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.

3. SHELF it · Creativity · Skills · Technology

BR 202: How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade

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

Comments: This is a beautifully designed book – as it should be. :) It has lots of interesting examples that demonstrate what is good design and what is bad design. I took away a fair number of tips – but I did miss principles.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Colors such as yellow, orange and red are warm colors while colors such as blue and purple are cool colors. Cool colors point to professional settings.

2. Breaking images into multiple pieces can be very powerful. Scale: magnifying small pieces can greatly improve perception of importance. Similarly, Cropping images is a powerful tool. A small part of the image can tell a much more powerful story than the rest of the image.

3. Add a photo to the graph. If sales of strawberries, put a strawberry photo behind

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Skills

BR 201: Statistics, 4th Edition by Freedman, Pisani, Purves

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

Comments: This is a Statistics textbook. So, it definitely isn’t for everyone. However, if you are interested in Statistics, it is an awesome book. Lays out concepts with a ton of clarity.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Let’s say you are tossing a coin.
The law of averages says nothing about an increased likelihood of a tail after 4 rows of heads. Instead, it says that – as you keep increasing the number of tosses, the chance error as a percentage of tosses keeps going down.

2. Regressions ONLY deal with associations or correlations. An increase in x is associated with an increase in y.

3. A test of significance gets at the question of whether an observed difference is real (alternative hypothesis) or just a chance variation (null hypothesis). The observed significance level is the chance of getting a test statistic as extreme or more extreme than the observed one. The chance is computed on the basis that the null hypothesis is right. Small values of p are evidence against the null hypothesis – i.e. the observed difference is real.

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.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills · Sports

BR 181: Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Anders Ericsson, peak, performance

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

Comments: Peak is the culmination of the life’s work of a legendary researcher – Prof Anders Ericsson. Prof Ericsson has single handedly changed our understanding of performance and expertise. It is a lovely read – well written and flows beautifully. The only reason I have it as a category 2 is because author Geoff Colvin did a good job of bringing Prof Ericsson’s research to the mainstream with “Talent is Overrated.”

Top 3 Learnings:

1. There is absolutely no evidence for innate talent beyond a few physical advantages in certain sports. The dark side of this is denying kids the opportunity to get good with very little evidence (think Outliers).

While the average IQ of scientists is higher than the average person, there is no correlation between IQ and scientific productivity. Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of all time wouldn’t make it to MENSA with his 126 IQ. Researchers have suggested that the minimum requirements for performing capably as a scientist are around 110 – beyond which there is little or no additional benefit. It is unclear if this requirement is one to succeed as a scientist or to do the writing and admission tests required to get a PhD.

Similarly, for some sports, one could speculate about some minimum talent requirements – e.g. some basic physical traits such as height and body size. Beyond that, however, practice trumps everything else.

We might be born with preference for music over sports, for example. But, that counts for little if we don’t practice it.

2. Our body literally changes with deliberate practice. The key difference between deliberate practice and purposeful practice is a teacher. Having a teacher who has been through what we’ve been through changes everything.

3. The focus when we perform deliberate practice is not on knowledge, but on skills. That will be key in making deliberate practice applicable in education.

Book notes here