Archives for category: Books

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel is a the most important and informative book I have read in 2019.  It analyzes the confluence of Cloud Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, as well as, the current increasing speed of technological change.  Each of these areas is having a tremendous impact on every aspect of business today, as well as tomorrow, and in combination they are radically re-defining virtually every aspect of every business.  52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 are no longer there (including acquisitions).  Digital Transformation is a vital read, although with the enormous amount of information the book contains, it can seem encyclopedic at times.

Thomas Siebel compares Jay Gould’ s theory of punctuated equilibrium to the current technological environment.  Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium states that rather than a straight gradual progression declared in Darwin’s theory, evolution is not continuous and instead remains in relative equilibrium for long stretches followed by sporadic moments of sudden and massive changes.  These massive changes cause radical disruptions until a new stability (i.e. punctuated equilibrium) is found.  Seibel hypothesizes that the confluence of cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are in the process of a massive, radically disruptive period for business.

Cloud computing has eliminated many of the monetary aspects of launching a business, and its economic efficiencies have allowed established companies to redirect IT infrastructure budgets towards other aspects thereby increasing overall growth.  Big data along with Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are transforming processes across industries from predictive maintenance to new product development and sophisticated, in-depth understanding of customers.  Predictive maintenance is allowing companies to reduce problems before they occur, rather than rely on less efficient pre-determined maintenance schedules.  With real-time information from the edge, that can be processed in the cloud utilizing artificial intelligence, the possibilities are endless.

#40booksin2019  #ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I recently finished reading my 30th book of 2019, with the goal of completing forty by the year’s end. My favorite book of the past few months is Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman, which contains lots of nuggets of information written in numerous short snippets.  Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann, Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel, are all worthwhile reads.  Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk as well as Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn, are rah-rah, inspirational entrepreneurial reads.  Both are enjoyable, quick reads with the inspirational, ‘You can run through a brick wall’ approach.

I would skip Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson.  Chick-fil-A’s continually growth is beyond impressive and I’m a big fan of their food.  Chick-fil-A’s message of the business performing as a ‘higher calling’ to G-d is potentially inspirational, but the author presents a biased, white-washed view by ignoring the chains past and current controversies.  Covert Cows simply lacks any meat by specifically failing to address any of the same-sex and anti-gay issues associated with the chain through the remarks and beliefs of its family ownership, as well as, the charitable donations made by the company.

Most recent reads:

  • Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  • Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson
  • Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman
  • Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel
  • Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn
  • Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, by Leil Lowndes
  • Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement  #40booksin2019

May and June featured seven books bring the 2019 total to twenty-two.  My favorite of the bunch was Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich.  It’s a fast, fun read focusing on the Winklevoss twins and some wild west aspects of Bitcoin as it continually marches from the chaotic towards inching its way into the mainstream.  In their ‘second act’ the Winklevoss twins receive a positive depiction, in stark contrast to their unflattering portrayal in the movie The Social Network, which was based on Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires:  The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and BetrayalBitcoin Billionaires is written at the same pace of Bringing Down the House, Busting Vegas, Rigged and Ugly Americans(all enjoyable reads by the same author).

May & June Readings:

  1. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson
  2. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade, by Joseph Sugarman
  3. Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich
  4. Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, by Brian Kurtz
  5. How To Hire People Who Give A Sh*T: The Golden Rules, by Erika Weinstein
  6. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life, by Rory Sutherland
  7. The Tangled Mind: Unraveling the Origin of Human Nature, by Nick Kolenda

There were thought provoking aspects to each book.  Triggers, written by Joseph Sugarman twenty years ago focuses on old style direct response, with many lessons still applicable today. Overdeliver discusses details of direct response that are often overlooked in the short-term oriented focus of some of today’s marketing.

Alchemy pushes you to question aggregate information (economists, big data etc).  Aggregately macro analysis is math based, but this does not necessarily hold in individual or smaller samples.  In math 1×10=10×1, however, in reality 10 people may be fooled once each, but it is unlikely to fool the same person 10 times.  Big data is fantastic, but you also need to question whether the data is depicting a false positive, versus actionable information.  It is important to potentially question the big data headline by examining the underlying data and how it was obtained.

The Tangled Mind is also an interesting read, although I would have preferred to dive deeper into a small number of areas, rather than continually stating results without digging deeper into the reasoning (beyond simply siting appropriate research).  The way data is presented and requested has a significant impact on the results received.  Researchers asked people to distribute financial aid to families and presented two different categorizations of income: survey 1 a) $15k or less, b) $15k-$30k, c) $30k-$45k, d) $46k-$60k, e) $60k-$75k; f) $75k+; survey 2 a) $75k or less, b) $75k-$85k, c) $85k-$100k, d) $100k-$120k, e) $120k-$145k, f) $145k or more. According to most economic theories, the results of both surveys should be the same, since participants are offered the same overall economic range on both surveys, but presentation can make a significant different.  In survey 1, participants allocated 96% of the money to families $75k or lower; however, in survey 2, only 48% was allocated to $75k or lower (due to the manner the options were depicted).  Thought provoking books are always worth reading, especially when they cause you to examine unexpected areas.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement #Readings

April featured two books from marketing/strategy/business genres, as well as two books outside those arenas.  From the business side, Loonshots and Turning The Flywheel are worthwhile reads.  Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall presents several thought-provoking ideas. One concerns phase transition –  when water is above 32 it is purely liquid, at 32 degrees it may have pockets of liquid and pockets of ice, while a few degrees below 32 it is solid ice.  Loonshots relates phase transition to group behavior and how group think changes depending on size and dynamics.  Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t is a short companion book to Jim Collin’s Good To Great discussing the steps of building and maintaining a flywheel in which each step continually builds on the prior aspects to create continuous momentum for exponential long-term success.

From outside the business arena, two were more personal booksMensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman depicts how someone develops his personal perspectives.  It is brave to openly write about one’s life, and Mensch Marks is a very open look at his life, as well as man’s quest for continual improvement.  Rabbi Hammerman performed the wedding ceremony of my wife and I in Jerusalem in 2012, so his perspectives have additional personal meanings.  Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster, is an economist’s discussion of events from birth to the first few years of a baby’s life and an analysis of the data compiled from studies examining these various events.  As a numbers nerd, I take comfort in knowing the data associated with events and can theoretically utilize that information when making future decisions.  Some of the info was scary to learn, but it is better to be armed with the data to be able to make more informed decisions during potentially stressful times.

For coursework, April featured the re-watching of several sections of the Digital Marketing Program, by The Wharton School in collaboration with edX, which I originally completed in March.  In addition, Growth Hacking Foundations by Brad Batesole is a short worthwhile viewing.

Books:

  1. Mensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman
  2. Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall
  3. Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t, by Jim Collins
  4. Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster

Courses:

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Growth Hacking Foundations

It is hard to believe that 1/3 of 2019 has already past, but the pace to top 40 books for the year continues.  Let’s see what May brings.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

February continued 2019’s strong continuous learning agenda.  The three books read were excellent for varied reasons.  Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark Schaefer, both pushed the human aspect of marketing which was a distant approach from the programmatic, digital side discussed in most of the online courses.  In reality, marketing is not an either/or scenario, as optimally both sides are symbiotic.  The information obtainable from digital, which makes any data-junkie salivate, can inform and enhance personal story-telling strategies.

The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous, did not discuss Bitcoin significantly for the first 2/3rd of the book, instead focusing history gold as well as other monetary commodities and discussed hard versus soft money.  A fascinating read (although a biased anti-Keynesian view) on hard versus soft money.

Books:

  1. Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller discusses the ebb and flow of a story and positions the company as the guide to the hero (the customer)
  2. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous
  3. Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, by Mark Schaefer

Courses/Lectures

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Building Your Marketing Stack (2hrs 19 min)
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Business Intelligence for Consultants (29 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Strategic Partnerships (49 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Agile Marketing Foundations (1hr 13 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 301 (2hrs)
  6. Udemy Scrum Prep + Scrum Master + Scrum Training (3hrs)
  7. Google Analytics Academy

The LinkedIn Courses as well as the Google Analytics Academy were free.  Udemy was $15-$20 per course.  The total cost for February was again under $100; that’s a lot of information to digest for less than a single dinner for two, but, then again, it is a lot easier for your stomach to feel full, than your head.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I am an avid believer in continuous improvement and continuous learning.  Personal education is the ultimate asymmetric bet with virtually the only downside being the potential opportunity cost of time, while upside is limitless knowledge that can benefit your current business/clients and/or your future self.  My goal of reading 40 books for 2019, which would have been easier before I fell down the online lecture rabbit hole (again), but the internet offers a never-ending ability to search for new knowledge and fall-down more rabbit holes. Most of the lectures were refreshments of current knowledge, but if I can gain one new idea (or a re-remembrance of prior knowledge) per hour, it is an hour well-spent.

January was a solid start for 2019 with the following:

Books:

  1. Blitzscaling, The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh. My thoughts on Blitzscaling.
  2. Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda. My thoughts on Creative Selection.
  3. Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  4. This is Marketing: You Cannot Be Seen Until You See, by Seth Godin
  5. Industry e-book for a sustainability project I am working on.

Courses/Lectures:

  1. LinkedIn LearningPath: Become a Digital Advertising Specialist. This consisted of 11 courses; Most are overly basic, but I did enjoy a couple, including Programmatic Advertising
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Introduction to Attribution and Mix Modeling (1hr 41 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Digital Marketing (1hr 27 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Creative Thinking (47 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 201. This course is relatively basic, but still worthwhile, as there were a few snippets of information.

The LinkedIn courses are free.  Udemy was $10.  The total cost of the above was less than $100, and all are definitely more worthwhile than spending time in front of the television.  Looking forward to what February brings!

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I have always been a tremendous believer of continuous improvement.  There is so much to learn, and the internet makes it exceptionally easy to fall-down new rabbit holes.  Between LinkedIn Learning, Cousera, the Kindle, podcasts, and the internet in general, the amount of acquirable knowledge is limitless.  For 2019, I have set the goal to read 40 books.  Creative Selection, by Ken Kocienda was my first pick for 2019, and I highly recommend it.

Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda is well written and a thoroughly enjoyable read regarding Apple’s constant reiterative demo process, where Apple creates concrete and specific demos so peers can make judgements/comments/criticisms/improvements based off actual ‘physical’ samples.  Substantial work is put into each demo, similar to the way ideas are pitched at Amazon in detailed memo form, rather than simple power point presentations.  Unlike Amazon memos that are polished, complete plans, Apple demos are down and dirty focusing on the specific area/item being demoed, with the background staged (potentially a Hollywood-type façade) to engross to the viewer into experiencing the demo portion as if the viewer is using the complete product.  The comprehensive due diligence/research involved in creating the demo (or memo for Amazon), helps to continually refine the idea.  As a side note, this reminds me of writing detailed marketing and disposal plans years ago at MBI.  As a young associate, I was amazed by the hours necessary to perfect these plans and to summarize them into short one or two page memos.  The substantial efforts required to ‘meticulously craft’ these short memos forced me to truly understand the plan, as well as, the what if scenarios associated with it.  Proposals would have been far easier (and far less efficient) to put forward as rambling multi-page plans than the concise, productive versions which educated me and allowed my managers to efficiently critique (and improve) them.

Concrete, specific demos allow peers to discuss the item being created in explicit detail, and offer distinct criticisms and suggestions.  Ken Kocienda presents an interesting illustration of the importance of having a specific ‘physical’ item to discuss and critique.  He uses puppies as an example.  Think of a cute puppy in your mind and imagine as many details about your puppy as you can.  I’ll think of one as well, I bet my puppy is cuter than yours.  Under this scenario, we both have imagined cute puppies, but there is no way to distinguish which one is cuter.  We can argue as we each describe our puppy, but we cannot resolve which is cuter without concrete and specific examples.  However, if we have physical pictures of each puppy, we can easily discuss their actual merits.  This example is relatively silly, but it demonstrates the importance of concrete examples. Without them the theoretical argument is virtually impossible, with them the discussion is efficient and relatively simple.

The production of the demos at Apple forces the creator to get a true understanding of the underlying issues with his creation.  The comments/criticisms received from peers utilizing the physical demo (rather than discussing theoretical images) are integrated into the following demo version.  Each demo, building on all prior work.  The best ideas survive, while the weaker ideas go extinct.  From these constant, reiterative improvements, magical, one-of a kind generational products have been created.

#CreativeSelection #AppleMagic #AppleDemos #KenKocienda

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