One of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, suOne of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, suggesting that leadership is creating change. The author likes the word "adaptive change". Once a solution to an issue has been accepted and is in motion, it becomes a management issue - a matter of execution - not a leadership issue. Creating change is not easy:
An important point the book made was people can generally only stand so much change at a time. So you have to limit the amount of change you are creating at any given point. A leader also helps people get through the change. They have to acknowledge the change and that it will be difficult, and convincingly paint the picture of why it's worth going through.
Another good concept was that of finding the "orienting value", and finding ways to drive it home and constantly remind people of it. For instance, Roosevelts New Deal or MLK's I Have A Dream speech. Create an image that people can latch onto and keep repeating that everywhere.
Sometimes, conflict has to be worked out among constituents instead of having a solution dictated. I loved the story about Scottie Pippen disobeying Phil Jackson, and then Jackson saying to the team What happened has hurt us. Now you have to work this out. and then leaving the room. Solutions are often achieved when the people with the problem go through the process of creating the solution together.
I liked how the book got into the deeper meaning of life in the end. I've always believed that people need purpose in life, and the authors confirmed that, but warned against getting too wedded to one particular purpose. A useful reminder that the person makes the purpose, not the other way around. We can love our jobs, but it's dangerous to let them define us....more
I tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similI tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similar elements: a cathedral that needs repair, a brilliant young builder (Merthin), a love story, a priorship up for grabs, and of course political manuevering, backstabbing and evil church officials. Also like the first one, the characters were developed well, the book was hard to put down, and yet it wasn't a deep book, just a fun one. Thank goodness I finished - it was causing me to lose sleep.
I did enjoy learning about the plague, and medieval ideas on health and medicine. Amazing that the plague wiped about a third of the human population, and how little they knew about it. Was frustrated by the lack of the Monks openness to learn new things, and how little they trusted women. For instance they believed in bleeding as a solution to everything when it actually is harmful in most cases. Also was interesting that there was no such thing as a doctor - instead nuns/monks/etc served that role. ...more
Extremely valuable book for anyone building products designed to engage people frequently. Given that I think daily about how to make Goodreads betterExtremely valuable book for anyone building products designed to engage people frequently. Given that I think daily about how to make Goodreads better and more engaging for people, this was a useful book. I think I knew a lot of it already, but often being forced to think about things again can be useful - and there are a few useful new ways of thinking about things that I learned.
One of the main useful ideas the book talks about in engaging users is having triggers to bring the user back to the product. This can be an external trigger - like an email or notification or ad that brings the user back - but the best products also form internal triggers. Ever get bored or lonely and find yourself on Facebook? Or wondering what is happening in the world and end up on Twitter? Or see something beautiful or inspiring and then pull out Instagram? Or feel the need to escape and relax and open a book or turn on a movie or a sports game? Our emotions often drive our behavior, and each emotion is mapped to a set of products we could use to "scratch the itch" of whatever we are feeling. These mappings become habits.
I think my favorite external triggers mentioned in the book were from the bible app example, where it sent a push notification to people if they walked into a strip club! And it sent another one on xmas day that did well. Timely matters!
Nir then talks about how to get users to take actions. The framework is obvious, but very true, and useful to remember when evaluating products. It's fairly well summed up in the below quote. There was a lot of good discussion about point #2 in terms of having simple design, being mobile, etc.
Another point Nir makes around actions - which is also an obvious one but worth really paying attention to when designing a product - is around getting frequent engagement with a product when a user is new to it.
The author then talks about variable rewards. I've known that variability - or serendipitousness as I like to think of it - is a very important driver of any engaging product. It's why we love sports, gambling, games, Facebook newsfeed, and good stories - not knowing what we'll find is exciting. Nir breaks down variable rewards into three types - the tribe, the hunt, and the self. The tribe is social validation - think of Facebook likes on content you posted. The hunt is something intrinsic in our brains that dates back to prehistoric times when we literally lived for the hunt - think of hunting for interesting content on your Twitter feed, or gambling looking for payoffs. The self is more for personal gratification - wanting to complete a puzzle you started or beat a video game you started. ...more
5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics and religion of the middle ages. Follet is a thriller writer, and it shows.
Fascinating that in medieval times, most villages were surrounded by walls (or were inside a castle) - because you couldn't count on the law to marauding rival lords from raping and pillaging your village. And the largest buildings other than the local lords castle, were cathedrals. Why did people spend so much time an energy building these huge monuments to God that took 10-20 years to build? The book explains that bit, with the importance of the Church in society and it's relation to the crown.
I am having trouble putting my finger on what I liked about the book. To friends who asked, I can't sell it every well. But it was a epic saga of love and power, and I loved every second. I think in the end, the lesson was that creating enemies leads you to get what you deserve. This might be a good summary of the book:
(view spoiler)[ For the record, I hate William Hamleigh. I love Jack - he reminds me a bit of Howard Roark. And Aliena was inspirational. Philip was a prude but a good dude - I still can't believe he forgave Remigius. Interestingly, Waleran is once described as good person who just misunderstood his priorities - but I don't buy that. (hide spoiler)]
The Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south baThe Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south bay, and is full of intelligent, ambitious young employees. This story is I think a take on where the connected nature of the internet might be taking us. It's essentially a discussion about privacy vs openness, and I think a serious 1984-esque warning about being too open.
I thought a lot of the book was kind of shallow and unrealistic. The characters weren't very well developed. And I can't imagine an HR department that would get on your case for not using social media or attending a brunch you were invited too - it was just too extreme to believe. But I suppose that was on purpose, as the author was just making a point. I appreciated the point (see below), but didn't love the story.
Mark Zuckerberg has been fairly public on saying that he believes a more open society is a better one. The notion is exactly the one Mae learns with the kayak incident - if your whole life is open to your friends and family, it's very hard to do anything dishonest or that you might regret. The premise of the Circle - that privacy and secrecy are bad - is taking this idea to an extreme that I doubt Zuckerberg or anyone else who runs a social network has ever contemplated: complete openness. Or as its motto says:
It is easy to imagine us eventually living in a world like the Circle contemplates. With public video cameras everywhere that document everything we do, and tons more data (photos, videos, texts) available to search engines to scan through. Already there are startups like Dropcam that enable public video feeds that are archived. There are atm and building and traffic cameras everywhere that the police already use. I heard of another startup that puts a video camera on you and it takes photos of everything all day and creates a montage of your day that is searchable/sortable for you. In many ways, we should already start acting like everything we do at least outside of our homes is being recorded on camera.
I think the central question the book poses is the one Bailey contemplates with Mae: is there such a thing as a good secret? Should we have privacy at all? Or would the world at large be better off if all secrets are known? I think we know where Mr Eggers stands on the subject, as the book seemed to be written in a dystopian, mocking kind of way. But it is in an interesting thought experiment, as many secrets would ultimately be better overall (not necessarily for the disclosing party, but for the overall situation), if they were known. For example you don't want to tell your friend that you know their significant other is cheating on them b/c you aren't supposed to know, but ultimately it would be better for them to know. Can you think of a secret you know that should be a secret?
But of course, there are lots of secrets that should stay secrets. Ignorance often truly is bliss, and people often just need to be weird and express themselves in ways that not everyone would appreciate if it were open. We are private beings, and yet our dignity and sense of self-worth largely stems from how others perceive us. I think this book is a thought-provoking story that shows us how our society is changing. ...more
I think there is one big idea to Slack that makes it worth reading for anyone dealing with leadership or leading at scale. A lot of the rest of the boI think there is one big idea to Slack that makes it worth reading for anyone dealing with leadership or leading at scale. A lot of the rest of the book is fairly obvious or not practical, so not giving it five stars.
The big idea of this book is that creativity can't be rushed, and if you don't build the slack into your schedule to spend some time creatively thinking about your business, you won't be able to innovate. You will only be able to be reactive, not proactive. The "Hurry Up" mindset is so easy to slip into - because there is always more to do than there is time. Providing a theory and data around the fact that having slack in your schedule is not only ok, but it's a good thing, is almost counter-intuitive, and thus really valuable to think about.
The book talks about how some companies slip into a "hurry up" mindset where everyone wants to look busy all the time. The danger of being busy is that you can too easily - especially if you are only being reactive - be busy on working on the wrong stuff.
When managing people there is another kind of slack that the book points out: the slack to give up control to someone. Highly functioning people like to own their goals and process and have leeway to accomplish them on their own. As a manager, one of the hardest tasks is to balance giving them that autonomy with occasionally checking in or diving in to make sure things are on track. If you do it too much, you will annoy people or cause them to leave - if you do it too little your team could be wasting time heading in the wrong direction.
Other interesting points:
* In a hurry up organization, there is a natural tendency to try to get people to work harder/more to meet deadlines. While this can work over short stints, it's generally not sustainable. In fact, the book had a bunch of data to show that on average overtime hours aren't more productive. * They analyzed the "star performers" in a number of companies, and the only thing they had in common they could point to was the strength of their networks. Establishing good connections and doing favors for others let's you get stuff done faster when you need to. * The book makes a point that setting Quality goals for companies can be dangerous b/c you can so easily focus on the wrong metrics. For instance, reducing the number of bugs is correlated with quality, but it isn't the same thing as making a great product. This seems pretty obvious, so I'm not sure why it needed to be included in the book. * It's important to set a vision for the organizations culture. The culture are those things that are so important to the organization that they should never change. If a organization lacks those, it will define itself as status quo and resist all change. * Effective leaders build up trust, often before they've even earned it. The most effective way to do this is to acquire trust by giving trust. The act of giving trust is an enormously powerful gesture. The author told a story about a woman giving him her 2 year old daughter to carry off the plane. The trust she showed impressed him.