Archive for the ‘Business Books’ Category

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

David and Goliath
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is Malcolm Gladwell’s fourth best-selling book to be summarized here. I’ve been a big fan ever since I summarized The Tipping Point. If you like to give books as gifts, please click below and get copies for yourself and your favorite bookworms.

Why Goliath was the Underdog

  • In the story of David and Goliath, it turned out that it was Goliath’s size that made him a better target for David’s sling. Warfare of the time featured cavalry, infantry, and a third group that fired projectiles like arrows and rocks. The infantry represented sitting ducks as they were relatively stationary compared to the cavalry. The humble infantryman, however, had better odds taking on a charging horse with a spear to the belly. Calvary could take on the projectile boys as they were moving targets that were much harder to hit. This is like a game of rock, paper, scissors were the odds depend on the matchup. For Goliath, facing a slinger like David was like facing a modern rival with a handgun.

Use Your Assets, Hide Your Weaknesses

  • Gladwell uses the David and Goliath story as a metaphor for how we should not always assume that the people who seem to have the upper hand really do. He tells a number of stories of how people who didn’t seem to have a chance won the day. One features a man from India who decided to coach his daughter’s basketball team. His girls were not especially tall or skilled, but he changed the odds by changing how the game was played. He realized that the other teams didn’t defend over half the court. When he put in a full-court press that lasted the entire game, he found that there were enough turnovers which lead to easy baskets to allow his team to triumph over superior talent.
  • There is also the story of Lawrence of Arabia whose troops were successful because they took advantage of their main asset, which was speed. This showed that material resources are not always an advantage. Rather than trying to improve on your weaknesses, sometimes it is better just to hide them.
  • Even wealth can be a disadvantage when it comes to raising kids. Malcolm tells the story of a successful businessman who worked in his father’s scrap metal yard. It was hard, dirty work and it made him realize that he needed to work hard to make sure he would enjoy a better future. It was his family’s very lack of wealth that gave him the qualities that allowed him to be wealthy today. Ironically, he now has a problem as his kids want for nothing. He fears they won’t develop the qualities that made him successful. While poverty can be stressful and debilitating, it seems that just enough wealth can make you relatively happy while still letting you develop desirable qualities. The same also seems to work for class size as classes that are too big or too small have their own downsides.
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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Heath Bros.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Decisive

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip & Dan Heath shares research and cool stories that show how our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities. They go on to introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these problems. Their fresh strategies and practical tools will enable you to make better choices at work and beyond. If you want to increase your chances of making the right decision at the right moment, this book is for you. Click the icon at the bottom of any page to buy this important book for yourself and your key colleagues.

The Heath Brothers

  • Chip Heath is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). They are the authors of the bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick.
  • While working on this book, the authors asked that I forego my usually summary approach and do a more traditional book review highlighting a few useful concepts and to use my educational expertise to show readers how to apply them to their life. I have tried to honor this request and thank them for their input.

Introduction

  • Chip and Dan start with the key core difficulties that negatively impact our decision making. We think we know everything there is to know prior to making a decision. We also tend to be overconfident in our knowledge of the future and seek only data that confirms what we believe. We let our emotions get in the way, and often present choices in either/or terms.
  • Doug: In education, I’ve seen each of these whenever decisions were made whether by myself as principal or by a collaborative process. It is important to challenge your own thinking and say things like “you may have a point” when a colleague disagrees. Everyone knows that they aren’t always right, but it’s hard for many people to investigate the possibility that they are wrong prior to committing to a decision. They are more likely to dig in and defend their position.

Ask: What Else We Could Do/Buy?

  • When dealing with budget issues, you should always ask “what else could we buy” if we didn’t buy the item(s) we are considering? A good example today is what could we buy with all the money we are spending on textbooks and standardized testing?
  • The vanishing options test would also allow you to consider what to do with an administrative position when someone leaves. Always ask “how else you could accomplish the person’s function, and is there some part of what they are doing that doesn’t need to be done.” I have found that for administrators, the job will expand to fill the day with tasks that aren’t mission critical.
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Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
Designing Life

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans offers time-tested advice for becoming the best version of yourself possible. The advice here can help even if you are already fairly happy with your life. Their website also contains useful resources and supplements to the book.

Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

  • Bill is the executive director of the Stanford Design Program and co-founder of the Life Design Lab. He is also a former leader of Apple’s PowerBook product line and CEO of a design consultancy. Dave is co-founder of the Life Design Lab, a lecturer in the Stanford Design Program, a management consultant, and formerly a co-founder of Electronic Arts.

Introduction

  • Since only 27% of college grads end up in a career related to their jobs, it’s clear that most end up designing their careers and all need to design their non-career life. While this book is for all of us, it’s the two-thirds of workers unhappy with their jobs and the 15% who hate their work that need it the most. Life is full of problems, and solving them is what design is all about. A well-designed life is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. Life then is about designing something that has never existed before. Keep in mind that passion is something you develop after you try something and get good at it. A key point is to never measure yourself against anyone. The five necessary mindsets covered are 1. Be Curious 2. Try Stuff 3. Reframe Problems 4. Know it’s a process and 5. Ask for help.

1. Start Where You Are

  • You need to know where you are and what design problems you are trying to solve. In design thinking, the authors put as much emphasis on problem finding as problem solving. Deciding which problems to work on may be the most important decisions you make. The authors define a class of problems known as gravity problems. These are problems like trying to overcome gravity in that they are not actionable and therefore can’t be solved. The key is to not get stuck on something you have no chance of succeeding at.
  • At the heart of this chapter is an activity that lets you take stock of your current status. You are asked to rate from 0 to 100 how you feel about the criteria of 1) Your Health, 2) Your Work, 3) Your Play, and 4) Your Love. As far as love is concerned you should consider all the different types of love you experience, not just love from a spouse or significant other. When you complete this task you will have a framework and some data about yourself. Nex,t you are asked to answer these questions. 1) Write a few sentences about how it’s going in each area. 2) Ask yourself if there’s a design problem you’d like to tackle in any area. 3) Ask if your problem(s) is a gravity problem.
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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink – Updated Summary

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Drive

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink is a must-read for educators and parents alike. Dan summarizes current research and does a great job turning it into interesting and understandable prose that educators can apply to their practice. Every school should have this on the shelf.

Three Types of Motivation

  • 1.0 – The basic motivations we need for survival
  • 2.0 – Motivations based on direct rewards and punishments. Such carrots and sticks are typically financial in this context. They work for jobs that are routine, which are often the jobs that can be sent offshore or done by a computer.
  • 3.0 – Intrinsic motivation, which is conducive to creativity. This allows you to do things for the satisfaction of doing them rather than any monetary reward. Examples include open source software, Wikipedia, learning to play a musical instrument, or doing a puzzle. It is important for nonroutine (heuristic) jobs. In these jobs rules are loosely defined, which requires creativity.

Carrots and Sticks Don’t Always Work

  • Pink sites 128 studies that lead to the conclusion that tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation. This is one of the most robust findings in social science and one of the most ignored. (Doug: Educators should check out Alfie Khon’s 1993 book, Punished by Rewards.)
  • Studies show that rewards and punishments can extinguish motivation and diminish performance. They focus behavior, which can crush creativity and they can crowd out good behavior. In some cases, they can lead to cheating, shortcuts, unethical behavior and lead to addiction. They can foster short-term thinking at the cost of long-term results.

Carrots and Sticks Aren’t All Bad

  • Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks where there isn’t any motivation to be undermined. To increase chances for success you need to: 1) Offer a rationale for why the task is important 2) Acknowledge that the task is boring 3) Allow people to complete the task their own way. Another way to offer extrinsic rewards for creative work is to give the reward after the job is finished. Care must be taken so that such rewards don’t become expected. In general, praise and specific positive feedback are less corrosive than cash and trophies (Doug: That means stickers for you elementary teachers)
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Free: The Future of a Radical Price – Chris Anderson

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This is a summary of Chris Anderson’s latest book. As Editor-In-Chife of Wired magazine, Chris is the guru of hipness. This book offers timely advice that can help anyone navigate the electronic world that surrounds us. If this summary grabs your interest, the details in the book offer a roadmap for survival today’s digital world.

Click here to see the summary of this book.

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Get It Done: The 21-day Mind Hack System to Double Your Productivity and Finish What You Start by Michael Mackintosh

Monday, December 24th, 2018
Get It Done
Get It Done: The 21-day Mind Hack System to Double Your Productivity and Finish What You Start by Michael Mackintosh offers sound advice for people prone to procrastination and who suffer from the endless disruptions that exist in our hi-tech world. If this sounds like you be sure to get a copy along with one for your school’s professional development library.

Introduction

  • This book is aimed at creative entrepreneurs but I believe that educational leaders can learn from it as well. It makes very big promises, but depending on where you are it should help you focus on what’s important, increase your productivity, and finish your most important projects. It also reminds us all to build in time for rest, relaxation, and celebrating our accomplishments.

Part I – 11 Essential Mind Hacks to Make Things Happen

  • 1. The Prolonged Pain or the Short-Lived Pain: If you continue doing things that are inefficient and less effective you are inviting long-term pain. Change in the near term can be painful too, but if it leads to success you won’t have to deal with it in the long-term.
  • 2. The Defining Choice: Acting differently and thinking differently is a choice. Keep in mind it is the only way you are likely to get different results.
  • 3. The 80/20 Rule: This rule states that 80% of your input or effort leads to 20% of your outputs or results. Therefore, the opposite has to be true that 20% of your effort leads to 80% of your results. The trick is to identify the activities that produce 20% of your output and either do them less or do them when you are not so sharp.
  • 4. Good is Good Enough: The old saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good” applies here. It is important sometimes to stop when you have reached the good enough point in a job unless it’s a job that has to be perfect like a computer program.
  • 5. The Delusion of Time Management: The idea here is that you only have NOW in terms of doing something. Even if you are thinking about the future you are doing it NOW. Trying to micromanage your schedule is not likely to lead to great productivity. Rather than thinking about managing time, think about managing your thoughts, words, actions, energy, and focus. As you move through the day ask if what you are doing is moving directly toward your goals. Make your most important work a priority. Organize your day to make the most of your energy. If you are a morning person like me, save the most important work for the morning. (Doug: Yes, I’m writing this in the morning.) Recognize when you are a tired, hungry, or distracted and do what it takes to recharge. It’s not how much time you put into something, it’s how much high-quality energy you invest.
  • 6. The Resistance: You can’t do something new, significant, and meaningful without resistance so get ready for it. Some can come from your lower self that is comfortable with the status quo. Be alert and look for it within and without so you can take it on.
  • 7. Fears and Hallucinations: Fears can be real or irrational. They can be healthy and necessary for success. They can also arise when it’s not required. Unconscious fears include the unknown, failure, and not being good enough. Once you identify them you can accept that they only exist in your mind. This should help prevent the destructive worry that come with them.
  • 8. Focus: You don’t want to try to make all of your dreams come true at the same time. The idea here is to bring one idea to completion before you begin another one. Fear could be part of the problem for people who try to do too many things at once.
  • 9. How to Overcome Self-Doubt: This can sabotage you before you begin. Michael suggests that you focus on the people who will be helped if you complete what you are doing and realize that self-doubt, like most fears, is also irrational.
  • 10. Do It Now: Everything happens in the now, and now won’t last forever. This should help you get going and avoid procrastination.
  • 11. Do Less Work to Get More Done: You don’t do your best work when you work too hard. You are more likely to make mistakes and quality is likely to go downhill. Be sure to build rest and recharge into your game plan. Sleeping on a problem or just taking a walk can help you solve it. You are also more likely to screw up your family life and other important relationships. You still have to work hard, but working too hard can even make your sick.
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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Monday, August 7th, 2017
Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth shares her research and the work of others on the subject and explains that what we eventually accomplish depends more on our passion and perseverance than on our innate talent. This work can help you find your own passion and develop it. This is a vital book for parents, teachers, and human beings in general. Make sure your school library has at least one copy for starters.

1. Showing Up

  • Angela starts with the story of her visits to West Point’s summer session for incoming freshman known affectionately as Beast Barracks. Due to the high dropout rate of plebs, the question was: what qualities are the best predictors of who makes it and who goes home early? The only metric the Army had was the Whole Candidate Score. It combined SAT/ACT scores, class rank, an expert appraisal of leadership potential, and performance on objective measures of physical fitness. The problem was that this score had no predictive value when it came to surviving the first summer or the full four-year program.
  • What candidates needed it seems, was a never give up attitude, which had nothing to do with ability. When Duckworth heard this she decided to create an instrument to measure it. She then created the Grit Scale, which is included on page 55. She found that it was a good predictor for West Point. It also turned out to be a good predictor for other accomplishments such and earning college degrees. She found that there was no relationship between IQ and grit.

2. Distracted By Talent

  • As a teacher early in her career Duckworth discovered that talent for math was different from excelling in math. She also found that her weakest students sounded smart when talking about things that interested them. She found that Americans endorse hard work five times more than intelligence. However, teachers are more likely to lavish attention on students they think are talented. Another problem is associated with tests for talent, which like tests for grit are imperfect.

3. Effort Counts Twice

  • After being chided by her advisor while working on her PhD in psychology, Duckworth came up with two equations. Talent x Effort = Skill, and Skill x Effort = Achievement. Note that effort is included in both equations. While this theory does have a place for natural ability, it shows how effort is more important. This chapter gives examples of famous people who felt they succeeded thanks to their compulsive effort. In addition to talent and effort, there is also a place for opportunities and luck on the road to success. Encouraging parents with money are a prime example of opportunities.
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How To Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s Most Inspiring Presentations

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

How To Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s Most Inspiring Presentations (© 2012) by Jeremey Donovan, gives you a step-by-step guide to doing your own inspiring TED-style presentation. If you haven’t seen a TED Talk it’s time to start. Click the icon below to purchase this quick, quality read.

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How to Tell Liars From Statisticians Robert Hooke

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Although this book by Robert Hooke was written in 1983, it is still applicable today. It can help you avoid being persuaded against your will if you only look at the numbers spouted by the data pushers with a critical eye. This book and my summary were written for people who don’t especially like numbers, as well as those who do.

Click here to see my summary of How to Tell a Liar from a Statistician.

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How well are you Connected? – Nicholas Christakis

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD is another must read for anyone who wants to understand how our social networks impact our lives. All educators should consider the implications of this work.
As the authors studied social networks, they began to think of them as human super organisms. They grow and evolve. All sorts of things flow and move within them. This super organism has its own structure and a function, and they became obsessed with understanding both. Once we see ourselves as part of a larger network, we can better understand our actions, choices, and experiences. These connections are natural and necessary and a force for good. Just as brains can do more than single neurons, so can social networks do things that no single person can do. To know who we are, we must understand how we are connected.

Click here to see the summary of this book.

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