3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Creativity · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Management

BR 226: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

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

Comments: This will be a fun read if you are a Pixar fan. I enjoyed Ed Catmull’s narration of the Pixar story as most other versions I’ve read focus largely on the genius of John Lasseter (who, as expected, is a key character in this book too). I think my rating for the book was tainted a bit because of the news around John Lasseter’s sexual abuse allegations. :-(

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. For all the care you put in artistry, visual polish doesn’t matter if you’re not getting the story right.
  2. Drawing well requires us to learn how to see. The difficulty with drawing is that we let our mental models of objects get ahead of us and get us to jump to conclusions. So, we lose track of what is actually on the page. Art teachers teach students to conquer this by getting them to draw an object upside down or by asking them to drag the negative space around the object – both of which don’t require mental models.
    This is applicable to problem solving. Don’t just look at the problem. Look at the context/situation around it. In Pixar, a scene could sometimes only be fixed by looking at the entire story or preceding scenes.
  3. If there is more truth in the hallways than meetings, you are in trouble. For managers who go out of the way to prevent surprises, get over it.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Creativity · Marketing · Novel Concepts · Psychology · Relationships

BR 221: The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

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

Comments: I love books by Chip and Dan Heath. While this book didn’t resonate as strongly as Decisive (their previous book) did, I thought it brought together lessons on a very important topic, Great moments are what we remember in this life. Understanding how these get made is, thus, as important a lesson as any.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. A formula for excellent mentorship: High expectations + Assurance + Direction + Support
  2. Responsiveness is the key to strong relationships. It means you are attuned to the other person. The idea that physicians ask patients “what matters to you” revolutionized children’s healthcare in Scotland.
    Do we understand what matters to the people we care about? (Deep questions, thus, are a great way to get to know people.)
  3. In the short term, we often choose to fix problems over creating moments. In the long term, that backfires. Moments are not a means to the end, they are the end. They are what we remember in the end.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 220: Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

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

Comments: Hackers and Painters was an interesting read. This is unvarnished Paul Graham from before his Y Combinator celebrity days. His writing has been a lot more controversial of late. But, in this book, he shows up as a compelling writer sharing his notes on a wide variety of topics – from education to hacking to design to programming languages.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. The least sophisticated users tell you what you need to simplify and clarify while the most sophisticated users tell you what features you need to add.
  2. School was created as a means to keep kids busy while adults did work. (I’ve thought of this from time to time since I first read it)
  3. The difference between design and research seems to be a question of new versus good. Design has to be good while research has to be new. These two paths converge at the top – the best design surpasses others by using new ideas and the best research solves problems that are not only new but worth solving.

Book notes here.

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.
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BR 210: Hunch by Bernadette Jiwa

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

Comments: This is a really easy and fun read. Bernadette Jiwa makes the case that we all have it in us to be insightful. We just have to learn to notice more. It’s one of those positive books that you could just pick up and read on a Sunday afternoon and walk out feeling optimistic and better.

Top 3 Learnings: 

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the hunch in today’s data driven world. Noticing is the key to finding breakthrough ideas in everyday experiences.
  2. Cultivate curiosity, empathy and imagination to be in touch with your hunches.
  3. Empathy is feeling with someone. Sympathy is feeling for someone.
1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · History · Technology

BR 209: The Master Switch by Tim Wu

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

Comments: I debated about whether this should be category 1 or 2. On the one hand, this book is very focused on the history of information empires in the United States. But, on the other, information empires are THE dominant corporations in today’s world. So, this book become a must read. :)

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Every information industry (phone, radio, film, tv, internet) has seen a struggle between open versus closed / decentralized versus centralized. Every one of these started out with hackers and hobbyists and then became the home of large monopolies.
  2. What we think is a by product of what we read and who listen to. Free speech and a marketplace of ideas are not as dependent on the values of a place as much as the structure of the information infrastructure.
  3. This isn’t as much a learning as much as a note that I remember so many stories from the book. The story of the creation of hollywood, the rise, fall and rise of AT&T, CBS, etc., still give me goosebumps. A hat tip to Tim Wu for a wonderfully written book.

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Skills · Technology

BR 200: Inspired by Marty Cagan

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

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

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

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

3 Steps to Building Products –

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

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

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

Book notes here.