Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Data Science | Entrepreneurship | ..and sometimes Photography

Category: Book Reviews (page 5 of 10)

Guy Kawasaki – Reality Check

Last week I was looking for something to read on my Kindle and saw Guy Kawasaki‘s new book titled Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.

Long title huh?

I’ve read most of what Guy has written in the past so I figured this would be a good book too.  I’m always interested in what Guy has to say….but I’m disappointed in this book.

Now…before you start to jump me, undertsand something:  I’m disappointed because it feels like I’m reading Guy’s 2004 book titled “The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything“….I’m on chapter 6 or 7 and don’t feel like I’ve read anything new.

The book has some real-world information that will help startups and small businesses but if you’ve read Guy’s other stuff, this won’t be anything new. The description of the book does say it is compilation of previous work….if you’ve not read much of his previous work, this is the book for you.

The book is excellent for those folks who are looking for short snippets of information about starting and running a business today, specifically those looking for Venture Capital.

Do I recommend Reality Check?  Absolutely…if you’ve not read Art of the Start or much of Guy’s other work.  If you have, I’d say think about this one before buying.

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Book Review: Learning at Work

A few months ago I ran across the IDEO Fellows website and saw a lot of really interesting authors listed and realized I’d heard of everyone on the page except for one: Daniel Wilson.  Included with Wilson are such notables as Chip Heath, Bob Sutton and Barry Katz so I found it intriguing that I hadn’t heard of Wilson before.

The IDEO website lists Wilson as Research Director at Harvard Project Zero and co-author of a book titled ‘Learning at Work‘.  Dr. Wilson’s background intrigued me so I took a deeper look at the book.   As far as I can tell, this book is only available from Harvard’s Project Zero bookstore…a quick review on Amazon shows a few books with the same title but they don’t appear to be the same book.

I ordered the book and waited patiently for its arrvial…then waited patiently to find time to read it.  I finally found that time and I’m glad I did.

The main purpose of the book is to describe the fundamental need to turn knowledge into something that is actionable and useful to an organization. The official description of this book is:

For four years researchers at Project Zero worked closely with the leaders and over fifty office managers of a university as they sought to cultivate a culture of learning and understanding throughout their organization. This book shares the story of this project along with the key lessons and practical strategies that helped to enhance understanding, deepen inquiry, strengthen leadership, and improve communication. Organizational leaders, group facilitators or those interested in applying Project Zero concepts in the workplace will find this book of interest.

The book is a wonderful treatise on learning within organizations and provides a great deal of information on how an organization can build a culture of learning.

Great book and one that I’d highly recommend.

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Book Review: Noble Enterprise

Last month I received a review copy of NOBLE ENTERPRISE: The Commonsense Guide to Uplifting People and Profits by Darwin Gillett. I had my doubts about the book when I received it..the cover art and use of the word ‘spirit’ sprinkled on the front and back covered just gave me a bad feeling about the book.

I started reading the book last week and found it to be interesting yet hard to read.  The concept of the book is that organizations have forgotten that there is a connection between employee morale and profitability.   The entirety of the book is based around showing how focusing on your people will bring profit.  In fact, the by-line of the PR Release that came with the book states that the book is a:

…guide to gaining the competitive advantage by developing the inner talents and energies of your employees.

In general, I would agree with this concept. The author goes to great length to tell the story of a company that was losing $1 million per day and came back from the brink of disaster using the concepts of allowing people to be who they are and putting their need ahead of the business. The story is a great one and has some really good lessons about leading people.

That said, the book falls into the trap of trying to do to much.  While reading it I began to wonder if it was a book on leadership or a book on spirituality in the workplace.  Perhaps it is both.  Nothing wrong with that but the approach taken causes the book to miss the mark. As an example, let’s take a look at a snippet from the release that came with the book.  This snippet gives you a lot of insight into the book:

Noble Enterprise guides and inspires business owners and executives to lead their people in creating business performance far beyond the norm, in the process awakening and activating the rich array of human energy, wisdom, passion and purpose for personal growth, for business growth and prosperity and for enhancing society’ development.

Whew.   That was one sentence!

When I read this sentence, I get confused.  What’s the book’s real purpose?

This lack of focus and the fact that many passages within the book are long and wordy took this book from being a great one to being an OK book. I like the concept of this book but have a problem with the long-windedness (is that a word??) The book is full of long sentences like the one above that really do nothing more than add  to the book’s word count.

I love the idea of “people first” and would like nothing more than to wholeheartedly recommend this book but I can’t do that. If you’re willing to slog through long complicated passages to get a few gold nuggets then grab this book. I think there are some good insights held within the book’s covers.  In short, I’d say this book is good read but not a great one.

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10 Habits of Highly Effective IT Professionals

Are you looking to improve your IT skills? Are you a business leader looking to make your IT organization more effective?

If so, take a look at Simon Stapleton’s eBook titled “The 10 Habits of Highly Effective IT Professionals.”

What are the 10 Habits?  Glad you asked.  They are:

  1. Openly Share Knowledge
  2. Coach Others
  3. Learn by Reviewing
  4. Focus on Strengths and Strive to Avoid Weaknesses
  5. Remember that “everybody is a resource”
  6. Effectively deliver value
  7. Delegate Effectively
  8. Escalate at the right time
  9. Actively Participate in a Value-Chain
  10. Create the right work-life balance

I have one comment about the last habit, “Create the right work-life balance”,  is a great habit to attempt to have, but I find it much more difficult for IT professionals to form these days.  Most IT organizations are understaffed and overworked and its tough to get any type of work-life balance in today.  I like the idea of forming this habit but I’m not so sure the current environment allows IT professionals to form this one completely.

The ebook, which is available as a free download (after signing up with Simon’s system) is a good read.  Nothing in the ebook is new stuff (is there really anything new out there these days?) but the ebook is a nice refresher of what some good habits are for IT professionals.  Go check it out.

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Book Review: The Three Laws of Performance

I received an email a few weeks ago asking if I would be interested in reviewing the new book from Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan titled “the three laws of performance”.   I jumped at the opportunity….free book right?

Well…I’d happily pay twice the list price for this book and so should you…but click over to amazon using the link below and you can get it for $18.45 (affiliate link).

The full title of the book is The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life and it is called a ‘Warren Bennis‘ book…if you like Bennis, you’ll like this book too

The premise of the book is that there are three laws that will always affect performance…just like the law of gravity will always have an affect on you.

The three laws are:

  1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them
  2. How a situation occurs arises in languages
  3. Future based language transforms how situations occur to people

If you are like me, you’ll read those three laws and think “that seems a little too simple”….but they aren’t. Think about these laws for a few minutes and consider the following example:

You are tasked with implementing an enterprise resource planning system.  This ERP system will replace about ten other systems throughout the organizations.  These other systems are seen as ‘useful’ and the people that use them feel as though they own them…they’ve used these systems for years and have a lot of control over these systems.

The CIO has decided to replace the various systems with one ERP system.  She gets agreement from the leaders of the other departments but there is very little socialization of the idea with the actual users of the system.

You kick off the project and follow all the proper methodologies and processes and at first, the organization is lined up behind you.    Quickly though, you start running into problems.  People are resistant and don’t see the need to replace what they have.  The project falls behind and the ‘go-live’ date slips…and slips.  It doesn’t seem like you’ll ever get this project done.

Why does this happen?  Well…you could be a poor project manager…but hey…I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt 🙂 The project is failing because the people invovled don’t feel as they have any say in their own future.  the project was derived and driven from the top down with no input from the folks using the current systems.

If you don’t allow people to understand the reasons for things to occur by communicating in the proper language, your projects will fail.  You will always have people react to a situation in the way that makes sense to them….but it may not make sense to you.

The book does a much better job of explaining the three laws and how they can be used in your life. There are some excellent stories of people using the three laws and obtaining some amazing results.

While reading this book, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment.  I always try to use ‘common sense’ to guide my decisions…but MY view of common sense is different than YOUR view.  You may have a common sense approach to something that makes absolutely no sense to me…and vice versa.

This is a great book…I think it is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years.   Grab this book soon as you can and enjoy!

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Lead Well & Prosper – book review

A few weeks ago I received a complimentary copy of Lead Well and Prosper: 15 Successful Strategies for Becoming a Good Manager from Nick McCormick, the author.

When I received the book, I tossed it onto my desk with all the many unread books and promised myself I’d get to it soon.

A Quick Read

Soon came sooner than I thought…mainly because it’s such a small book (less than 100 pages) and looked like an easy read…and it was.

The book is split into fifteen chapters with each chapter describing a strategy that can be used by managers.  Each chapter starts out with a nice little storyline to introduce the chapter and then a few pages are used to describe the strategy.

The fifteen chapters cover obvious things such as ‘teach’, ‘adopt a serving attitude’, ‘share information’, ‘do the right thing’ and other fairly common sense approaches to leading & managing.

Common Sense…but not common practice

This book describes common sense approaches to leading people and teams, but as we all know, common sense and business don’t always go hand-in-hand.  Common sense doesn’t always make it to common practice and this book helps bridge the gap between knowing and doing.

Perfect for new managers / leaders

This is a great little book full of wisdom for managers & leaders, especially those that are taking on their first management position.  It’s an easy read and covers the basics to help set the new leader down the right path.

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