Posts Tagged ‘books’

Draw to Win, by Dan Roam

 17th March 2017 by gihan

If you have already read Dan Roam’s bestselling book “The Back of the Napkin”, you know his philosophy of conveying ideas and messages using simple drawings. This is his fourth book, and it’s a kind of “best of” book, summarising the main ideas in a concise form. There’s some repeated material from the previous books, so don’t expect a whole bunch of new stuff. But if you’re looking for a quick guide to sketching out your ideas to cut through the clutter, this is a great start. And if you haven’t read his previous books, start with this one.

The book’s subtitle “A crash course on how to lead, sell and innovate with your visual mind” promises a lot, and if you take this literally, you might be disappointed. This is not really a book about leadership, sales, or innovation. Rather, it assumes you already have some of these skills, and it shows you how to share your ideas with others using drawings, models, sketches, and diagrams.

I think this book is most valuable for people who say, “But I don’t know how to draw!”. Roam explains why that doesn’t matter, and why you don’t need to be a Leonardo or Picasso to create simple ideas that convey a powerful message.

This book is also extremely useful if you’re caught in the “Death by PowerPoint” trap, with presentation slides full of dense blocks of text, long bullet lists, or complex graphs. You know you want to escape this trap, but you don’t know how. Well, this book will show you how.

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The Idea-Driven Organization

 16th February 2017 by gihan

Every business needs to innovate, and innovation is everybody’s business now. You can’t rely anymore on leaving innovation to an R&D team – you must involve everybody.

That’s the big idea behind the book “The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas”, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder.

It’s a simple and compelling idea. After all, your front-line employees interact most with customers, and see your products and services in action – so they are often the best-placed people to innovate. They are also smarter, savvier, and more talented than ever before, so they want to contribute – and will, if you encourage them.

The authors first developed this idea in their book “Ideas Are Free”, and now expand on that to show you how to build this into your organisation. Even if you haven’t read the first book, you will still get value from the second.

This book tackles the big challenges of turning your entire organisation into an innovation-centric and idea-driven organisation. It addresses this at a strategic level, looking at issues such as:

  • Understanding why managers and leaders are blind to ideas
  • Aligning strategy, structure and goals to innovation
  • Avoiding simplistic solutions (such as electronic suggestion boxes)
  • Implementing this throughout your entire organisation

This book is pitched at a high enough level to suit senior leaders in larger businesses. However, the ideas and principles apply to organisations of any size.

Want More? Watch My Webinar “Light Up – Innovate Now”

Register for the webinar series here.

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Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World

 4th January 2017 by gihan

My dietitian friend and client Julie Meek helps busy executives and leaders maintain their health, fitness and energy. This is an important issue for these leaders, because they often have chaotic, unpredictable lifestyles, so it’s difficult for them to get into a routine of regular meals, regular exercise, or regular down time.

So Julie doesn’t give them routines. Instead, she gives them rules – like this: “No drinking alcohol alone on a business trip” (for example, in flight, in the airline lounge, from the hotel mini-bar).

The beauty of this rule is that it’s not open to interpretation and doesn’t rely on the person making a judgement call. It’s simple to understand, simple to apply (I said simple, not easy!), and simple to measure.

It’s exactly the kind of rule authors Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt describe in their book Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World.

Simple rules are shortcuts to simplify the way we process information.

At first glance, they might sound hopelessly inadequate in our complex world. But the right rules applied correctly can cut through the complex clutter.

For example, Julie’s rule for her clients won’t magically fix everything in their diet. And it’s easy to circumvent the rule so it isn’t effective (for example, by increasing your alcohol intake at other times). But that’s not the point. The rule isn’t intended to solve every problem; it’s intended to address one common problem.

The authors say simple rules work for three reasons:

  1. They allow for flexibility, particularly in non-routine situations.
  2. They can match or even outperform more sophisticated decision models, especially in uncertain environments.
  3. They are easy to remember, so it’s more likely people will use them – and, as a result, they promote collective behaviour.

In the book, the authors not only explain why simple rules are effective, but also break them down into different types, help you create your own simple rules, and advise on how to make them work in a team.

Throughout the book, they tell many stories and case studies from a wide range of fields, including: How Tina Fey produced the hit comedy 30 Rock, how judges decide whether to grant bail, how the United States Federal Reserve Board fixes interest rates, and more.

It’s an easy read, and full of practical strategies that will help any leader who needs help dealing regularly with challenging decisions in a complex world.

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Book Review: The Future of the Professions

 25th November 2016 by gihan

the-future-of-the-professionsThis book is a fascinating glimpse into the future of expertise. It looks at the traditional professions (such as law, accounting, and medicine) and widens the field by adding others such as divinity, journalism, and management consulting.

The father-and-son team of Richard and Daniel Susskind group them together because they all have these four features:

  1. They have specialist knowledge
  2. Their membership is based on credentials and qualifications
  3. Their activities are regulated
  4. They are bound by a common set of values

These are the things that have protected these professionals (and the public) in the past. But these strengths are also their greatest weaknesses. In our fast, flat and free world:

  1. Knowledge is easily accessible, so specialist knowledge matters less
  2. You don’t need credentials or qualifications to succeed
  3. Regulation and controls restrict progress, and professionals face competition from providers outside the regulated regime
  4. Consumers don’t necessarily value the common values of the profession anymore

All this means the professions are under attack, and the Susskinds map out the battlefields in clear and convincing detail.

A large section of the book is called “Theory”, but don’t let that put you off. It’s really talking about the various influences and technologies that put pressure on the professions – such as Big Data, robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things.

The following section, “Implications”, applies those influences to the professions, and explains how they play out in the real world for those professionals.

Even if your business doesn’t fall into the “professionals” category, this book is a canary in the coal mine for what’s ahead. And if your business does fall into that category, it’s a must-read!

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Power Play, by Yamini Naidu

 29th April 2016 by gihan

PowerPlayHere’s a book that is so compelling you will finish it in a single sitting, but so powerful you will want to read over and over again for its insights.

Yamini Naidu explores different kinds of power for leaders to use for greater influence in their personal and professional lives. You can probably guess how Hard Power and Soft Power work, but have you ever thought about using Context Power, Empathy Power, Message Power or Love Power as part of your influence toolkit?

This is not just a book of theory. Naidu has years of practical experience working with clients across different industries, and shares many stories that help to reinforce her ideas and make them practical and easy to implement.

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Ideas With Legs, by Nils Vesk

 25th July 2014 by gihan

Ideas With LegsThere are many books about business innovation, but few are as practical as this, which helps you take an idea all the way from something abstract in somebody’s head into the practical implementation in your organisation.

Broadly, Vesk breaks down the “ideation” process into four groups:

  1. Evolution: Start your journey by looking at problems, the environment, and your desire to change
  2. Revolution: Break existing habits and patterns
  3. Revelation: Create an environment for creative thinking and problem solving
  4. Execution: Evaluate your ideas, choose the best, and put them into action

The book is full of practical processes, techniques and ideas. So if you really want to get more ideas yourself, from your team, and for your organisation, follow the steps in this book!

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TED Talks Storytelling – by Akash Karia

 6th June 2014 by gihan

TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED TalksThis brief but value-packed book, drawing inspiration from the famous TED Talks, is all about using storytelling in your presentations. It’s ideal if you would like to learn more about bringing your presentations to life through stories.

The author, Akash Karia, looks at a number of features of stories, such as:

  • Starting with a story
  • Using conflict to create interest
  • Engaging different senses
  • Adding details and specifics to create mental pictures

This book is ideally suited for people who are already reasonably competent presenters, but would now like to make their presentations more engaging.

Of course, one of the best features of this book is that you can watch the original TED Talks referenced in the book.

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The Power of Habit – by Charles Duhigg

 17th January 2014 by gihan

The Power Of HabitThis fascinating book combines three of my favourite elements: Practical ideas, backed by strong research, relayed by powerful stories.

Duhigg’s one big idea in the book is that our habits can be broken down into three factors: A cue that triggers the habit, a routine that we subconsciously follow, and a reward that motivates us. He contends that we can’t eliminate a bad habit, but we can change it by inserting a new routine between the cue and the reward. That’s a deceptively simple, but very powerful, idea.

Duhigg also describes the power of “keystone habits”, which can trigger many other habit changes. For example, for many people, getting fitter is a keystone habit, which leads to them adopting other unrelated positive habits as well.

If you’re looking for practical steps to change your habits, jump straight to the Appendix, which is a “how to” of the entire process.

I love that the book is backed by strong scientific research (the references take up a full third of the book). But Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, so his writing is compelling and entertaining rather than dry and academic.

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Contagious – by Jonah Berger

 13th December 2013 by gihan

ContagiousThis book is a fascinating and practical look into the psychology of influence. In particular, as the title suggests, it looks at why ideas catch on and spread.

Berger presents six key principles – which he summarises with the acronym STEPPS: Social Currency (it makes you look good), Triggers (something reminds you of it), Emotion (it arouses emotions), Public (other people see it in use), Practical Value (it’s useful), and Stories (it has a story). Some of these overlap naturally with other psychological principles (such as those in Robert Cialdini’s seminal book Influence), but it’s useful to see them applied here specifically to the idea of creating “contagious” ideas and products.

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Remote – by Jason Fried

 6th December 2013 by gihan

RemoteThe first chapter of this book is titled “The Time is Right for Remote Work”, and that’s a neat summary. In the book, Fried lays out the argument for greater acceptance and adoption of remote work.

I co-authored the book Out of Office on the same topic, so it won’t come as a surprise that I like this book as well! I particularly like the way it’s laid out, with short bite-sized chunks for each point. It’s almost like a collection of blog posts, but organised well rather than just randomly strung together.

Be warned that if you’re already doing remote work and are looking for practical ideas, this book is a bit light on the practical stuff. But if you’re thinking about the possibility of remote work in your organisation, teams or career, this is the perfect book to motivate you.

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