Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
by Peter Sims
People often think of creativity as a big bang event in which a creative genius spews out a great new idea. Peter Sims suggests that is not usually the way creativity works and certainly is not a basis on which you can design a creative organization or repeatable creative process. Instead, making many small bets and investing more in those that take off – perhaps in unexpected directions – is a way to more consistently produce creative results. Experimentation sounds clinical and antithetical to creativity, but the opposite is true. Another important point is that breakthrough ideas are often discovered through serendipity which is another side of the argument to let a team try new ideas – even some you may not initially agree with.
Sims gives enough examples from comedians to software companies that the reader will walk away with specific ideas for his own scenario
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, Charles Burck
Ram Charan is one of my favorite authors and speakers. He has an amazing ability to bring complex down to the basic principles. Some reviewers comment “that is Business 101” but I suspect more businesses fail because basic mistakes than fail because of miscalculations in rocket science. In any event, I greatly enjoyed this book by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy.
A key point is that a system is designed to produce some result, whether that design was conscious or not. If the system consistently produces errors, the system is designed wrong and it is the leader’s job, rather than a technician’s, to fix it. To diagnose the problem and correct it, the leader must be in the details. The leader’s job is to get the people, strategy, and operation connected in a system that produces results.
Simple but powerful
The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
by Leonard Mlodinow
The Drunkard’s Walk is a wonderful blend of statistics, psychology, business, history, and everyday life. Mlodinow’s slightly dry sense of humor makes the book fun and easy to read.
He gives powerful examples of subtle, yet critically important, errors in the way statistics are used in law, medicine, investing, and sports. Another theme is that many extraordinary performances are not unbelievable long shots but the inevitable result of a large number of people trying for a long time. Talent is an important factor – Tiger Woods is much more likely to get a hole in one than I am – but among professional golfers, holes in one likely follow a random distribution.
Mlodinow points out that compensation for investment analysts and film industry executives is based on the premise that winners can be picked despite repeated demonstrations that actual performance is random. Most businesses are afraid to take a chance on a new approach, but significant savings are possible with a new compensation model that sacrifices nothing in results.
His advice for winning in a world heavily influenced by random factors? More “at bats”. Just keep trying
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
by Simon Sinek
By starting with the reason he/she is working toward a goal, a leader engages intrinsic motivation, which is likely to produce greater resiliency and creativity in followers. That important point is often forgotten in the rush to begin a new endeavor, so a reminder is a good thing.
I listened to the audio book and the recording was a bit sloppy. There were a few places where a passage was played twice. Unfortunately, the sloppiness went beyond the recording. Simon Sinek made the point that overturning the belief that the world was flat opened up a whole world of possibilities. It is a myth that spread in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that earlier people believed the earth was flat. While that does not invalidate the underlying point, it is one illustration of a problem throughout the book – the author tries to engage science but without doing enough research. Daniel Pink’s book Drive and Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows are examples of well researched books – Start with Why falls short.
The underlying point is important and Simon Sinek gives a few good examples, but I will look for a another book on the topic
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink
This is a very good book by Daniel Pink about motivation – what works, what doesn’t, and how our effort to motivate others can sometimes backfire. His argument is that there is a dramatic disconnect between the science of motivations/incentives and current business practices. We don’t leverage intrinsic motivation (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) at work, especially for right-brain, creative work that is becoming more common in the US. His basic points are well supported with science, a few examples from the business world, and some practical ideas for how to implement them.
Since I listened to the audio book, I sent an email to Daniel Pink asking if he could send a link with some of the lists and exercises. He replied the same day, graciously sending what I requested and more. He is passionate about helping others to understand human motivation, and that passion comes through in the quality of his book.
For a preview of his key points, I also recommend watching his talk on TED: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
As with “A Whole New Mind”, I think he over estimates the degree of change most people will experience at work between the next 10 years and the last 50 – much of what most people do will still be relatively routine. That being the case, one concern is that over enthusiastic managers may try to apply Dan’s ideas where they are not the best fit. Another is that significant thought and creativity will be required to apply his ideas in many common business situations. This doesn’t mean his fundamental points are wrong – in fact, I agree with him – just that his ideas will take time to move into common practice.
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
Daniel H. Pink
I listened to the audio book and it worked great in that format because it is well organized and the author keeps the listener updated on the overall structure throughout. Dan Pink was the reader which adds a nice sense of connection and he did a wonderful job.
While he gives a balanced perspective – it is a WHOLE new mind that he recommends, after all – it is still tempting to say that he overplays the argument for right-brain focus in the new millenium. Also, the book was published in early 2006 – I wonder if he would moderate the focus on affluence and offshoring as factors driving the change after the last few years.
That said, I agree with his conclusions, even if I wouldn’t take them quite as far or as fast as he does. Our country and our schools would be well served to develop whole minds.