doesn’t match what you’re interested in and … maybe you should do something else.

Tim Pychyl
  • Meet your future self – Make a vivid picture of you in the future as a real person, then you will less likely defer tasks to them
  • The Internet kills productivity – There are too many distractions, disconnect
  • Ignore time – manage your energy and attention to become productive not time
  • Working less – value space to refocus and recharge not time working even though working longer hours feels more productive it’s not
  • Cleaning house – group together low value/low attention tasks
  • Zen of productivity – we have to seperate the feeling of productivity from productivity itself, e.g answering emails are easier and give us enjoyment like Netflix, but don’t contribute to the high value items which we should be guarding
  • Shrink the unimportant – e.g. answering email feels productive but that does not mean it contributes to your highest value tasks so shrink the tasks which don’t.
  • Removing the unimportant – hire a (virtual) assistant to offload tasks
  • Emptying your brain – write down tasks so they don’t consume brain power
  • Rising up – review a list of “hot spots” e.g. finance, relationship to keep on track
  • Making room – having room so your mind can wander is great for problem solving
  • Attention hijackers – disable notifications, remote things which distract you
  • Mindfulness – focus on doing just one thing
  • Refueling – food, exercise and sleep have big impacts. Alcohol takes energy from tomorrow, caffeine from later today.

Book Notes: Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The lessons from the book are simple and listed below, however the book is more interesting than these notes because of the stories on which these principles were discovered.Extreme Ownership – fundamentally is about

Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organisation’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachment to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader sets ego aside, accepts responsibility for failure, attack weaknesses and consistently works to build a better and more effective team. Such a leader does not take credit for the team’s success but bestows that honor upon its members. When a leader sets such an example and expects this from junior leaders within the team, the mindset develops into the team’s culture at every level. With Extreme Ownership, junior leaders take charge of their smaller teams and their piece of the mission. Efficiency and effectiveness increases exponentially and high-performance, winning teams are the result.

  • Extreme Ownership – By leading and taking responsibility
  • No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders – Bad leaders blame others and don’t succeed
  • Believe in your mission – Truly understand why the mission is important
  • Check the Ego – Ego stifles planning, advice, criticism… the worst ego is yours
  • Cover and Move – The company wins, not the team. Support and work with others
  • Simple – Keep things simple so everyone can understand, if its complex its forgotten
  • Prioritise and Execute – If you try to take on everything you’ll fail at everything
  • Decentralised Command – Grow leaders with teams of around four to six people
  • Plan – Get the lowest levels to plan then brief at high level encouraging interaction
  • Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command – Provide more visibility up & down
  • Decisiveness amid Uncertainty – You will never have all the info but decide now
  • Discipline Equals Freedom – Leadership is a balance, being disciplined gives space

Book Notes: The Four

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book looks at the bussiness model for:

  • Amazon where it is all about investing in removing barriers so that you can get products quicker triggering gratification,
    • Story telling -> Cheap Capital -> 100x risks (loop infinitely…)
    • Amazon is destroying the significance of brands
  • Apple which is all about people wanting to make themselves feel good
    • Wealthy people are surprisingly homogenous in their buying habits
    • Apple are premium products and price with mass production costs
    • Selling the products as an experience in their stores not just a product
  • Facebook having such a large network of people thus being so valuable as a result
    • An average of an hour a day is spent on Facebook’s digital “properties”
    • Data on billions of identities allows micro targeting
    • Polarised opinions are better views and click bait
    • It claims to be a platform, not media, abdicating responsibility for content
  • Google which is a god in the sense that it gives bussiness and it takes it away
    • Huge amounts of trust by users
    • A change in their algorithm can spell the end for a company (e.g. about.com)
    • Search -> pages -> advertising revenue can be bed for publishers

T Algorithm

  • Product Differentiation
    • Great products break through the clutter
    • Don’t just think about adding, think about what you can remove/simplify
  • Visionary Capital
    • Storytelling is key
    • A bold vision gives you cheap capital
  • Global Reach
  • Likability
  • Vertical Integration
    • Own the whole experience
  • AI
  • Accelerant
    • Attracting talent is key to succeeding
  • Geography
    • You need to be based near the tallent, they won’t come to you

You

It’s never been easier to be a billionaire and harder to be a millionaire

You have to be great, it’s now a global world and there are so many average people. Emotional maturity is key – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills are not optional but essential.

One thing which was quite interesting in this book was the suggestion to go to a university and transfer to the best university you can after the first year when people drop out meaning it is easier to get into than in the first year.

You can’t win without stepping on the field. Hire A people because they hire As, Bs hire Cs.

Go to a city, the network effect is key, remote working will not give the advantages co-location will. Get equity in the companies you work for a live within your means. Stay loyal to people, not organisations. Don’t follow your passion follow your talent. When you leave, leave graciously as you never know when you might meet these people again. We regress to the mean sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down – if you are up don’t expect to stay there if you are down look up. Ask for and Give Help.

The author presents a company like an alphabet, when it starts it is at A –

  • Entrepreneurs here you need people who have high tolerance for risk, can sell, and are too stupid to know they are going to fail.
  • Once the company is rolling and access to capital it is better served by a visionary individual who can scale the company.
  • Later in the alphabet there is the operator who keeps the company going with job security important and low risk.
  • After this there is the pragmatist has no romance for the glory days and helps the company through a managed decline cutting costs, selling bussiness off.

It is rare for a CEO to cover more than two stages.