2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Career · Psychology · Self Improvement

BR 214: The Right and Wrong Stuff by Carter Cast

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

Comments: I am a biased reviewer here as this is written by one of my favorite Professors and a good (wise) friend. But, I think this is an important book and one everyone should have on their bookshelves. We all think about and talk about careers. We also talk about folks who are successful and folks who aren’t (or those who have derailed). This book brings together a lot of wisdom around what makes and breaks careers and packages it nicely.

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Brilliant careers derail due to a variety of reasons. But, the biggest among them is a lack of self awareness that blinds a person to their tendency to overdo their strengths.
  2. 3 strengths/traits that accompany great careers – initiative, the ability to build positive relationships and a combination of perseverance and drive.
  3. The right stuff formula: (Job Skills + Industry Knowledge + Operational ability) x (3 Distinctive strengths/Derailers). This is a nice summary. Start with hard skills, industry knowledge and the ability to get stuff done. These are table stakes. Differentiate based on everything else.
2. BUY it! · Creativity · Skills · Technology

BR 206: Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)
*A category 1 – Read ASAP book if you ever attempt to design a website. I still put it in category 2 because we’re all web design consumers (and, hopefully, creators?) now. :)

Comments: Awesome design book.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Where possible, stick to design conventions. We are creatures of habit and design conventions go a long way in helping us understand what we should do next.

2. Always prioritize user testing. Simple, continuous, lightweight user testing beats heavy research done every once a while.

3. The question to ask isn’t – what does the average user like? There isn’t an average user.
The question to ask is – Does this feature with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Novel Concepts · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 205: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

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

Comments: Solid book. Lots of great stories and a compilation of powerful principles.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. A combination of many interesting studies and a long research project at Google determined that there is one attribute that all high performing teams share – they all enable psychological safety.

2. In all, it remains an intriguing thought: if you want to build a successful company, you should not seek to attract the biggest rock stars. Instead, a loyal orchestra of employees will perform better – provided there is a dissenting tone every once in a while, to keep everyone focused.

3. I found this story incredibly inspiring

Tetsuro Toyoda was visiting NUMMI (a plant in Fremont California that is a joint collaboration between Toyota and GM). He saw Joe, an assembly line worker, struggling to install a taillight. He kept imploring him to pull the Andon cord and stop the assembly line. After many attempts – “Joe, please,” Toyoda said. Then he stepped over, took Joe’s hand in his own and guided it to the andon cord, and together they pulled. A flashing light began spinning.

When the chassis reached the end of Joe’s station without the taillight correctly in place, the line stopped moving. Joe was shaking so much, he had to hold his crowbar with both hands. He finally got the taillight positioned and, with a terrified glance at his bosses, reached up and pulled the andon cord, restarting the line.

Toyoda faced Joe and bowed. He began speaking in Japanese.
“Joe, please forgive me,” a lieutenant translated. “I have done a poor job of instructing your managers of the importance of helping you pull the cord when there is a problem. You are the most important part of this plant. Only you can make every car great. I promise I will do everything in  my power to never fail you again.”

Next day, a dozen pulls happened. And in a week, a hundred. It still cost a lot but given the responsibility, employee motivation increased. Most productive GM plan. Absenteeism decreased from 45% to 3% and productivity soared. NUUMI was legendary.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Leadership · Psychology

BR 203: Payoff by Dan Ariely

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

Comments: Payoff is a short book that is both simple and powerful. If you love Dan Ariely’s work and/or behavioral economics, you will enjoy this book.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. We tend to underestimate the power of goodwill in building motivated teams and work environments. If there’s one thing you take away from this book, it is that appreciation and goodwill are more powerful incentives than any financial incentives (assuming people’s pay covers basic needs).

2. Purpose matters over pleasure. Understanding why we do things goes a long way in helping us stay motivated.

3. As humans, we care a great deal about legacy. We’ve had a big fascination for life after death since the time of the pharaohs and that fascination continues today.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology

BR 197: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

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

Comments: This is an important book. If you are interested in understanding topics like shame, vulnerability and insecurity, Brene Brown does a fantastic job putting her research and thinking together.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Perfection doesn’t exist with parenting. Labeling good or bad parenting isn’t helpful. Are you engaged? Then make mistakes and have fun!

2. Women and men. Women feel shame due to a plethora of reasons – most dominant of those is their appearance and their ability to be mothers while being capable. Hence the whole pressure to have it all.

3. Men, on the other hand, are shamed by the idea of being a “pussy”. Being weak is seen as shameful. (So true) this is especially the case with the women in their lives who want them to man up more than they want them to be vulnerable. So, men keep silent. And when they are provoked, they either get pissed off or shut down.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Novel Concepts

BR 196: The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

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

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

Top 3 learnings:

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

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

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

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

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

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Parenting

BR 194: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

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

Comments: The Happiest Baby on the Block is an all star parenting book/video. The list of parents who recommend this is very long. And, we were very thankful for Dr Harvey Karp. We just bought the 45 minute video and that worked great. I would posit that the video is probably better than the book as it is better to see what he says in action.

It had a transformational effect on me. I had never held babies before ours was born and was generally a bit nervous around them. But, his framework gave me so much confidence and served us extremely well in the first week as we were getting a hang of handling a baby.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Human babies come out less developed than animal babies due to the relative large size of our head. So, the first 2-3 months is, effectively, a fourth trimester. We must learn to view and treat our baby as a foetus.

2. A natural next step is to understand what calms a foetus. Dr Karp suggests that all babies have a “calming” reflex. And, this reflex is triggered when it feels it is still in mom’s stomach.

3. Hence, the 5 S’ – swaddle, shush, swing, side, and suck. Together and in combination, these work to help calm babies.

(Note: You can’t replace the 5S’ for a feed, of course. But, you can help calm your baby. And, that makes a huge difference in the first week.)

Book notes here.

PS: Parenting notes here.