Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Data Science | Entrepreneurship | ..and sometimes Photography

Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 10)

Driving Digital by Isaac Sacolick – a book review

Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through TechnologyI just finished Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology by Isaac Sacolick. Note: I received a free copy of this book for review.

The short review:

Excellent…the best book I’ve read on the subject. Go buy it if you want/need to transform your business.

The long review:

I’ve read a number of books on digital transformation over the years. Many were very good, some weren’t.  Most were very theoretical who’s authors spend their time talking about the importance of digital transformation to a business but I can’t recall one single book (other than the one being reviewed) that provided an actual game-plan for driving digital transformation.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s lots of theory in this book about WHY companies need to transform their organization but just as importantly (or maybe more importantly) there is more discussion of HOW to drive this transformation.

If you don’t know Isaac, you should check out his linkedin profile and his website. He’s spent years doing exactly what he writes about in this book.  He’s learned the hard way about how to transform an organization by actually doing it rather than sitting in a consulting practice and talking to people that have done it.  Toward the beginning of the book, you can see just how well Isaac understands digital transformation with the following statement (from page 13):

Digital transformation is not just about technology and its implementation. It’s about looking at the business strategy through the lens of technical capabilities and how that changes how you are operating and generating revenues….Ultimately, digital transformation is about automating more of operations, generating revenue-leveraging digital capabilities, and bringing new convenience and value to customers.

I spent the majority of the time reading this book nodding my head and highlighting passages. My kindle notebook for this book has over 100 highlights, which is rare for me while reading these types of books.  Isaac has filled the pages of this book with quite a lot of practical knowledge worth more than the cost of the book.

One of the major aspects of this book that I really like is the very descriptive nature of HOW a CIO can begin driving digital using agile.  I’m a big fan of agile and I’m a fan of agility so seeing Isaac talk about agile practices makes me happy. He writes:

The first place to start is to develop the organizational model and practices that enable the executing of a digital agenda driven by customer and market feedback. You need the IT organization to learn agile practices and develop an agile culture.

A reader can read those lines and think “I just need to implement agile and we’ll be able to drive digital transformation!” — and they’ll be wrong. Agile is just part of it.  Thankfully, Isaac follows up with the following:

…agile is a practice, and it by itself isn’t going to make the IT team fully capable to solve transformational challenges.

Agile (or any method) isn’t the answer to anything other than how can we get this project completed. That said, agility within the organization (and within the IT group) is absolutely necessary for transformation of any kind, especially digital transformation and Isaac does a phenomenal job outlining how do drive digital transformation using agile practices in this book.  This book is both a descriptive and a prescriptive look at driving digital and should be at the top of your reading list. Go buy it.

 

Humanizing Big Data – A Book Review

imageI received a review copy of Humanizing Big Data by Colin Strong a few weeks ago. The subtitle to the book is “Marketing at the meeting of Data, Social Science and Consumer Insight”….that should give you a good feel about the contents of this book.  It isn’t a heavy duty data science book…it is targeted more at folks in the marketing world to allow them to better understand the types of data that they may encounter as well as understand how that data might be analyzed and used within their business.

Many times the term ‘big data’ can cause fear in non-tech and/or non-data people. The term sounds so vague and so ‘big’ and can cause people to steer away from big data.  This is unfortunate because the size of the data doesn’t really matter – only the data, the context of the data and what you are able to do with the data is what matters.  This book helps to remove some of the fear that might come along with big data.

This book takes the user through an introduction of big data and how marketers (and others) can use many different types of data to better understand their customer base, their marketing efforts and their business. The author does a very good job describing how the reader could use existing data combined with other data gathered from social media and user-generated content.

The great thing about this book is that you don’t need to be a marketer to get value from it. Just about anyone, including social scientists, financial analysts and others can find some value within this book.  I strongly suggest this book for anyone looking to learn more about big data.

Pick up your copy of Humanizing Big Data by Colin Strong today.

The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making – A Book Synopsis

51XNsxTJaNL._SL250_One of the books that I use in my various consulting projects and academic work is titled “The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making” by Scott Plous.  This particular book might seem like a very academic book, but in reality it is very accessible and easy for anyone to read and understand.

I’ve had this particular write-up in my ‘draft’ folder for quite some time and is a by-product of a quick write-up that I created for a client a few years ago. This isn’t a full review of the book but more of a synopsis of the main topics found within the book.

If you have an interested in decision support, judgement, perception, bias or heuristics I’d recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.

Summary of the Book

This book provides an introduction to the judgment and decision making theories that have been developed over the years. The book does a good job of introducing topics like decision making, memory, context, perception, heuristics and bias. This book is perfect for non-psychologists to use as an introductory text on the subject and can act as reference material anyone designing research projects.

The book is broken down into Six Sections with each section introducing new concepts and providing case studies to help solidify the concepts in the reader’s mind. These sections are listed below and described in more detail throughout the remainder of this paper.

  • Section One – Perceptions, Memory and Context
  • Section Two – How Questions Affect Answers
  • Section Three – Models of Decision Making
  • Section Four – Heuristics and Biases
  • Section Five – The Social Side of Judgment and Decision Making
  • Section Six – Common Traps

Section One – Perceptions, Memory and Context

The first section covers a considerable amount of material throughout its 32 pages.   Topics covered in this section include hindsight, perception, context and memory with examples provided to try to illustrate the various topics. I found this section to be slightly over-arching in its topics and after completing the section, the topics weren’t as clear to me as I would have liked. I felt as if the author was trying to cover too much material in too little space.

The introduction and description of the halo effect was the one topic that was the most interesting from this section. The Halo effect, which is an example of context dependence, is a topic that many people in research and industry should be aware of because it shows that the way people to stimuli is dependant on the context that the stimulus is received (Plous, 1993). This topic, which was covered extensively in the book The Halo Effect by Philip Rosenzweig, is an interesting concept and one that many people fall victim too. Rosenzweig’s book is not an academic foray into the world of psychology but does provide some excellent examples of how cognitive bias and context dependence can cloud the judgment of many intelligent people (Rosenzweig, 2007).

Section Two – How Questions Affect Answers

This section covers some very interesting topics from the order of questions, wording of questions and the framing of questions and how they might influence the results obtained from those questions. These topics are extremely important to researchers since the way questions are worded and/or asked can influence the results of the research.

Examples and case studies are provided to help the reader understand how questions affect answers. For example, an example is given in Chapter 5 that shows how the ordering of questions has an affect on the results. This example, which was taken from research performed by Schuman and Presser (1981), shows that the order of questions in a survey has an affect on the results of the survey (Plous, 1993; Schuman & Presser, 1981)

The concepts described in this section are arguably some of the most important issues for any researcher to understand as they will need to be taken into consideration when designing survey questions to be used in research.

Section Three – Models of Decision Making

This section covers the various models that have been developed to described the decision making process. Models such as Expected Utility Theory and Prospect Theory are described and examples are given to help the reader understand the models.

Chapter 9: Descriptive Models and Decision Making is one of the more interesting chapters in this book. This chapter provides an introduction and explanation of the Prospect Theory of decision making. Prospect theory is a more descriptive model than the expected utility theory and provides methods to model real world scenarios rather than the optimal solutions that are modeled with the expected utility theory. This theory differs greatly from expected utility theory by predicting that a person’s “preference will depend on how a problem is framed” (Plous, 1993).

Section Four – Heuristics and Biases

Section four covers two basic, but important, topics: (1) the processes that people use to make decisions and; (2) the biases that result from these processes. The process by which people use to make decisions is said to contain the use of rules of thumb, otherwise known as heuristics. Heuristics are believed to yield fairly good estimates but can lead to bias in the decision making process. This section attempts to cover the well known heuristics and biases. Some examples of these are: representativeness heuristic, availability heuristic, probability and risk, anchoring, perception of randomness, and attribution theory.

This section covers a lot of material with a considerable number of examples. I didn’t feel as though the section was well-connected and seemed to try to cover more material than needed.

Section Five – The Social Side of Judgment and Decision Making

This section covers the social factors that affect judgment and decision making. The theme of this section can be summed up fairly easily with the following sentence: people are social animals and their judgment and decision making processes are affected by social influence.

Chapter 17 provides an interesting overview of how society affects an individual’s decision making process and judgment with such topics as social facilitation, social loafing, diffusion of responsibility, conformity and groupthink. Chapter 18 takes a look at the issue from the group’s perspective and compares the decision making performance of a group to the performance by individuals.

The section on groupthink (Chapter 17, page 203) is one of the most interesting parts of this section. Groupthink is a problem in many organizations and is difficult to combat and prevent but this section provides some interesting warning signs and measures to fight groupthink.

Section Six – Common Traps

This last section of the book provides an overview of traps that people and organizations commonly fall into. The author lists three major traps: (1) Overconfidence; (2) Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and; (3) Behavioral Traps. Each of these traps is given their own chapter and each is described fairly well with examples used to clarify where needed. The author tries to describe these traps and attempts to provide methods to avoid these traps, but most of these avoidance methods seem to be a little to simplistic.

Conclusion

Unlike other books on the topic, this book does not provide (nor purport to provide) a ‘how to’ for decision making and/or judgment processes, which I think this is a great thing. This book provides background information at a high level for non-psychology majors to use to better understand the decision making and judgment process.

Section Two: How Questions Affect Answers is one of the most informative sections in this book. If a reader read only this section of the book, they would be in a much better position to understand how surveys are conducted and why some surveys are conducted in the manner in which they are.

This book is a short, well-written overview on most topics and should be required reading for all researchers and students.

References

Plous, S. (1993). The psychology of judgment and decision making. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Rosenzweig, P. M. (2007). The halo effect– and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers. New York: Free Press.

Schuman, H., & Presser, S. (1981). Questions and answers in attitude surveys experiments on question form, wording, and context. New York: Academic Press.

 

The CIO Paradox by Martha Heller – a book review

Note: I received a reveiw copy of The CIO Paradox.  The review below made up of PR material provided to me as well as my reading of the book.

Martha Heller was kind enough to reach out to me to offer me an advance copy of her new book titled “The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership“.

Before I jump into the book, a little background on the author and the book

If you don’t know Martha’s background, you should.  She’s written for CIO.com and was the founder of CIO Magazine’s CIO Executive Council and is currently the President of Heller Search Associates, a firm specializing in recruiting CIO’s and other IT leaders.

According to the PR sheet that came with the book, the book covers:

…a set of opposing forces, such as the power of technology versus the power technology leaders hold, which besiege IT executives and their battle for success every day.  Going beyond mere business advice, Heller uses her tenured experience as an IT thought leader to articulate the problematic structure of the Chief Information Officer role into a savvy, engaging, and sage resource for all involved in running a business.

The “paradoxes” described in the book are split into four main categories. they are:

  • The CIO Role: You’re Damned If You Do, and You’re Damned If You Don’t
  • The Stakeholders: Will the Business Ever Love IT?
  • The CIO’s Staff: They Just Don’t Make Them Like That
  • The Future: What’s Next for the CIO?

When I first picked up the PR sheet and saw these paradoxes, I was intrigued…because these ‘paradoxes’ really are some of the biggest issues facing CIO’s today….and the “Stakeholder” paradox has always seemed to be the hardest one to solve to me.

The problem of “will the business ever love IT?” is an extremely difficult one to solve.  Sure…CIO’s and IT professionals can spend time with the rest of the organization to build relationships and ‘get to know’ everyone…but that’s not enough.

There’s more to solving this particular problem.  You don’t just automatically change people’s opinions of you and your team, especially after years of being the team that says “no” to everyone.   There’s some major work to be done in the cultural area of IT departments to address the Stakeholders paradox.

I’ll get off my soapbox now…and let Martha get on hers.  In this book,  She does a very good job outlining these four major paradoxical areas and how to go about “breaking” these paradoxes.  Martha writes:

“The keys to solving the CIO Paradox, or ‘breaking the paradox, lie in the experiences, thoughts, lessons learned, philosophies, wit and wisdom of all those CIOs who are actually doing these jobs.”

The last chapter provides a nice checklist that can be used to ‘break’ the paradox. In this chapter, Martha provides a few excellent suggestions for breaking the paradox.    A few of the more interesting items found in this final chapter:

  • Develop Well-Rounded People – Its not enough to have IT Operations folks who only know IT Operations. You’ve got to build a team of well-rounded and experienced people that can work in many diverse areas.
  • Recruit Well – Simply said, difficult to do.   But..necessary.
  • Change the Context – stop thinking about “IT” and start thing about the business.
  • Reach out – you can no longer live within your IT world. You must reach out and build lasting relationships with the rest of the organization and your customers.
  • Lead – Again…simple to say, but tough to do. The CIO must be a leader first and foremost….you can’t sit in your office  hoping things get done…you’ve got to make sure they get done.
  • Simplify – Love this From Page 216 ->  The more simplicity you build into your IT organization, the more complexity you can handle.

The book has some great stories about how real-world CIO’s have addressed the paradoxical world they live in.  In addition, it is quite differnet than any other book I’ve read that has been targeting the CIO role. It delivers not only stories on how others have done things, but ideas for things you can do to make it through the paradoxes found in your world.

It is well written and an excellent read. Highly recommended.

Recommended Books for the CIO / IT leader for 2012

2012_happy_new_year-widew By Ludie Cochrane on flickrWow…2011 went by fast didn’t it?

In Dec 2010, I put together a list of Recommended Books for the CIO / IT leader for 2011. That list was a good list with many CIO/IT related books as well as many non-IT related books.

When I sat down to think about a list of books for 2012, my first inclination was to mix it up again this year with some CIO/IT related books + some non-IT books.  But then…I realized 2 things: 1.) There aren’t that many CIO/IT leadership books on the market and 2.) most CIO’s don’t need help being told how to be a CIO the in traditional sense.  CIO’s today (and tomorrow) need to understand what the rest of the business is doing and how they are working.

With my main focus in my recent consulting being in the areas of helping IT groups work better with Marketing, PR and Communications teams/groups, I thought I’d put together a list with a wide-range of topics that would be good for IT professionals and CIO’s to read this year. Topics include IT, content, marketing, PR, leadership and business in general.

All links below are amazon affiliate links.

It’s Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business by Bob Burg

Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization by Olivier Blanchard

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

Real-Time Marketing and PR, Revised: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now by David Meerman Scott

The Role of Technology in Today’s Marketplace: Leading Technology Executives on Adapting to Changing Business Needs, Harnessing Innovation, and Increasing Organizational Efficiency (Multiple Authors)

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt

The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge by Vijay Govindarajan

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen

Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World by Jamie Notter, Maddie Grant

The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen by Andy Boynton, Bill Fischer, William Bole (contributor)

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Image Credit: 2012_happy_new_year-widew By Ludie Cochrane on flickr

Book Review: Humanize

I received a copy of Humanize from the authors.  I don’t recall there being a request for me to review the book…but I feel obligated to do so…especially since it is one of the best books on ‘social’ and ‘business’ that I’ve read.

Humanize Book cover

The full title of this book is Humanize – How people-centric organizations succeed in a social world (amazon affiliate link). And…that’s the best description of a book in a title I’ve ever seen.

That also should give you a real good idea what the entire book is like. Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant (and their editorial team) not only created a powerful title – but they delivered on that title. And I mean delivered.

Danny Brown called this book “one of the best social media books you’ll read this year, if not the best“. If you follow the social space at all then you know who Danny is…if you don’t…you should start following him instead of some of the other ‘gurus’.

This is a business book about being social…not a social media book. Its not a ‘do this and your dreams will come true’ book or a ‘get clients now’ book.  Its a book about people.

Its a book that will require you to read. It will require you to comprehend.  It will require you to think.

Unlike other social media books, you won’t lend this one out to your buddies…because if you really read it and ‘get it’…this book will be more valuable to you than a warm coat in the North Pole.

Why is this such a good book?

Simple…it hits you in the face that being ‘social’ is nothing more than being human. This book is about bringing the people back into your organization. Its about treating your employees, your customers and your partners as people rather than resource or a number.

Sure…this book is about social media…but its not a starry-eyed treatise written by a couple of ‘gurus’.   You won’t find a bunch of warm & fuzzy stuff or empty words here.  Instead, in this book, you’ll find a wonderfully written, engaging and thoughful book on how to make your business more human – and thus more social.

Unlike many other books in the space, this book isn’t written by a couple of ‘rock stars’, ‘ninjas’ or ‘gurus’.  This book is written by people who’ve been in the trenches and implemented.  This book is written by people who have been doing rather than talking about doing.

This book is for you.Buy it. Read it. Read it again…and then read it again.  It is that good.

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