Book Notes: Getting To Yes

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life is full of negotiating, we negotiate vastly more often then we would initially think. The problem is that most negotiation is based on bargaining over position – one side presents their offer and then a second party responds. This can result in poor results and an increased likelihood that the talks will break down.

The book encourages the use of conducting a principled negotiation where the goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably – work with the other party to identify the principles which you want to observe during the negotiation. Principled negotiation contains the following parts:

  1. Separate the people from the problem – be soft on the people and hard on the problem which can be conducted independent of trust. Treat each other as judges trying to decide on a case, not the prosecution and defence.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions – try to understand where the other party is coming from by exploring interests. Ask why? and why not?
  3. Invent options for mutual gain – from understanding the interests come up with creative solutions to satisfy both sets of interests with the aim to come up with multiple solutions which both sides are happy with, then decide later.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria – try to reach a result based on standards and be open to reason. Bow to principles not pressure.

You must prepare for negotiations – find objective criteria so that you can start with an informed position second be clearly aware of and strengthen your BATNA. Your BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Once you have this try to work to strengthen your BATNA so you can improve the balance of power so you are not locked into the negotiation and you know when it would be wise to walk away.

What if the other party won’t use the above approach? There are three things you can try: you can focus on the merits not the position through principled negotiation, else negotiation jujitsu, if all else fails try the one-text procedure.

Negotiation jujitsu – break the vicious cycle by not responding to the other sides attacks, they can attack by asserting their position forcefully, attacking your ideas and attacking you. Don’t attack their position, look behind it – ask questions to find out more about their position. Don’t defend your position, invite criticism and advice – this can turn it into a collaboration. Recast and attack on you as an attack on the problem – let the other side let off steam and don’t react. Ask questions and pause – people tend to feel uncomfortable with silence and will fill it with things which can help.

One-text procedure – use a third party who can gather the information about desires, not requirements themselves but the background to them. The third party produces a list covering the desires from both sides and invites criticism of the list. The third party then goes off and tries to come up with a solution covering all of the desires – this is then brought back and both parties are able to offer challenges. Some of these challenges might be addressable but at some point an option is presented which maximises the desires but might not be able to fully incorporate them all which both sides tend to accept.

What if the other side uses dirty tricks? – question the legitimacy of the tacktick with them. Don’t attack the people. Focus on interest not position. Invent options for mutual gain. Insist on using objective criteria.

Common tricks:

  • Fake data, get your own to validate.
  • Ambiguous authority, ask if the other side can actually commit if not then agree that you are coming up with a joint draft so there is realisation that if they change their position you can change yours.
  • Dubious intentions, if both sides have different solutions to one problem then taking the others solution can be combined with yours under certain conditions e.g. if two consecutive payments are not made.
  • Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception, you might want to use an independent third party which both parties can fully disclose to see if both parties have sufficient room to maneuver to both succeed.
  • Stressful situations, change them so your comfortable.
  • Personal attacks, recognising the tactic will nullify its impact.
  • Good guy/bad guy, once you spot it it has no impact.
  • Refusing to negotiate, try to understand why they don’t want to negotiate and propose principled negotiations as a way to allow them to take part.
  • Extreme demands, get them to rationalise their demands to the point they themselves realise they are futile.
  • Increasing demands each time you think negotiating is complete, take a break consider them when returning both sides will be more serious.
  • Lock-in tactics, play them down so that the other side has movement.
  • Hardhearted partner is not happy to accept whereas the negotiator is, get the hardhearted partner to agree to the principles in writing.
  • Calculated delay is a high cost game, highlight this and negotiate about the delay to give both sides time to come to an agreement but if there is a delay build your BATNA.
  • Take it or leave it, the best is to ignore this and keep negotiating as before.
  • Don’t be a victim, get the rules of the game on the table early so you know the game.

Book Notes: The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book focuses very much on getting to the break even point where you can contribute more to the company than you can take from it – if you can accelerate that then you will be more use to the company quicker.

Avoid the common mistakes

  • Sticking with what you know – new role means new ways of working and rarely repeating previous approaches will succeed
  • Falling prey to the “action imperative” – you try too early to put your stamp on the organisation without spending sufficient time learning.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations – could be caused by not learning sufficiently before setting expectations to boss or stakeholders
  • Attempting to do too much – resource and energy gets spread too thinly so the results are poor
  • Coming in with “the” answer – you conclude too quickly on “the” problem and set “the” solution which alienates people and lose an opportunity to develop support and a good solution
  • Engaging in the wrong type of learning – spending too much time on the technical and insufficient on the culture insight, political relationships and knowledge conduits.
  • Neglecting horizontal relationships – focussing on the boss and not sufficiently on peers and stakeholders to build supportive alliances.

The fundamental principles

  • Prepare yourself – make the mental break from your old job to move on to the new one. The biggest pitfall is assuming what got you to this point will continue to do so. Ensure that you have breadth of what is going on and depth where needed. When you get promoted you need to reconsider what you delegate so that you can scale. As you move up decisions are made more through influence because people are more capable but also with stronger egos. Find the informal channels of communication and absorb the corporate culture.
What’s changed?What should you do?
Broader impact horizon. There is a broader range of issues, people and ideas to focus on.Balance depth and breadth
Greater complexity and ambiguity. There are more variables, and there is greater uncertainty about outcomes.Delegate more deeply
Tougher complexity and ambiguity. There are more powerful stakeholders to contend with.Influence differently
Further from the front lines. There is greater distance between you and the people executing on the ground, potentially weakening communication and adding more filters.Communicate more formally
More scrutiny. There is more attention paid to your actions by more people more frequently.Adjust to greater visibility
  • Accelerate your learning – understand the market, product, technologies, systems, structures, culture and politics. Learn about the past (performance, ways of working, past changes) the present (vision and strategy, people, process, landmines, early wins)and the future (challenges and opportunities, barriers and resources, culture). Get views from multiple sources both internal and external. Use structured learning e.g. staff surveys, structured interviews, focus groups, analyse critical past decisions, process analysis, factory tours, pilot projects etc.
  1. What are the biggest challenges the organisation is (or will) be facing?
  2. Why is the organisation facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  3. What are the most positive unexploited areas for growth?
  4. What would need to happen to exploit this growth?
  5. If you were me, what would you focus your attention on?
  • Match your strategy to the situation
Start-upTurnaroundAccelerated growthRealignmentSustained success
Assembling the capabilities (people, financing and technology) to get a new bussiness or initiative off the ground.Saving a business or initiative widely acknowledged to be in serious trouble.Managing a rapidly expanding business.Reenergising a previously successful organisation that now faces problems.Preserving the vitality of a successful organisation and taking it to new levels.
Building the strategy, structure, and systems from scratch without a clear framework or boundaries.
Recruiting and welding together a high performance team.
Making do with limited resources
Reenergising demoralised employees and other stakeholders.
Making effective decisions under time pressure.
Going deep enough with painful cuts and difficult personnel choices.
Putting in place structure and systems to permit scaling.

Integrating many new employees.
Convincing employees that change is necessary.
Carefully restructuring the top team and refocusing the organisation.
Living in the shadow of the former leader and managing the team he or she created.
Playing good defense before embarking on too many new initiatives.
Finding ways to take the business to the next level.
You can do things right from the beginning.
People are energised by the possibilities.
There are no rigid preconceptions.
Everyone recognises that change is necessary.
Affected constituencies offer significant external support.
A little success goes a long way.
The potential for growth helps motivate people.
People will be inclined to stretch themselves and those who work for them.
The organisation has significant pockets of strength.
People want to continue to see themselves as successful.
A strong team may already be in place.
People are motivated to continue their history of success.
A foundation for continued success (such as a long product pipeline) may be in place.
  • Negotiate success – with your new boss having critical conversations about the current situation, expectations, working style, resources and your personal development. Developing and gaining consensus on your 90 day plan. Working with your boss
    • Don’t stay away
    • Don’t surprise your boss
    • Don’t approach your boss only with problems
    • Don’t just feedback a checklist
    • Don’t expect your boss to change – take responsibility for making the relationship
    • work
    • Clarify expectations early and often
    • Negotiate timelines for diagnosis then action
    • Aim for early wins in areas important to your boss
    • Pursue good marks from people your boss respected.
  • Secure early wins – on a small number of bussiness priorities and support behavioral change through succeeding in these in the right way.
  • Achieve alignment – review the strategic direction and bring the organisational structure into alignment with the strategy and develop the processes and skill base necessary to realise strategic intent. Don’t make change for the sake of change, restructure out of a problem when restructuring is not the issue, create a complex structure, overestimate the organisations ability to change.
  • Build your team – systematically and strategically approaching the team challenge, evaluating, aligning and mobilising its members. Move forward – don’t criticise previous leaders identify. Assess the team for competence, judgement, energy, focus, relationships and trust. Decide on the people to keep in place, keep and develop, move to a new role (high priority and low), to remove (high priority and low) or to monitor for now these need to be aligned to the strategic direction. Balance the need for stability by resolving the high priority changes initially then the low priority ones but make sure to work hard to keep the people you want – they can choose to leave because of the changes. Don’t commit new people to a course of action they were not part of agreeing.
  • Create coalitions – supportive alliances, both internal and external, are necessary to support you and your team to success.
  • Keep your balance – building the right advice-and-counsel network is indispensable to reducing the risk of losing perspective, becoming isolate and making bad calls. Ensuring that you don’t become overly stressed is also very important to achieve peak productivity.
  • Accelerate everyone – speeding up everyone’s transitions will help the organisation to gain benefits from people quicker which is beneficial to the organisation. Teaching people the techniques presented in this book can speed things up greatly. Getting people to start getting up to speed before they actually have their first day on the job can be very beneficial.

Book Notes: Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business by Brandon Black & Shayne Hughes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a book to learn something it is quite light, a book to follow a real lift set of trials and tribulations it is an ok read.

The book presents the concept of a pinch – when our ego system is triggered by an unwanted threat or circumstance.

The learnings can be summarised as:

  • Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It may be an event or something someone says.
  • Instead of reacting search for what triggered you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  • Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities others might be feeling behind their veneer of strength or indifference. Empathise with how they feel in danger.
  • Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.

The book presents the importance of 360 feedback to understand how the perception of events we can have can vary dramatically from the other people in the same event. The learning is summarised by the contents page:

  • That voice in your head does more damage than you realise
  • No, it’s not just your personality
  • Workplace politics are your fault too
  • Stop pretending you’re not vulnerable
  • You’re not really listening are you?
  • Your ego loves an enemy
  • We can’t talk about “that”
  • “Those” people have something important to teach you

Book Notes: Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When we talk there are three different conversations actually taking place at the same time. The “What happened” conversation, the feeling conversation and the identity conversation.

The “What happened” conversation

When we have difficult conversations we tend to focus on the “What happened” conversation which itself is split down into three parts – who’s right, who meant what and who’s to blame.

The truth assumption – When starting the conversation we start from the place of “I am right and you are wrong”, from which all of the problems flow. The problem is difficult conversations are never about getting the facts right – they are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations and values. Conversations are not about what is true, they are about what is important.

The intention invention – we assume we know the intentions of other people, but in fact we don’t. When we are unsure about their intentions we naturally assume they are bad selfish etc.

The blame frame – this only produces disagreement, denial and little learning evoking fear and punishment so our energy goes into defending ourselves.

We take the data to form observations which then form interpretations which finally form conclusions – which are now quite abstract from the original data. Additionally this is different for each person – each have different data based on different viewpoints, these plus our own knowledge and experience with each person knowing themselves vastly better than others resulting in different observations, interpretations and conclusions usually reflecting self interests. To move forward you have to try to understand their perspective. Don’t present your conclusions as The Truth, share where your conclusions come from, don’t exaggerate with “always” and “never” give them room.

Disentangle intent from impact, people feel that someone has (e.g.) hurt them intentionally where as in reality the intent could have been quite different. Disentangling these is a challenge as people easily see and feel the impact and assume that is what the intent was – which can be far from the case. Take this as a hypothesis and enquire as to the impact which the original person intended. Be open to reflecting on the complexity of your intentions.

Quit backwards looking blame and instead look at contribution so that you can learn from this. “How did we each contribute to this situation?” knowing this then we can ask “How can we change this?”. The key is contribution is joint, each contributed to the result and understanding is key to learning. Remember to focus on all parties contributions, understand feelings and this is not about blaming the victim but understanding “What did I do to contribute to the situation?”. There are four hard to spot contributors – avoiding a problem till now, being unapproachable, relationship interactions with reinforcing cycles and problematic role assumptions. Try out two approaches – role reversal and the perspective as an observer.

TruthDifferent stories
AccusationsIntention and impact
Judgements, characterizations Feelings
What’s wrong with youWhat’s going on for them

The Feelings conversation

Difficult conversations are inherently about feelings and are an integral part of the conflict. Without discussing feelings you are not actually discussing the actual issue (in most cases) so putting these on the table for discussion is key to resolve some problems.

Sharing feelings without evaluation. Acknowledge how people feel so that they feel heard and respected. Sometimes feelings are all that matter.

The Identity conversation

How does what happened affect my self esteem, my self image, my sense of who I am in the world? This is what am I saying to myself about me.

Ground yourself – ask what is at stake when there is an identity threat. Identity threats look at “Am I Competent?”, “Am I a good person?” and “Am I worthy of love?”. People tend to feel it is all or nothing where in fact it is all grey. You need to accept that you will make mistakes, your intentions are complex and you have contributed to the problem. Take a longer term perspective which likely will reduce the impact of this issue. Raise identity issues explicitly.

Use curiosity – but with safety not to answer. Check your understanding and show that you are listening perhaps by paraphrasing back. Invite them as partners in sorting out the situation together.

  • Can you say a little more about how you see things?
  • What information might you have that I don’t?
  • How do you see it differently?
  • What impact have my actions had on you?
  • Can you say a little more why you think this is my fault?
  • Were you reacting to something I did?
  • How are you feeling about all of this?
  • Say more why this is important to you?
  • What would it mean to you if that happened?

Book Notes: Switch

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents change with the analogy of a rider, elephant and path.

  • Direct the rider – what often appears as resistance is often a lack of clarity, so provide a crystal-clear direction. Some is not a number and soon is not a time – these are not clear enough.
  • Motivate the elephant – what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The rider can’t get its way by force for long so its keep to engage peoples emotional side.
  • Shape the path – what looks like a problem is often situational. When you shape the path you make it easier for the elephant and rider to follow the path.

Techniquest to Direct the rider

  • Fine the bright spots – we focus on the negative this is exemplified by English having nearly twice as many negative words as positive ones. Instead we should be looking for the bright spots which already exist and learning from those.
  • Script the Critical Moves – it’s a fallacy that big problems need big solutions, small changes can make a big difference. Humans make many small decisions on autopilot, by scripting the moves we can help adjust the autopilot making small change with big impact.
  • Point to the Destination – build a vision so the driver knows where it is going and so the elephant knows why it is important.

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling – we are motivated much more by feelings than facts so building feelings is key to change. Be that the feeling of empathy so you can better understand your customer or the feeling of strength so you can take you medication or hope, optimism and excitement about new products.
  • Shrink the Change – it’s much harder to try to do everything, instead look at how you can shrink the change perhaps by only doing part of it or making the change easier.
  • Grow Your People – there are two basic models of decision making the consequence model and the identity model. The consequences model is the analytical approach to decision making. The identity model is where you ask yourself Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would people like me do?  Building an identity is powerful – be that people identifying as inventors, cast members etc.

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the Environment – look at how you can make the environment more aligned to the result you are looking for makes the change easier. If you are struggling with focusing on writing why not take your laptop away from WiFi and work in the woods.
  • Build Habits – if you can instill habits that reinforce then you can make progress towards your goals for free. This builds the automatic reactions to reduce the challenge of decision making. Examples include routing, or checklists etc.
  • Rally the Herd – you are doing things because you see other people doing them. “Designated driver” spread in this way by asking TV executives for 5 seconds to include such a person, this spread the idea and it quickly caught on.
  • Keep the Switch Going – recognise and celebrate the first step. When you spot movement reinforce it.

Common obstacles

  • People don’t see the need to change – visualise the problem, find the feeling, tweak the environment
  • Not invented here – highlight identity either company or profession, find the bright spot where it is invented here and clone it
  • Too much analysis – find a feeling, create a destination, simplify the problem
  • Overcoming old approaches – create a new habit, set a preloaded action trigger, create a new routine without the old approach, remove ambiguity
  • No motivation – sell the identity change, encourage a small step, create a destination, encourage the smallest change, use social pressure, make the path easy to follow
  • I’ll change tomorrow – shrink the change so you can start today, set an action trigger, make yourself accountable to someone
  • “It will never work” – find a bright spot, build small successes, give people a free space to the people who are optimistic
  • Know but not doing – knowing isn’t enough, find the smallest thing you can do, can you tweak the environment, get and give reinforcing support to someone else
  • Change resistance – people get married and have children and this change will be smaller
  • Tough patches – focus on building the habit, remind people how much they have already achieved, teach a growth mindset
  • It’s too much – shrink the change, develop the growth mindset, some change includes failure don’t beat yourself up.
  • Nothing happens – build clarity, remove obstacles, replicate a bright spot,

Book Notes: Decisive

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decision making is hard and humans are not good at it. as just one example from the world or work where 83% of high stake decisions (aka takeovers) don’t return any increase in value to shareholders – no doubt that huge amounts of analysis were done but if the process of making the decision is floored no amount of analysis will fix that.

Process matters more than analysis – by a factor of six

When making decision there are four factors which strongly influence

  1. Narrow framing – this means we miss options. Such as asking the OR question – do we do this OR that? Instead think if there is a way we can do this AND that? Are there more creative ways to solve the problem? Widen your options
  2. Confirmation Bias – people select data which supports their idea or aim, sometimes this is intentional sometimes it is not. Reality test your assumptions
  3. Short-term emotions – focusing on the here and now rather than on the long term. Attain distance before deciding
  4. Overly confidence in our own predictions – to the point of ignoring data which would reduce our confidence. Prepare to be wrong

Widen your options

  • Multi track – is there a way that you can try out multiple different approaches concurrently? By doing them concurrently and not incrementally you come up with a more diverse set of options, not just smaller changes. It is also good for peoples egos to realise there are multiple solutions not just the one they came up with originally. Toggle between the prevention (avoiding negative outcomes) and promotion (pursuing positive outcomes) mindsets. Try coming up with a playlist for stimulating new ideas which you can reuse.
  • Find people who have already solved the problem – these could be external companies or internal “bright spots”. Try different levels of abstraction e.g. for a swimwear manufacturing the lowest level is by looking at smooth materials but by moving to a more abstract level of “things which move fast in water” opens your eyes to ways other (even nature) has already solved these problems.

Reality test your assumptions

  • Consider the Opposite – How can you bring this into the process – such as the role of devil’s advocate? As the question “What would have to be true for this to be the very best choice?”. Ask disconfirming questions e.g. “what do people leave your company?”. Use more open questions to get broader information rather than closed questions in one particular direction. How can we keep our yes open for the opposite to our expectations e.g. a happiness diary if we are feeling down. Can we test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake? These require discipline to not be blind to.
  • Zoom out, zoom in – We don’t tend to seek reviews for our most important decisions. The inside view is our evaluation of our specific situation, the outside view is how things generally unfold in similar situations – the outside view is more accurate but we tend to use the internal. Get a base rate, either from known research or ask experts for their historical experience – don’t ask them to predict as experts tend to be poor at predictions. Take a close up view as well, put yourself right in the action to get a close up view. We should do both the zoomed out and close up view.
  • Ooch – try it out, run small experiments and see what you learn. Ooching is not always the right thing to do but where a small amount of learning is useful it is hugely beneficial.

Attain distance before deciding

  • Overcome short-term emotions – We tend to make decisions with only a short term focus, not a long term one. Ask the question how would you feel in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years? to get perspective. We like things which are familiar to us and we don’t like losing things – these are short term feelings which need to be overcome else you will continue in the status quo. “What would your sucessor do?” “What would a friend advice?”
  • Honor your core priorities – long term emotional values, goals, aspiration – what kind of person/organisation do we want to be? By enshrining these you can quickly answer many questions. Ensure we stick to our core priorities – get things off this list long term (e.g. working out how you can permanently resolve issues), have a stop-doing list to remind you of things which are distractions to avoid, have an hourly beep test to check you are doing something on the to-do list.

Prepare to be wrong

  • Bookend the Future – The future is not a point it is a range, so how would you deal with different scenarios. A premortem is a positive way to identify the things which may go wrong and to work to avoid them occurring. A preparade is a way to identify what would happen if things go well (e.g. running out of parts).
  • Set a tripwire – How can we be actively notified when things are moving in one way or another so that we can actively make decisions, not just for a point in time to pass us by and for a now out of date decision to still be in place.
  • Trusting the Process – Decisions made by groups must be fair. Collaborating on a decision results in a better result – this takes more time upfront but is quicker during implementation. We need to be actively taking part in the process for it to be fair. Process does not sound fun but it allows for the making of bigger and more successful choices.

In general consider the WRAP process of

  • Widen your options
  • Reality test your assumptions
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong

Book Notes: Made To Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main thing about this book are the stories within it for which the book is packed. Here I just include the important parts but I do recommend the book for the stories which will make the content here actually stick. If the content does not stick then there was no point. Additionally speaking abilities does not tie with people being able to recollect the content.

Sticky = understandable, memorable and effective in changing thoughts or behaviour

As such for your presentation you need people to:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Understand
  3. Remember
  4. Agree/Believe
  5. Care
  6. Be able to act on it

From research creativity is found to have a formula which can be learnt, using the template means that your message will more likely be memorable. Using the six principles:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness (helps people pay attention)
  • Concreteness (helps people understand and remember)
  • Credibility (helps people Agree/Believe)
  • Emotions (helps people care)
  • Stories (helps people be able to act on it)

Alongside the six principles there is one recurring warning – the curse of knowledge – the fact is is not possible to unknow what you already know, where as what you know no one else does (else there would be little point in telling them). The tapping a tune game is a way to highlight to people about the impact that they know the answer and others don’t.

Simplicity = the core of your message + compactness.

  • Commander’s intent – prefixing all messages with the intent of a mission, this has a much more power full meaning than a command, e.g. “capture a hill” – why? where as “secure the convoy as it passes by” gives more flexibility while still achieving the same aim.
  • Burying the lead – by putting in so much other stuff that the actual meaning is lost.
  • Inverted pyramid– start with the most important points.
  • If you say three things you say nothing – work out what your point is and keep to just one
  • Decision paralysis – by having a clear simple message helps people make decisions
  • Using whats there – build on things which people already know, this does simplify things at the expense of accuracy but conversely accuracy does not stick where as derivatives do


  • Breaking the guessing machine – people’s brains work in autopilot – for your idea to stick you need to kick the brain out of autopilot and something unexpected will do that, it will make the brain pay attention.
  • Gap theory of curiosity – people want to know things, they can’t be left with a half finished problem. As such presenting a mystery, a gap, will keep people listening till the end however the gap needs to be a suitable size as too big won’t interest people.


  • Make it real – abstract concepts people struggle with where as naming things, e.g. the Mount Hamilton Wilderness, can greatly increase people connection.
  • Concrete is memorable – e.g. bicycle is more memorable than e.g. justice
  • Curse of knowledge – it is difficult to unlearn what you know and to put yourself in the shoes of your listener
  • Ferraris go to Disney World – talking about concrete ideas is one thing but making them in another and vastly compelling way for people to see what you are presenting


  • Antiauthority – someone who is the opposite of your message to desaude e.g. smoking by a smoker
  • The power of detail – people are more convinced someone is credible when there is more detail in their descriptions
  • Statistics – these can help prove your point but large abstract numbers do not, instead using analogies such as a large bucket of popcorn has more fat than a full day of other foods
  • Fort Knox – by showing that you work in the toughest place you can win over less challenging companies


  • If I look at the one – giving a single compelling story is much more powerful than general sweeping statements, people don’t associate with groups only individuals
  • Appeal to self interest – People care about themselves so what is in it for me?
  • Get people to dream it – “Imagine yourself as …” drives people to action
  • Aim for the top of Maslow’s hierarchy – “This bonus shows how great a job you are doing and how much you are appreciated by the company” not “This bonus will let you do home improvements”
  • Association with people you respect – means your message is listened to more
  • Why should someone care? – A repeat of the curse of knowledge but why is it important?


  • Entertaining and instructional – If the story is entertaining and has a meaning people will enjoy and remember it
  • The art of spotting – Stories happen all the time, the key is to grab them and use them
  • Challenge plot – appeal to our perseverance and courage. They make us want to work harder, take on new challenges and overcome obstacles.
  • Connection plot – about our relationships with other people.
  • Creative plot – make us want to do something different, to be creative, to experiment with new approaches.
  • Conference storybook – Capturing the stories from a conference is a great way to remember the content though the presenters might not like the effort of their learnings being lost

Book Notes: The Responsibility Process

The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power by Christopher Avery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stages of the responsibility process are easy to spot in others but the hard part is spotting them in ourselves. Once we do we have to make an active decision to want to progress to the next stage which in itself can be tough.

In organisations Accountability and Responsibility are regularly used interchangeably but in reality they are very different:
Accountability : this is external, others decide if you are accountable for something. Driving accountability is seen as “achieve X or feel the consequences”, as fear goes up responsibility goes down.
Responsibility : this is internally how we feel about things and is a more powerful determination of action and result. Responsibility is a feeling of ownership and pride.

Positional leaders at all levels place holding others to account ahead of developing personal responsibility. As a result work and workers suffer.

Denial – Ignoring something either through choice or through limited understanding
Blame Others (Lay Blame) – It’s easy and natural to blame others for something which has happened.
Justify – If we can move on from blaming people then we justify it because of the situation or things outside of your control.
Blame Ourselves (Shame) – Shame is the first step of taking ownership of an issue and initially we feel bad that we blamed others or justified it externally and now realise its us.
Obligation – We feel trapped, burdened and that we have no choice. Feeling that “I have to” – where our true desires are at odds with our perceived reality. In this mental state you don’t perform well – e.g. not really being present in a meeting – and resentment.
Quit – This is where you think you have parked a problem, but it is just temporary and it will return costing you more mental and emotional energy. “That’s a problem for later”, “Only 13 year and 2 months to retirement”….
Responsibility – We feel free, powerful, and safe – you trust that you have sufficient intelligence, creativity and resource to face whatever life brings. We make choices, multiple choices lead to us creating a desired experience compared to attracting experiences which are more complex and less linear.

In Denial, Blame Others, Justify, Blame Ourselves, Obligation & QuitIn Responsibility
Our reasoning is simplistic and restricted by our mental state.We have available to us the entire complex probabilistic reasoning capabilities of our extraordinary mind.
Our logic is mechanical, looking at simplistic cause and effect.Our logic is holistic, taking a systems view of all the interrelated elements in our lives, work and relationships.
We are driven by anxiety.We are pulled by what we truly want in life, at work, in relationships, both for the long term and for this situational problem moment right now.
We are fairly weak.We are incredibly strong.
We are constrained by our reality.We craft our reality.
We are victims.We are agents.
We have problems that are more powerful than we are.We know that we are more powerful than any problem we face.

To take on the task of being a 100% responsible person you need three keys:
Intention : An active intention to take responsibility by asking yourself “How can I?
Awareness : When we feel frustrated identify which mental state we are so we can improve
Confront : You must face and examine the perceived conflict in your mind to grow

You can use the Catch Sooner framework to actively work on personal issues.
1. Catch : Catch yourself performing the action you want to change.
2. Change : Determine the desired behaviour
3. Forgive : Forgive yourself for being human and not changing faster due to unconscious programming or conditioning
4. Vow : Vow to catch yourself sooner next time

Lead yourself first – some people see the others as the problem and want to resolve their issues, but you can’t do that you can only grow and develop yourself. Take every opportunity to learn. Use the phrase “What do I want?” rather than “What should I do?”

So many people assume they can’t make much of a difference in groups unless they are given authority over others in the group. However in group settings, these same individuals admit seeing either a positive or negative difference that others make.

For others to follow you you must first study, demonstrate, ask then teach others the responsibility process – without fully embracing it yourself others will see through you and not fully you into your message.

WordPress Block rending simple HTML

When I wrote my notes on the Grit boot I made a mini quiz based on the questions in the book – originally that was just in a “classic” WordPress posting, but with the recent update to Gutenberg the hacky little script stopped working. So I thought I’d have a look at coming up with a slightly less hacky WordPress Block. This is just some notes on what I did to basically create a block which is a block with predefined HTML (nothing fancy).

Using the WordPress command line interface (CLI) I created a simple package (needed to hold a block) followed by a block using:

$ php wp-cli.phar scaffold plugin "grit-quiz"
$ php wp-cli.phar scaffold block grit-quiz --title="Grit Quiz" --plugin="grit-quiz"

The changes then just need to be made to the index.js file in wp-content/plugins/grit-quiz/blocks/grit-quiz. After a bit of hunting I needed to have an element RawHTML returned so I changed the save method so that it would store the HTML directly.

save: function() {
	return el(
			formHtml // a variable with the basic HTML

The final step is to include the blocks – surprisingly this is not done automatically by the cli tool. Just open the php file in the plugin directory – in this example that is “grit-quiz.php” and add the include for the blocks.


As with all of these things the result is quite simple but only when you know the answer. I have popped the full code here for future reference.

Book Notes: Sprint

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Brad Kowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really to take a challenge (high stakes, not enough time or just plain stuck) and learn the most that’s possible within one week. The book really focuses on two things firstly the benefits you can get by trying out risky ideas in the simplest way possible and secondly how to execute this with tips on facilitation and organisation.

Its key to have the right seven (would be ideal) people.

  • The decision maker is key – without their buy-in, without which you are likely to not take the right challenge to push the product forward.
  • Financial expert so you are clear on how this will impact the business
  • Marketing expert so it fits in with the rest of the corporate message
  • Customer expert so you have someone who understands what the customer wants or would use
  • Tech/logistics expert who understands what the company can deliver
  • Design expert so that you can make something people want to use
  • Trouble makers these people will challenge what you are doing so the results are better

If you have extra experts have them attend on the Monday and decide on who will be the facilitator who will need to remain unbiased for the week.

No laptops, no phones – fully dedicated time from 10am till 5pm Monday to Thursday with a morning break at 11:30am, 1hr lunch at 1:00pm and another break at 3:30pm has been found to be the best. On Friday its a bit different so 9am till 5pm so you can squeeze in the real users.

Monday – Make a map and choose a target

Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be in six months, a year, or five years from now?

  • What questions do we want to answer in this sprint?
  • To meet our long-term goal, what has to be true?
  • Imagine we travel into the future and our project failed. What might have caused that?

Make a map of the way people currently complete the task – this will contain multiple actors (including the customer) and a clear ending, keep it simple, suitably high level and ask for more input to ensure that its accurate by welcoming experts to pop in for 30 minutes each during which time you can improve the accuracy of the map to better reflect real life.

Once you know the map you need to choose a target – a technique for this is for people to make “How might we …” cards independently before putting them on the wall together. Once on the wall group them and dot vote on the questions which people feel are the most valuable. The decider then needs to decide which step in the map will we focus on and which questions we will look to answer.

Tuesday – Sketch competing solutions

Start off by seeing other things which might be approaches to solving the problem, give three minute demos of things which you feel are relevant.

Each person independently should sketchup one or more ideas. Give it a title as it should be anonymous. Don’t share them with others at this stage.

While this is all going on someone not part of the team should be finding people for friday – real potential users, advertise on bulletin boards and offer a voucher reward but ask them questions to ensure they are your correct target market, if they are not then Friday will be a wastes. So when questioning be careful not to push them to the answer you want.

Wednesday – Decide on the best

  1. Put all of the sketches on the wall
  2. Look at each independently and put dots on features which are interesting
  3. Quickly discuss the highlights of each sketch and capture big ideas.
  4. Each person votes for one solution
  5. The decider makes the final decision – this could be to try two things if you want to compare different ideas (like A/B testing)

The next step is to plan things out in more detail, starting from how the user starts an interaction with your product (e.g. reading about it in a newspaper). By having a storyboard today it should be quicker to prototype tomorrow.

Thursday – Build a realistic prototype

Fake it, build a convincing facade this will give you the most learnings with the minium work. Things like slides etc can be great to present things quickly but it should be immersive, the person on Friday must feel they are using a product. You can prototype anything, they will be disposed of and build just enough to learn what you need.
Have a stitcher whose job it is to pull together all of the parts the rest of the team produce and make it into a coherent product fixing things like layout, the customers name to be consistent etc.
At the end of the day have time to trial it lead by the person who will run the trial on Friday.

Friday – Test with target customers

Five 1hr interviews a 30 min break after each and a debrief is the order for the day. From their research the more people you have you get diminishing returns and five is the sweet spot.

For each interview have it so that there is just the customer and an interviewer, others should watch remotely and taking notes is key to getting value from the day. The interviews follow the format:

  1. A friendly welcome to start the interview
  2. A series of general, open-ended context questions about the customer
  3. Introduction to the prototype(s)
  4. Detailed task to get the customers reaction to the prototype
  5. A quick debrief to capture the customer’s overarching thoughts and impressions

The onlookers should be noting down things which were good, things which were bad for each of the interviewers for each of the stages in the prototype to see if there is any correlation or new ideas which come out of it.