All posts by Richard

Review: The Art of Thinking Clearly

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

  • Survivorship Bias – The result is biased by the people who survived meaning people overestimate their chance of success
  • Swimmer’s Body Bias – There selection bias, not everyone is able to be a world class swimmer so you have to be realistic before you try to be
  • Clustering Illusion – People love to see patterns when none exist, in reality could be purely random
  • Social Proof – Just because something is popular does not mean it is the best/right
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy – You have to ignore what has already been invested and evaluate from where we are now if something is worth investing in
  • Reciprocity – People feel obliged to reciprocate and this is used in shops to get you to try their product then you feel obliged to buy some
    Confirmation Bias – We filter out any information which does not conflict with out existing belief. Actively try to disprove your opinion.
  • Authority Bias – The position of Consultants, CEOs etc might bias your own thoughts and where this happens you should challenge them
  • Contrast Effect – You make a decision because of your previous experience, not because of the current options outcomes
  • Availability Bias – People make decisions based on easy to get information rather than the right information
  • The It’ll-get-worse-before-it-gets-better Fallacy – aka the person has no idea and so this fallacy is win win for them
  • Story Bias – Stories give a false sense of understanding and omit or gloss over the actually important parts if they don’t fit a nice narrative
  • Hindsight Bias – People think they can remember the past but this is not the case, the only way to do this is to keep a diary not through recollection
  • Overconfidence Effect – People overestimate their own knowledge and sometimes underestimate to win a contract so be sceptical of predictions especially by experts
  • Chauffeur Knowledge – Where someone does not actually understand the content they are just presenting something like a news reader
  • Illusion of control – People think they can control more than they can, this is not the case so focus on the few areas you can actually influence
  • Incentive Super-Response Tendency – People are very responsive to incentives as such these can trump actually doing the right thing
  • Regression To The Mean – Where things return to average naturally over time, however people can attribute this to other factors which are just coincidental e.g. a consultant who came in
  • Outcome Bias – Disconnect the decision from the result. A bad decision can have a good outcome and a good decision can have a bad outcome. Record the decision and why for future reference
  • The Paradox of Choice – The more choices you have the more unsure and therefor dissatisfied you are afterwards. Decide on your criteria, stick to it, realise there is no perfect decision and that ‘good enough’ is the new optimum
  • Liking Bias – People buy more from people who think they like them. Always judge a product independently of who is selling it or pretend you did not like them.
  • Endowment Effect – People over-value their possessions more than the market does.
  • Coincidence – People read more into things than is actually there. “Never” does not exist, it just has a very small probability so on occasions it will happen.
  • Groupthink – If you find yourself in a unanimous group there is likely something wrong, consider appointing a devil’s advocate to ensure people feel safe to speak up
  • Neglect of Probability – People don’t naturally understand probabilities and overestimate their outcome meaning 1% and 100% appear very similar to people, the only exception being 0%
  • Scarcity Error – Either you want something or you done but people are motivated to buy things when they think they might loose the option to own it in the future e.g. “last few remaining” promotions
  • Base-Rate Neglect – People don’t take into account the actual likelihood of something happening
  • Gambler’s Fallacy – If a coin flip has been heads three times the next flip is still equally likely to be heads or tails, independent random events are independent
  • The Anchor – This sets peoples expectations and will draw you closer to it than you might have independently decided
  • Induction – As a result of history we predict the future, however this certainty is only provisional
  • Loss Aversion – People are more sensitive to loss and negativity so this will influence their decisions more
  • Social Loafing – Teams tend to take bigger decisions than their members would individually as blame is split if it goes wrong
  • Exponential Growth – People have no natural intuition for exponential growth
    Winner’s Curse – People want to win. As such people will over pay at auctions to “win” the prize
  • Fundamental Attribution Error – People over estimate peoples influence and underestimate external influences
  • False Causality – Correlation is not causality and its important to understand at a deeper level the link between effects
  • Halo Effect – Where one easy characteristic biases others, such as stock price on the performance of the CEO or beauty on the performance of a pianist
  • Alternative Paths – Your brain convinces you that you are on the best path and actively thinking about other paths is hard but needed
  • Forecast Illusion – Forecasts are rarely better than random but good forecasts get huge publicity and poor forecasts get quickly forgotten
  • Conjunction Fallacy – Humans feel that things which are more specific are more likely where as thing which are more specific are inherently less likely probabilistic
  • Framing – The ways you say things will impact how people think about things, e.g. saying the car has great millage will make people think of that not how good the engine is
  • Action Bias – People feel compelled to do something when they don’t have enough information to make a decision, even when doing nothing and learning more would be the better option
  • Omission Bias – This is where we don’t do something but we would not do the opposite e.g. we are less critical of companies which don’t release new products compared to companies which release bad ones, or building no emissions filter into a coal plant feels superior to removing one for cost reasons
  • Self-Serving Bias – You are biased in favour of yourself, if you do well it is all because of you if you do poorly it is because of the system or external factors
  • Hedonic Treadmill – We work hard, advance and are able to afford more and nicer things and yet this does not make us any happier
  • Self-Selection Bias – Where the result is influenced by the method. e.g. a telephone survey asking how many phone people have wont result in anyone without a phone
  • Association Bias – Read into the situation only what was there and nothing more. e.g. just because someone tells you some bad news don’t shoot the messenger
  • Beginner’s Luck – Things happen randomly and so its possible that you are lucky first time but don’t think you are a genius at at
  • Cognitive Dissonance – People convince themselves against their natural judgement e.g. if people do a boring task they don’t want to acknowledge that then they convince themselves it was better than they felt
  • Hyperbolic Discounting – People want instant rewards. If offered $1,000 in 12 months or $1,100 in 13 months most people would choose $1,100 but $1,000 today or $1,100 next month most people would choose the $1,000 today
  • “Because” justification – people feel better for knowing why. e.g. jumping to the front of the copier queue and saying “I need to use the copier because I need to copy some stuff” is perceived as better than “I need to use the copier” even though the content is the same
  • Decision Fatigue – Decision making is mentally exhausting and people would prefer to use instinct than conscious effort
  • Contagion Bias – People associate objects with people e.g. relics or photos of people
  • The Problem with Averages – Averages can be misleading, e.g. the wealth on a bus compared to the wealth on a bus with Bill Gates on it which does not change any of the previous passengers
  • Motivation Crowding – Where people are naturally motivated by something, e.g. collecting their children from day-care, adding a financial aspect to this can turn this from natural motivation to a purely financial transaction, e.g. the parent deciding that they will pay the extra $10 because then they can do something else in that time
  • Twaddle Tendency – Verbal expression is the mirror of the mind. Clear thoughts become clear statements, whereas ambiguous ideas transform into vacant ramblings.
  • Will Rogers Phenomenon/stage migration – this is where there are two groups, one out-performing another, and you move the worst performer from the higher performing group into the lower performing group then the average of both groups increase. e.g. sales rates of 1,2&3 in group A and 4,5&6 in group B, moving 4 to Group A will increase its average from 2 to 2.5 and Group B from 5 to 5.5 but in reality the total is the same
  • Information Bias – The idea that more information is better, in reality the facts in a sample of 100 people will likely be the same with 200 so the extra does not add any extra learning
  • Effort Justification – People feel that things they have put effort into are worth more, in reality this is not the case e.g. the value of your built Ikea Bookcase is the same as one someone else made
  • The Law of Small Numbers – If you measure the average theft rate per county then the best and the worst will be smaller counties because 0/100 or 1/100 are more extreme than 10/13,000. i.e. the small numbers make the averages more extreme
  • Expectations – People have expectations and when expectations are not met they are unhappy or will be punished (e.g. sacked). Randomly selected pupils who the teacher is told are better will perform better as the teacher will be more willing to help them
  • Simple Logic – People use the intuition part of their brain for logic but this does not regularly result in the correct answer
  • Forer Effect – Where people see what they want in things, given a generic text describing yourself you will agree with most of it and think the text is just about you
  • Volunteer’s Folly – People feel that by volunteering they are giving efficiently, in reality if you are paid $100 an hour it would be better for you to work an extra hour and donate the $100 for a specialist who can do the task better, quicker to a higher quality than an amateur
  • Affect Heuristic – People have a natural response which then impedes their decision making e.g. using the word luxury people will have an instant feeling about it
  • Introspection Illusion – People believe their predictions much more than they believe other peoples, it is difficult to be self critical
  • Inability to Close Doors – Deciding what not to do is hard but it is the key to focusing on what you are doing
  • Neomania – People believe in hype and project things in the future which are unlikely. Focusing on what has been will likely result in things which are around longer e.g. chairs
  • Sleepers Effect – propaganda, advertising, advice etc you can easily discount it in the moment but it seeps into you in the future without you realising it
  • Alternative Blindness – There are more alternatives than you realise, you will likely get offered two but in reality there are many more worth considering
  • Social Comparison Bias – People naturally feel scared about people who are better than them in some way, however supporting and developing them will be mutually beneficial in the future
  • Primacy And Recency Effects – People remember the initial impression and the final impression much more than the middle – remembering the middle is an active task which needs to be undertaken
  • Not-Invented-Here Syndrome – We prefer our own ideas where as some of the ideas externally were better we just did not want to admit it
    The Black Swan – If you want to ride a black swan you have to be open to it, you will never ride it if you don’t try
  • Domain Dependence – Transferring skills from one domain to another is not natural, but sitting back and identifying what professional experience you have and how you can apply it to your personal life could be beneficial
  • False-Consensus Effect – Most people extend their thoughts onto others e.g. overstating unanimity. In bussiness this could be the R&D department thinking their product is what people want where as in reality it is not
  • Falsification of History – Hindesite is not clear, we constantly re-interpret the past in our brain and as such it is not possible to know how we thought at a point in time or exactly why a decision was made – the only way to overcome it is with a diary.
  • In-Group Out-Group Bias – Prejudice and aversion are biological responses to anything foreign. As such there is a huge feeling of wanting to be in a group for safety.
  • Ambiguity Aversion – Dealing with ambiguity is needed, we will never have all of the information so we have to work with the information which we currently have
  • Default Effect – People stick with the default normally and rarely change from the status-quo, this is the simplest decision to make as effectively the decision has been made by someone else
  • Fear of Regret – People don’t like the closing of doors so when there are the “Last chance to buy” people will jump on it, where as in reality it is likely that the chance will come up again in the future
  • Salience Effect – People like a simple answer to everything and trivialise things down to one cause e.g. a book being on the best seller list because of its red colour, it is key to see past this and look at the other factors
  • House-Money Effect – People treat winning money differently to earning it, in reality the source of the money should have no effect on how you spend it
  • Procrastination – If you really need to get something done then tell people you are doing it, set public deadlines and focus.
  • Envy – In the past resources were scares so people were envious if someone had something they needed, these days resources are not scares but we still feel that if someone else has something we fear we can’t have it ourselves
  • Personification – People prefer stories compared to statistics, people are not moved by statistics but by faces and names
  • Illusion of Attention – People think they are paying more attention than they really are, sometimes you need to take a step back to see the whole picture such as the gorilla in the room
  • Strategic Misrepresentation – The best offer does not win, it is the one which looks best on paper. People over sell what they can do, it is key to see past performance and their successes or failures
  • Overthinking – Gut decisions are not meaningless e.g. which flavour of jelly do you prefer, if you try to rationalise it then you change the result which can give companies a stronger sense of reason but the wrong result
  • Planning Fallacy – The idea is that you can plan for every eventuality and that if things go wrong you could have mitigated it with more planning – planning can not be infinite else the project would never be delivered. Instead planning less and being sensitive to the changing environment is likely better
  • Deformation Professionnelle – People can only use their knowledge and experience to solve the problem and this might be there best solution but it is not the best solution for that you need to ensure you are asking the correct experts
  • Zeigarnik Effect – When people are thinking about things they can’t not think about them, there is no natural off switch. Instead noting them down or coming up with a next steps will give your brain the ability to move on
  • Illusion of Skill – Where chance is a significant factor people can appear to have more skill than they have, the outcome is just random and lucky for them
  • Feature-Positive Effect – People only think about the things which are happening and not the things which are not, war might be a big issue but the absence of war is rarely thought about
  • Cherry-Piking – People choose what to show and what not to show, it is this choosing which then amplifies the choice as people rarely look for what is not shown
  • Fallacy of the Single Cause – People like there to be a reason, a single reason, why something happened where as in reality there are likely multiple contributing factors
  • Intention-to-treat Error – Where the negative effects end up in the wrong category. e.g. Fast driver and slow drivers, the journey time for slow drivers is longer than that for fast drivers however if a fast driver has an accident they will end up in the slow drivers category skewing the numbers
  • News Illusion – We think news is very important but looking back how many have actually impacted our lives, in reality if something did we would know about it anyway so news is not very useful in the grand scheme of life

Review: The Culture Code

The Culture Code: The secrets of Highly Sucessful Groups by Daniel Coyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Safety is key for a team to be able to fuse.  If there is not safety then people are scared, blame others and can’t trust others.  Once people are safe they can feel that they belong to the team.

There are a couple of things with building belonging from the way you term feedback:

1. You are part of this team
2. This group is special, we have high standards
3. I believe you can reach these standards

and improving communication by reducing the distance between people.

  • Over communicate that you are listening
  • Spotlight your fallibility early
  • Embrace people who give feedback, specially that which you might not want to hear
  • Preview future connections – give people an idea of where they are going
  • Over do thank yous
  • Be painstaking in the hiring process
  • Eliminate bad apples
  • Create safe, collision rich spaces
  • Make sure everyone has a voice, e.g. one-to-ones
  • Picking up trash is everyone’s responsibility, including leaders
  • Embrace fun

Embrace vulnerability to build trust.  Retrospectives, candid feedback and trust are key. This builds a common brain for the team.

Some of the questions to build trust are the 36 Questions from Arthur and Elaine Aron which push people out of their comfort zone a bit which is unnerving but this helps build trust.

  • Make sure leaders are vulnerable often
  • Over-communicate expectations
  • Deliver negatives in person
  • The first vulnerability and the first disagreement in teams is key to making them
  • strong
  • Communicate in a way that people…
  1. Feel safe
  2. Feel cooperative
  3. Constructively have their assumptions challenged
  4. Sometimes suggest alternatives for consideration
  • Resist offering solutions or making suggestions
  • Candid-feedback is key to improving
  • Embrace discomfort to build trust
  • Align terminology with actions
  • Build a wall between performance and professional development
  • Flash mentoring
  • Make the leader occasionally disappear so the team can learn to work without them

Establish a common purpose and direction so that people know in which direction they should be heading.

  • Name and rank your priorities
  • Be ten times clearer with your priorities than you think you need to be
  • Identify where the team is proficient and where creative. Proficient in repeating the same solution, creative in coming up with a new solution
  • Embrace the use of catchphrases to embed values, priorities and direction
  • Measure what really matters
  • Use artefacts which so off what you do, both well or badly
  • Focus on bar-setting behaviours – this could be ensuring that a simple action is performed to excellence, reliably.

Review: Scrum

Scrum: The art of doing twice the work in half the time by Jeff Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read lots on Scrum and have used it for some time but even for me it was an interesting read to hear the background and a refresher on the motivation to some of the ideas in the Scrum methodology.

These are the notes provided by the book.

The way the world is broken

  • Planning is useful, blindly following plans is stupid.  It’s just so tempting to draw up endless charts.  All the work needs to be done on a massive project laid out for them to see – but when detailed plans meet reality they fall apart.  Building into your working method assumption of change, discovery and new ideas
  • Inspect and adapt.  Every little while, stop doing what you’re doing, review what you’ve done and see if it’s still what you should be doing and if you can do it better
  • Change or die.  Clinging to the old way of doing things, of command and control and rigid predictability will bring only failure.  In the meantime the competition that is willing to change will leave you in the dust
  • Fail fast so you can fix early.  Corporate culture often puts more weight on forms, procedures and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by uses.  Work does not produce real value is madness.  Working products in short cycles allows users early feedback and can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort

The Origins of Scrum

  • Hesitation is death.  Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  Know where you are, assess your options, make a decision and act.
  • Look out for answers.  Complex adaptive systems follow a few simple rules that they can learn from their environment
  • Great teams are.  They are cross-functional, autonomous and empowered with a transcendent purpose.
  • Don’t guess.  Plan, Do, Check, Act.  Plan what you’re going to do.  Do it.  Check whether it was what you wanted.  Act on that and change how you’re doing things.  Repeat in regular cycles and by doing so achieve continuous improvement
  • Shu Ha Ri.  First, learn the rules and the forms, and once you’ve mastered them make innovation.  Finally in a heightened state of mastery discard the forms and just be –  with all the learning internalised and decisions made almost unconsciously


  • Pull the right lever.  Change team performance.  That has much more impact – by several orders of magnitude than individual performance
  • Transcendence.  Great teams have a purpose that is greater than the individual e.g. winning the NBA championship
  • Autonomy.  Give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action – to be respected as masters of their craft.  The ability to improvise will make all the difference, whether the unit is reporting on a revolution in the Middle East or making a sale
  • Cross-functional.  The team must have every skill needs to complete a project, whether the mission is to deliver software or capture terrorists in Iraq
  • Small wins.  Small teams get great work done faster than big teams.  The rule of thumb is 7 team members plus or minus two.  Err on the side of small
  • Blame is stupid.  Don’t look for bad people, look for bad systems – ones that incentivise bad behaviour and reward reward poor performance


  • Time is finite, treat it that way.  Break down you’re work inti what can be accomplished in a regular set short period – optimally one to four weeks.
  • Demo or die.  At the end of each sprint have something that’s done so it can be used.
  • Throw away business cards.  Titles are specialised status markers.  Be known for what you do not what you’re referred to.
  • Everyone knows everything.  Communicate saturation accelerates work
  • One meeting a day.  When it comes to team check-ins, once a day is enough.  Get together for 15 minutes at the daily stand-up, see what what can be done to increase speed and do it.

Waste is a crime

  • Multitasking makes you stupid.  Do more than one thing at a time makes you slower and worse at both tasks.  Don’t do it.  If you think it’s doesn’t apply to you you’re wrong –  it does
  • Half done is not done.  A half built car simply ties up resource that could be used to create value or save money.  Anything that’s “in process” cost money and energy without delivering anything
  • Do it right the first time.  When you make a mistake fix it right away.  Stop everything else and address it.  Fixing it later can take you more than 20 times longer than if you fix it now
  • Working too hard only makes more work.  Working longer hours doesn’t get more done, it gets less done.  Working too much results in fatigue, which leads to errors, which leads to having to fix the things you just finished.  Rather than work later or on weekends work weekdays only at a sensible pace .  And take a vacations!
  • Don’t be a reasonable.  Goals that are challenging are motivators, goals that are impossible are just depressing.
  • No heroics.  If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem.  Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning
  • Enough of the stupid policies.  Any policy that seems ridiculous likely is.  Stupid forms, stupid meetings, stupid approvals, stupid standards are just that – stupid.
  • No idiots.  Don’t be one, and don’t allow that behaviour.  Anyone who causes emotional chaos, inspires fear or dread, or demeans or diminishes people needs to be stopped cold.
  • Strive for flow.  Choose the smoothest, most trouble-free way to get things done.  Scrum is about enabling the most flow possible.

Plan reality, not fantasy

  • The map is not the terrain.  Don’t fall in love with your plan.  It’s almost certainly wrong
  • Only plan what you need to.  Don’t try to project everything out years in advance.  Just play enough to keep your team busy
  • What kind of dog is it?  Don’t estimate in absolute terms like hours – its been proven that humans a terrible at that.  Size things relatively by what breed of dog the problem is or t-shirt sizes, or more commonly the Fibonacci sequence
  • Ask the Oracle.  Use a blind technique, like the Delphi method, to avoid anchoring bias such as the halo effect or bandwagon effect or just plain stupid groupthink.
  • Plan with poker.  Using planning poker to quickly estimate work that needs to be done
  • Work is a story.  Think first about who’ll be getting value from something, then about what it is, and then why they need it.  Humans think in narratives so give them one.  As an X, I want Y, so that Z.
  • Know your velocity.  Everything should know exactly how much work they can get done in the spring.  And they should know how much they can improve that velocity by working smarter removing barriers that are slowing them down
  • Velocity x Time = Delivery.  Once you know how fast you’re going you know how soon you’ll get there.
  • Set audacious goals.  With Scrum it is not that hard to double productivity or cut delivery time in half.  If you do it the right way, your revenue and stock price should double as well.


  • Its the journey, not the destination.  True happiness is found in the process, not the result.  Often we only reward results, but what we really want to reward is people striving towards greatness.
  • Happy is the new black.  It helps you make smarter decisions.  Plus, when your’re happy, you’re more creative, less likely to leave your job, and more likely to accomplish far more than you ever anticipated.
  • Quantify happiness.  Its not enough just to feel good; you need to measure that feeling and compare it to actual performance.  Other metrics look backwards.  Happiness is a future-looking metric.
  • Get better every day – and measure it.  At the end of each Sprint, the team should pick one small improvement, or kaizen, that will make them happier.  And that should become the most important thing they’ll accomplish in the next sprint.
  • Secrecy is poison.  Nothing should be secret.  Everyone should know everything and that includes salaries and financials.  Obfuscation only serves people who serve themselves.
  • Make work visible.  Have a board that shows all the work that needs to be done, what is being worked on and what is actually done.  Everyone should see it, and everyone should update it every day.
  • Happiness is autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Everyone wants to control their own destiny, get better at what they do and serve a purpose greater than themselves.
  • Pop the Happy Bubble.  Don’t get so happy that you start believing your perfect.  Make sure happiness is measured against performance, and if there is a disconnect, be prepared to act.  Complacency is the enemy of success.


  • Make a list, check it twice.  Create a list of everything that could possibly be done on a project.  Then prioritise it.  Put the items with the highest value and lowest risk at the top of the backlog then the next etc.
  • The product owner.  Translates the product vision into the backlog.  Need to understand the bussiness case, the market and the customer
  • A leader isn’t a boss.  A product owner sets out what needs to be done and why.  How the team accomplishes it and who accomplishes it is up t the team.
  • The product ownder.  Has knowledge of the domain and the power to make final decisions.  He or she is available to answer questions and is accountable for delivering value.
  • Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA).  See the whole strategic picture, but act tactically and quickly.
  • Fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Its better to give than to receive.  Get inside your competitors OODS lop and wrap them up in their own confusion.
  • Get changes for free.  Create new things only as long as those new things deliver value.  Be willing to swap them out for things that require equal effort.  What in the beginning you thought you needed is never what is actually needed.

Review: Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book presents the concept of grit and highlight that we can be confused by natural talent and as such feel that people enter the world fully formed – which is far from the case. It states that grid might be genetic but it is also generated by experiences.

You can calculate a grit score based on:

Not at all like me Not much like me Somewhat like me Mostly like me Very much like me
New ideas a projects sometimes distract me from the previous ones*
Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily#
I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one*
I am a hard worker#
I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete*
I finish whatever I begin#
My interests change from year to year*
I am diligent. I never give up#
I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest*
I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge#

Grit is made up of two components – passion and perseverance. The * questions measure your passion and the # questions above measure your perseverance. It is these two qualities themselves which have been shown to be more important to accomplishment that other characteristics, such as IQ.

Grit is about holding a top-level goal for a very long time, persevering at it improving and ultimately succeeding. These are then made up of mid and low level goals. The more unified, aligned and coordinated our goal hierarchies are the better. The Warren Buffett approach to this is:

  1. Write down a list of 25 career goals
  2. Identify the top 5
  3. The remaining 20 goals you should avoid at all cost as these are goals which will distract you

The book poses that this is a simplification and that the goals listed might be related and so they can be grouped into a higher level goal. However the goal is that energy is limited and that to be successful you need to decide what is important and what is not important to exert energy on.

How grit grows:

  1. Interest – you have to have a fundamental interest before you can to build a passion
  2. Practice – this is addressing your weaknesses and proactively trying to get better, not just repeating what you already know. To achieve more you need:
    • A clearly defined stretch goal
    • Full concentration and effort
    • Immediate and informative feedback
    • Repetition with reflection and refinement
  3. Purpose – feeling that your work matters is key to you sustain interest and to practice for a long period of time
    and at all times Hope – to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, if we get knocked down we get up again

It is possible to help people grow grit and some of the ways to do this are through language and by encouraging the uptake of activities.

Using a growth mindset language helps build grit

From terms which undermine a growth mindset and grit To terms which promote a growth mindset and grit
“You’re a natural! I love that.” “You’re a learner! I love that”
“Well, at least you tried!” “That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”
“Great job! You’re so talented!” “Great job! What’s one thing that could have been even better?”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it.” “This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”
“Maybe this just isn’t your strength. Don’t worry-you have other things to contribute.” “I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

Activities where a person has participated for a number of years and have gained achievements (e.g. sport, volunteering, research, hobbies etc) as a result improve grit. A form such as:

Activity Check grad levels of participation Achievements, awards, leadership position, if any
9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _
9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _
9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _

For activities completed for a single year were filtered out. Each activity completed for two or more years they earn a grit point, if they achieved some form of advancement scored a second point and a third if this advancement was deemed “high” e.g. president of a society or employee of the month. The score was the sum of the two activities with the highest achievement so a total score of 6 points. This follow though on activities both requires grit and builds it.

It has been shown that people with grit achieve more and are happier at the same time.

Review: The Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book resents seven questions which it recommends are used to coach people on the team, it says that these can take just ten minutes and in the book it explains each of them in detail including why the wording and framing are important. The question are

  1. Whats on your mind?
  2. And what else?
  3. What is the real challenge here for you?
  4. What do you want?
  5. How can I help?
  6. If you are saying yes to this what are you saying no to?
  7. What was most useful to you?

Separately to the book the author provides a details of his bookshelf, which he limits the size of. This provides an interesting list of some of the interesting books and can be found here.

Review: Reinventing Organizations

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frederic Laloux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book looks at what it describes as the leading edge of organisational structure, what it describes as Teal organisations. For comparison it compares them against more established organisational structures which it describes as follows:

Red – Chief exercises power to keep people in line. The people are only together because of fear and thrives in chaotic environments and has a short term focus. Examples are mafia, street gangs etc. Similar to a wolf pack.

Amber – These follow a strict top-down command and control structure. Stability is values and this is implemented thought rigorous processes. As such, the future is the repeat of the past. Examples are the church, military, public schools, governments etc. Similar to an army.

Orange – The goal is to beat competitors, growing and making greater profit. Management is by objectives – allowing people control on how they do things but not on what they do. Examples are multinational companies etc. Similar to a machine.

Green – Within a classical pyramid structure but with a focus on culture and empowerment which allows people to be very motivated. Examples are culture driven organisations etc. Similar to a family.

This is in contrast to the primary focus of the book, teal organisations.

Teal – No pyramid structure, equality and a focus on individuals achieving their best. This is an evolution of the green organisation and can be clearly seen in comparison to Orange organisations.

Orange Teal
Organisation Structure Hierarchical pyramid Self Organising teams
No manager but a coach if the team need
Coordination Meetings at every level in the organisation, leading to meeting overload No executive team meetings
Coordination and meetings mostly ad hock when needs arise
Projects Heavy process to try to control and prioritise resource No project managers, people self-started projects
Minimum (or no) plans and budgets, organic prioritisation.
Staff function Lots of central staff e.g. HR, IT, purchasing, finance control, quality, safety, risk management etc Functions performed by the team or a voluntary task force
Few central staff only have advisory roles
Human Resources
Recruitment Interviews by trained HR personnel, focus is on fit with job description Interviews by future colleagues, focus on fit with organisations and with purpose
On boarding (mostly an admin process) Significant training in relactional skills and in company cuture
Rotation programs to immerse oneself into the organisation
Training Training trajectories designed by HR
Mostly skill and management training
Personal freedom and responsibility for training
Critical importance of common training that everyone attends
Job titles & descriptions Every job has a title and a description No job titles
Fluid and granular roles instead of a fixed role
Individual purpose (It’s not the organisations role to help employees identify their personal calling) Recruitment, training and appraisals used to explore juncture of individual calling and organisation purpose
Flexibility & time commitment Honest discussions about individual time commitment to work vs. other meaningful commitments in life
High degree of flexibility in working hours, as long as commitments are upheld
Performance managment Focus on individual performance
Appraisals established by hierarchical superiors
Appraisal discussions aims for objective snapshot of past performance
Focus on tema performance
Peer-based processes for individual appraisals
Appraisal discussion turned into personal inquiry into one’s learning journey and calling
Compensation Decision made by hierarchical superiors
Individual incentives
Meritocratic principles can lead to large salary differences
Self-set salaries with peer calibration for base pay
No bonuses, but equal profit sharing
Narrow salary differences
Appointments and promotions Intense jockeying for scarce promotions leads to politics and dysfunctional behaviour
Silos: every manager is king of his castle
No promotions, but fluid rearrangement of roles based on peer arangement
Responsibility to speak up about issues outside of one’s scope of authority
Dismissal Boss has authority to dismiss a subordinate
Dismissal mostly a legal and financial process
Dismissal last step in mediated conflict resolution mechanism
In practice very rare
Caring, support to turn dismissal into a learning opportunity
Daily Life
Office spaces Standardised and soulless professional buildings
Abundant status markers
Self-decorated, warm spaces, open to children, animals, nature
No status markers
Meetings (many) Specific meeting practices to keep ego in check and ensure everybody’s voice is heard
Decision making High up the pyramid
Any decision can be invalidated by hierarchical superiors
Fully decentralised based on advice process
Conflict (often glossed over, no conflict resolution practices) Regular time devoted to bring to light and address conflicts
Multi-step conflict resolution process
Everyone trained in conflict management
Culture restricts conflict to the conflicting parties and mediators; outsiders are not dragged in
Information flow Information is power and is released on a need-to-know basis
Secrecy towards the outside world is the default position
All information is available in real-time to all, including about the companies financials and compensation
Total transparency invites outsiders to make suggestions to better bring about purpose
Values (only on walls) Clear values translated into explicit ground rules of (un)acceptable behaviours to foster safe environment
Practice to cultivate discussions about values and ground rules
Reflective spaces Quiet room
Group meditation and silence practices
Large group reflection practices
Team supervision and peer coaching
Mood management Conscious sensing of what mood would serve the organisations purpose
Community building Storytelling practices to support self-disclosure and building community
Major organisational processes
Purpose (no listening process) Organisation seen as a living entity with its own evolutionary purpose
The concept of competition is irrelevant; “competitors” are embraced to pursue purpose
Practices to listen into the organisations purpose:
– Everyone a sensor
– Large group processes
– Meditations, guided visualisations, etc.
– Responding to outside prompting
Strategy Strategic course charted by top leadership Strategy emerges organically from the collective intelligence of self-managing employees
Innovation and product development Outside in: customer surveys and segmentation define the offer
Client needs are created if necessary
Inside out: offer is dfined by purpose
Guided by intuition and beauty
Supplier management Suppliers chosen based on price and quality Suppliers chosen also by fit with purpose
Purchasing and investments Authorisation limits linked to level in hierarchy
Investment budget steered by top management
Anybody can spend any amount provided advice process is respected
Peer-based challenging of tea’s investment budget
Sales and marketing Brands positioned to fit consumer segmentation (outside in)
Sales force driven by targets and incentives
Marketing as a simple proposition: this is our offer to the world (inside out)
No sales targets
Planning, budgeting and controlling Based on “predict and control”
Painful cycles of mid-term planning, yearly and monthly budgets
Stick to plan is the rule, deviations must be explained and gaps closed
Ambitious targets to motivate employees
Based on “sense and response”
No or radically simplified budget, no tracking of variance
Workable solutions and fast iterations instead of searching for “perfect” answers
Constant sensing of what’s needed
No targets
Environmental and social initiatives Money as extrinsic yardstick: Only if it doesn’t cost too much initiate
Only the very top can begin initiatives with financial consequences
Integrity as intrinsic yardstick: What is the right thing to do?
Distributed initiative taking, everyone senses the right thing to do
Change management Whole arsenal of change management tools to get organisations to change from A to B (“Change” no longer relevant because organisation constantly adapting from within)
Crisis management Small group of advisers meet confidentially to support CEO in top-down decision making
Communication only when decision is made
Everyone is involved to let the best response emerge from collective intelligence
If advice process needs to be suspended, scope and time of suspension is defined

The book highlights that the only way an organisation can transition to Teal is lead by the CEO and with support of the board – others within the organisation don’t have sufficient power to be able to achieve sufficient change to make the transition. If the support of the board or CEO stops then a traditional organisational (more Orange) process will emerge.

Review: First Break All the Rules

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book highlights the importance of great managers, and how they are different to average ones.

When looking at people the research found that the following were generally true:

People don’t change that much
Don’t wast your time trying to put in something which was left out
Try to draw on what was left in
That is hard enough

This leads to a managers role being

  1. Select for talent
  2. Define the right outcomes
  3. Focus on strengths
  4. Find the right fit

Select for talent

Every job requires talent and everybody has them, the key is matching the right talents from the person to the role.  Hire people with the same talents as your best people, don’t look at the talents of your worst and invert them.

Skill – this is something which can be learnt
Knowledge – split into
    factual – from being taught
    experiential – from someones experiences and can’t be taught
Talent – a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied but they can not be learnt and are slow to change.  There are three types:
Striving – Why does someone get out of bed?  What is their motivation. e.g. competitive
Thinking – How a person thinks and weighs up options. e.g. critical thinking
Relating – Who this person relates to or whom they don’t get along with. e.g. networking

Define the right outcomes

There are many ways to get a job done, good managers know to keep out of the way so that the people with the right talents can find the best way for them.  There are some limitations:
Accuracy and safety must not be compromised
Company or industry standards must be adhered to
Required steps are only useful if the desired outcome is not obscured – they only prevent dissatisfaction not boosting satisfaction

Focus on strengths

You have to cast people in the right role for their talents, this is key to getting the best results.

Each person is unique with their own motivation, talents, skills and knowledge.  Great managers spend the most time with the best people, helping the best achieve not focusing on their worst trying to get them to average.  Focusing on your best is the only way you can get to excellence.

If people have a weakness there are sometimes ways to turn this into just a non-talent.  This could be by taking away the workload which they are just not good at e.g. filling paperwork on time, pairing them with someone who has complimentary skills e.g. someone who loves paperwork or working around the problem e.g. removing the need for paperwork.  These are all ways to turn a weakness into a non-talent however if this is not an option then it is best to cast the person into another role.

Find the right fit

There are multiple career paths, not just up.  Someone might want to grow in the work they are doing, move between teams, move up, move down or move out.  It should not be assumed that the right move for everyone is to move up the ladder – each run up the ladder is not just growing in something, it is a completely different job from which there may be no way back – so it is critical that someone moves for the right reason.  If you have an accountant becoming a team leader, the book suggests that a junior inexperienced team leader should get paid less than an experiences accountant to remove the financial advantage to the promotion – if they grow and develop in the role then they will likely earn more but this is not until they have built up suitable knowledge and experience.

Create heroes in every role, no matter what it is if someone is performing it excellently then they should be acknowledged for it.

Are you a great manager?

The book presents twelve questions which they have identified as being good indicators of how employees feel, these are directly from the perspective that employees leave managers and not companies – two people in the same company can respond very differently to the same set of questions if they have a poorer or better manager. The book explains the mountain which these questions climb with people responding Strongly Agree to all at the peak.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
  12. At work, have I had the opportunities to learn and grow?

What your customers want

This is in the book but I feel that it does not really fit with the rest of it and there are many interesting ways this could have been taken in addition, however I include it here for reference.   Customers require:

  1. Accuracy – what they ordered
  2. Availability – location, opening times
  3. Partnership – personalisation, rewards, understanding
  4. Advice – learning, training

Review: Nudge

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents two major concepts – Choice Architecture and Libertarian Paternalism and highlights why people make bad choices, when nudging helps and how to do it.

Choice Architects – these are people who have the responsibility for organising the context in which people make decisions

Libertarian Paternalism – where people should be free to choose but it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people’s behaviour in order to make their lives longer, healthier, and better. The reason for this is the difference between Humans and Econs

Econs – understand everything clearly and can always make the right decisions, compared to Humans who struggle to make the right decisions in some cases. It is where the difference between Humans and Econs is significant that Nudges can help steed humans and with embracing libertarian Paternalism towards decisions which make their lives better.

Humans suffer from:

  • Anchoring – where people get drawn towards an answer, e.g. a charity asking you to donate $100 will get a larger donation than one asking for $1 even if no one ever gives them the $100.
  • Availability – people build up an unhealthy fear or lack of fear because something is in their mind, e.g. the risk of a boat sinking if a boat has recently sank.
  • Representativeness – humans try to identify patterns of how similar things are. e.g. people would not expect a short person to be a basketball player
  • Optimism and Overconfidence – people over estimate their own ability, e.g. more than 50% of people will say they are above average.
  • Gains and Losses – people hate loosing things, loosing something makes people twice as unhappy as if they gained it.
  • Status Quo Bias – people tend not to want to change things, even simple things like ticking a box
  • Framing – the wording of a question makes a big difference to the outcome
  • Temptation – people are easily tempted and have low will power
  • Repetition – people have a routine (small such as eating snacks or longer) which they stick to and don’t like to change
  • Doing What Others Do and Think What Others Think – people like to copy others (e.g. telling people that 90% of people have completed their tax return is a big motivator for people to do theirs) and think like others (e.g. a popular song becomes more popular because people think they should like it)
  • The Spotlight Effect – people think others are paying much more attention to them than people really are
  • Priming – by asking people about something it changes their action (e.g. are you going to vote tomorrow? increased voter turn out)

When is it good to nudge?

  • Benefits Now—Costs Later – things you enjoy now but will cause issues in the future e.g. drinking
  • Degree of Difficulty – somethings are just more difficult e.g. selecting a mortgage
    Frequency – infrequent decisions probably need the most help e.g. selecting a university
  • Feedback – where there is no instant feedback for a choice e.g. selecting a pension saving
  • Knowing What You Like – e.g menus which suggest “Top selling” items
  • Markets: A Mixed Verdict – Market forces are not perfect, e.g. extended warranty is a product that simply should not exist.

Ways to architect choice:

  • Defaults – most people will choose this
  • Expect Error – design the process so that errors don’t happen or can be resolved easily. e.g. accepting a credit card no matter which way round it is put into the machine
  • Give Feedback – Well-designed systems tell people when they are doing well and when they are making mistakes as quickly as possible e.g. digital cameras showing a preview of the photo
  • Understanding “Mappings”: From Choice to Welfare – e.g. translating numbers into things people understand like physical objects
  • Structure Complex Choices – e.g. buying a house, filtering options to produce a subset for consideration
  • Incentives – Who uses? Who chooses? Who pays? Who profits? e.g. how are payments etc structures? people tend to forget about the opportunity cost and just consider the incremental cost such as the gas for a car and not how factoring in the cost of the car into the calculation.

The book goes on to present some applications of the above on topics such as money management, the environment, organ donation, healthcare etc.

Review: Leaders Eat Last

Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t by Simon Sinek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humans get pleasure from a number of chemicals, these fall into positive selfish ones which are there for personal survival, positive selfless ones for the survival of the group and a negative one which cuts us off from the world.

Positive Selfish
Endorphin – enable us to perform hard labor
Dopamine – enables us to feel good when we make progress
Positive Selfless
Serotonin – is the pride we feel when those we care for achieve great things or we make people proud who care for us
Oxycontin – helps form bonds of trust, enabling better longer term problem solving between people who trust each other.
Cortisol – the feeling of anxiety, discomfort or stress caused by a weak Circle of Safety making us more selfish by inhibiting Oxycontin. Cortisol can’t work its black magic when we have someone by our side, only when there is the utmost confidence that the person at their side would do the same for them.

From these all personal emotions flow.

The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below. When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing. Courage comes from above. Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders.

We don’t just trust people to follow the rules, we trust that they know when to break them. In weak organisations people break trust for personal gain – in strong organisations people break the rules because it is the right thing to do for others. If good people work in bad cultures people will be more concerned about following the rules out of fear of getting in trouble or loosing their jobs than doing what needs to be done.

Responsibility is not doing what we are told, that’s obedience. Responsibility is doing what is right – even if that has repercussions (e.g. a fine) but we can only be responsible in a trusting environment.

Trust is like lubrication. It reduces friction and creates conditions much more conducive to performance.

It is how people work together which is the biggest indicator of success.

The better the product, services and experience a company is able to offer its customers, the more it can drive demand for those products, services and experiences. And there is no better way to compete in a market economy than by creating more demanding and having greater control over the supply – which all boils down to the will of those who work for us. Better products, services and experiences are usually the result of the employees who invented, innovated or supplied them. As soon as people are put second on the priority list, differentiation gives way to commoditization. And when that happens innovation declines and the pressure to compete on things like price, and other short-term strategies, goes up.

When we have less, we tend to be more open to sharing what we have. People with little share because they realise that it might be them on another day who need it.

When we divorce ourselves from humanity through numerical abstraction, we are, like Milgram’s volunteers, capable of inhuman behavior. When our relationship with customers or employees becomes abstract concepts, we naturally pursue the most tangible thing we can see – the metrics. Leaders who put a premium on numbers over lives are, more often than not, physically separated from the people they serve. When a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way. Leadership is about taking responsibility for lives and not numbers. All managers of metrics have the opportunity to become leaders of people.

When we do not feel safe from each other in the environments in which we work, our instincts drive us to protect ourselves at all costs instead of sharing accountability for our actions. Hording information is a sign of mistrust and self-preservation. If leaders feel they need to be the most knowledgeable then people hide what they don’t know for fear of having others question their authority. Good leaders share knowledge, ask for help and make introductions to create new relationships within their network.

People do more when they see the results of their effort, not just statistics but the actual people impacted by their work.

For people to make the right choices they need to have a sense of higher authority – God, a noble cause, a compelling vision for the future or some other moral code and not a shareholder, customer or market demand. This is essential so that people can feel they can raise their hand when something is going against this.

Dunbars number of 150 people that we can recognise, beyond this people don’t know each other and can’t form bonds of friendship. Traditionally this was the size of a village but these days could limit the size of a factory or office.

Between money or time & effort people value the time & effort someone gives more than the abstract value of money. We value a boss who spends time with us more than someone who just gives us a bonus.

In organisations where there is no safety, people hide mistakes and problems for fear and self-preservation.

The most common display of a lack of integrity is telling people what they what to hear and not the truth

For integrity to be present honesty is key, not to spin something to make it sound better.

Teams led by a directive leader initially outperform those led by an empowering leader. However, despite lower early performance, teams led by an empowering leader experience higher performance improvement over time because of higher levels of team-learning, coordination, empowerment and mental model development

Command and control puts a lot of pressure on succession planning which is a large gamble to find someone as good as the current leader.

There is no legal standing to the idea that shareholders are the true owner of corporations. They simply own shares, which are abstract representations. In legalese, corporations own themselves. And given that shareholders are not the true owners of corporations, corporations have no legal requirement to maximise share price, as many have claimed.

Would you get rid of your own children if you made a little less money than you expected in the year? Then why would you consider sacking people to be able to make the financial targets.

Employees and customers often know more about and have more of a long-term commitment to a company than shareholders do” Focus on customers, employees and products.

Dopamine addictions cause rivalry, competition and although regularly used to boost performance of an individual actually reduces the performance of the organisation.

These days people are impatient driven by two things: First is a gross misunderstanding that things like success, money or happiness, come instantly. Even though our messages and books arrive the same day we want them, our careers and fulfillment do not. The second millennials have grown up in a world in which huge scale is normal, money is valued over services and technology is used to manage relationships. The economic systems in which they have grown up, ones that prioritise numbers over people, are blindly accepted, as if that’s not the way it has always been. If steps are not taken to overcome or mitigate the quantities of abstractions in their lives, in time they may be the biggest losers of their parents’ excess.

Millennials think that, because they have grown up checking their phone then working then sending a text then working some more, they are better at multitasking. They are not better at multitasking. What they are is better at being distracted. Social media is the drug of the twenty-first century.

It is not when things come easily that we appreciate them, but when we have to work hard for them or when they are hard to get that those things have greater value to us.

Serve the people, who will service the customer, who will ultimately drive the business and benefit the stakeholders. In that order.

When a company declares that its cause is to become a global leader or to become a household name or to make the best products, those are selfish desires with no intended value to anyone beyond the company itself (and often not even everyone in the company). Those causes can’t inspire humans because those causes aren’t causes. No one wakes up in the morning inspired to champion that. In other words, none of them is a cause bigger than the company.

Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.

Review: Sapiens

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really intriguing book which covers some really interesting and though provoking topics, it is also a really long book so here I just list some questions and points that it raises.

Why are we the only kind of genus Homo animals? How our bigger brains mean that we are technically born prematurely. How fire was so important to us. Why stories are important. How companies came to be formed. How we accidently ended up farming. The birth of writing and why numbers are fairly universal but letters not so much. How biases come to be enforced from a chance happening to law which means disadvantages leading to cultural prejudices which then leads to a reinforcing of the laws or disadvantages into a self perpetuating cycle (e.g. votes for women). Why does money exist? How do banks work. Why trust is so important why we could not function without it. Why does religion is the mix of human norms and values along with a belief in superhuman order, including communism, exist. Humanism – liberal for each person), socialist (for humankind species) and evolutionary (to protect the gene pool from degradation). Why did Europeans go so far but others did not. Why is America not named after Columbus – because he believed the map was complete and that everything had been discovered. How capitalism works and how it is based on trust in the future. How companies took over the world and explored new words and got protection from the state. The lead from capitalism to consumerism. How the stage champions strong individuals because of strong markets but this leaves weak communities for which it has to step in e.g. with health care. Why have we got more peace now than any time in the past – atom bombs or less tangible assets (e.g. software)?

The book raises some really interesting questions at the end which is sort of half answers and half leaves open. Are we actually any happier now than we were in medieval times? The answer is likely not really. We have changed the world so much and treat animals poorly. What does the future bring? Or more key “What do we want to want?”