I finally mastered my reading list!

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of ways to plow through the never ending suggestions of books that I “need to read”. I’ve kept lists in paper notebooks, Facebook books, Goodreads, my iOS Notepad, and even as a Reminders list. The list keeps getting longer. I buy books I don’t end up liking or reading, or just forget to place one in the barrel next time a get some free time to read.

Recently I discovered a way to automatically manage my list and get the book in my hands in almost any format or device — for free! Here’s how:

First, download the Libby app.

Libby is an app by Overdrive that helps make checking out books from the library easy. No, don’t worry, it’s not a way to checkout paper books. Libby is focused on helping you download audiobooks and digital books and allows you to push them to your Kindle, iBooks or whatever works for you.

Now, before you disregard the power of your local library (the institution your tax dollars pay for) let’s flip the script. Libby allows you to grab books you’re interested in.

So, think of how it plays out: You hear about a book that “you need to read.” You search for it on your Libby app, and you place a hold on it. Yes, there is a wait list for your book, and popular ones often have longer wait lists. But, guess what? You don’t care!

This is your reading list!

When books are available, they pop onto you phone or Kindle. If you don’t have time to read it, just put it back into the hold lists for the next go around. If you want to read a few chapters and put it away, that works too. The hold queue isn’t just some arbitrary list you keep that is disconnected from the act of reading — they are one and the same.

I have been doing this for the past year and love the fact that I don’t need to feel bad about falling behind on my reading. I know I’ll just read the next book that becomes available, and not think twice about my queue.

It took a while to get to “reading zen”, so I thought I’d share it. Hope it works for you too!

How a Roundabout is like Product Development

334_roundabout1I quite liked driving through New Zealand and Australia. Like most countries outside the U.S., they use roundabouts to deal with intersection traffic.

The rules of a roundabout are quite simple: you must yield to oncoming cars to your right – otherwise – go. Most of the time there are no cars coming and you can avoid the “come to a complete stop” law all together.

I find the iterative development cycle works in much the same way. In older more classic models, a product manager and their stakeholders work diligently to make sure specs are completed thoroughly before marking them as “ready for development.” In reality, the a majority of what *can* be done dramatically changes as new information is made available (digging into the problem, user feedback, stakeholder feedback, complexity etc.) The “stop” heavy culture of elaborately planned tasks are often thrown away the seconds after development, and issues, start. The real knowledge comes from implementation and iteration once each atomic feature is released. It also requires trust in those that implement to have a good enough understanding of the high level purpose of what your product is trying to achieve.

What if something goes wrong? Well, just like with a round about, development yields when there is” oncoming traffic” (AKA an issue getting flagged.) In scrum, the flag can be raised at standup meetings or planning meetings. If there is no flag then the developer does the best they can to implement the best way they can. In essence, they are entering the intersection and driving on through. This lack of congestion on spec creation can be better spent on feedback, iterations, and issues that come up. (In reality it is where the most critical time has always been.)

So, next time you’re concerned about how a task *should* be completed, and feel the need to surround yourself with stop signs, imagine the steady flow of a roundabout. Give your team the freedom to produce, stay available for issues that *may* come up, and when a change needs to be made revisit the task at hand.

How to create fast motion videos on your iPhone for family vacation updates

On our trips to locations around the world our family and friends want a way to get an idea for what we are up to.  Like most people, we post pictures to Facebook that try and capture the essence of our trip but video is so much better at truly capturing the 3-dimensional realities of what we experience.

Now, with tools like Hyperlapse and iMovie on iOS, you can create a video that summarize an entire site in a timely way for both the creator and viewer.

Here is an example of a video of our trip to Cappadocia I created entirely on my iPhone:

Here’s how I did it

  1. Download Hyperlapse by Instagram on your iPhone
    1. Not only does hyperlapse allow you to capture a sped up versions of your video, but it adds a layer of stabilization so to reduces camera shake.486943823_640

      hyperlapse
      Hyperlapse’s home page, recording and saving screens
  2. Use Hyperlapse to shoot some video.
    1. Even though there is built-in stabilization, it behooves you to try and keep the camera as steady as possible.
    2. I often save my video at “2x.” Half the size (in time and memory) as a regular video and, as you will see when we edit in iMovie, you get a wider range of fast-forward-play options.
    3. Once you finalize the video it is saved to your photo library for later use.
  3. Download iMovie on your iPhone

    at-the-core-imovie-hero_1
    iMovie app in edit mode
  4. Follow the instruction to start a new movie or trailer, and select “movie”
  5. Choose a theme (I usually just choose simple) and select “create”
  6. Follow the instruction to add “video, photos, or audio”
  7. Select one of your Hyperlapse videos from your library
    1. Tip: Pressing play will allow you to preview the video before adding it. The arrow pointing down will import it into your project.
  8. Drag and drop your movie clips in the order you want them to play
    1. Tip: Taping a clip once selects it for editing. If there is a yellow border on the clip, you are in edit mode. If you want to move the clip, tap outside the clip so it is no longer highlighted and then tap-and-hold the clip until it is draggable.
  9. Add transitions between the clip by tapping the small square box in between each clip.IMG_9912
    1. Tip: If a clip is too short the transition options will be grayed out. You must have at least enough time in a clip to allow a transition to complete in order to select it.
    2. Tip: Some transition have multiple modes. After choosing a transition by tapping it, tap the transition again to get the different variant. Eg, fade to black or fade to white.
    3. Tip: This is one of the places choosing a theme in the “create project” options will have an outcome. See the “theme” transition. That will change based on the theme you chose. Tap the gear icon in the bottom right of the application to change the theme after a project is created.
  10. Edit the the duration of a clip
    1. Once a clip is selected, and highlighted with the yellow border, you can drag the ends of the clip to shorten or elongate the duration of the clip.
  11. Speed up some “in between” clipsIMG_9914
    1. Some clips will still run a bit slow due to things like how long it took you to walk to the end of a block or to pan 360 degrees. You can speed up segments of these clips to move the video along.
    2. Tap the clip to go into edit mode.
    3. choose the meter icon (directly to the right of the scissor icon.) You will then see a meter labeled 1X
    4. Drag the knob on the meter to the right to speed up the clip. You can move it to a max of 2X (which is why saving the clip as 2X allows you a range of 2X to 4X which.) There are ways around it I will go into later.
    5. If you only want to speed up a segment slice the clip into more segments (explained below) and speed them up without transitions at their ends.

The functionality of iMovie is limited. Most of the effects you will create work off of the duration of each clip in your project. Therefor, you can manipulate your effects by slicing your clips to suit your needs.

How to slice a clip

IMG_9913

  1. Scrub (meaning, slide the white line A.K.A the video head) over the moment in the clip you would like to split into two.
  2. Select a clip for editing (make sure the scissor tool is highlighted.)
  3. Choose “split”

Now you have two clips for the same scene. As long as there is no transition there will be no visual result on the video due to the “split” you just made. Like I mentioned before, you are merely using the split to tell the effects we are about to add when to start and end. Eg, the titles and captions.

Adding a Caption or Title

  1. Select a clip for editing
  2. Select the large “T” (third icon to the right from the scissor.)
  3. Select a caption type
    1. In order to edit the text for a caption or title you will need to tap the video player, above the film section of the application.
    2. Tip: After choosing a theme, extra options will display above the edit tray such as “Center”, “Opening” etc. These will position some titles, as well as change the format for others. Play around with them all to get a feel for the options you have.

By now you should have a video. To get a smooth video will take practice but now you will have all the tools and tips to do so 🙂

To save the clip as a video you can post to Facebook, go to the movie listing (if you are editing a movie project now you will need to tap the back arrow at the top of the application.) There you will have options to save the film to your library.

Tip: If you want to speed things up or make more advanced transitions you can save the edited video to your library and then create a new project with that saved video. You will than be able to speed segments up by another 2X or add transition to clips that may have been too short in your original movie.

Before we go, here’s a bonus tip …

How to rotate movies

I originally stumbled onto using iMovie when I accidently recorded a video vertically and needed to rotate it. Here’s how to rotate movies:

  1. Open a movie in iMovie (if you do not know how to do so read the tutorial above.)
  2. Pinch the movie preview viewer (the area above the clips and play head line) with two fingers and rotate them (like screwing off the top of a bottle.)
    1. You will then see an circle arrow appear on the video. Once you see that remove your fingers from the screen.

IMG_9915

 

Here is a quick video of some of the features in practice, as described above.


Enjoy!

Zero to One


content
I really loved this book. Peter Theil’s blunt and sometimes abrasively honest concepts are very “Purple Cow” and right up my alley. E.g. make big claims from observations and work out why they are wrong or right. Although there are some things I didn’t agree with they are done so in a way that pushes me to reevaluate my reasoning. For the many things I did agree with, it is always nice to have someone better articulate concepts and back you up with some solid experience.  10X yo self.

You can see my running read book list on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/sshadmand/books

 

Sean Shadmand Presents for NewCo’s Yahoo Content Series


Last year we really enjoyed opening our office up to OpenCo and revealing how we think and work as well as how we see technology transforming the world we live in. We ended with a look at “2023” and what all that may mean over the next decade. This year, after we were asked to present again under the new NewCo brand we took a different approach. In our talk today we hosted a thought experiment, taking a philosophical journey into what is content, how we know the difference between good and bad content, and how we can use that information to create the next set of products (or just appreciate the ones that come out a bit more.)

A talk about content in only one form of t would be sadly ironic. So, if you missed it we recorded and are presenting a few forms of the talk for ya.

 

I used this snazzy little tool that records voice on my iPhone and syncs the slides as a remote while giving a preso. Check out the tool at  http://penxy.com/ or the final resulting “talking slides” at http://penxy.com/hyw

 

 

Slide Notes

(Min 14:00 in Slides Above)

This year for NewCos new track named Yahoo’s content series we’ll take a different approach and start off by asking a more fundamental (seemingly obvious) question.

What is content?
For the most part we know it when we see it. It’s the substance or material we deal with in a speech, images, tweets, or memes. It can look like this [Essay], or content can look like this [Donald Trump tweet].

As we have access to more and more content in our daily lives the question that becomes more and more important to viewers is whether this content is worse or better than the previous one? Many will say the latter is awful, yet we read content like this in droves everyday. Why?
Let’s upgrade the question a bit and ask:

What is good content?

That’s a pretty tough question to answer but an important one too. As more and more innovative products come out we can get caught up in critiquing or dismissing one from the next. One super popular dismissal is the “I don’t care about you eating waffles on Twitter – I hate twitter it’s just noise”. When we take this point of view we can miss out on some amazing developments in our culture not to mention some amazing opportunities that come from that level of access.
Fair warning this discussion is gonna get philosophical. We’ll keep diving deeper into questions like that around content.

I know – we all love a presentations structure that involves action items, best practices or check lists ready to go by the time we leave.

Sometimes though it’s important to step back before you ask, or answer, a deeper question. After all the concept of “good” and “bad” is one of the oldest philosophical conundrums in existence. Furthermore is it even the right question to ask at all? Let’s see what we discover…

So let’s get dirty and start our philosophical journey by restructuring a very – very old question:

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

We may be quick to answer: “of course it makes a sound. I’ve heard a tree fall and heard its sound – my presence is not required.”
But the question’s more of a thought experiment than anything else. What makes the question interesting isn’t the science of sound but the philosophy behind observation and reality of what sound is without an observer. Thought experiments like that can uncover new questions that may live beneath the surface that are able to more directly answer more monumental questions.

So let’s use our time together to dive into a thought experiment around content and see where we end up

If information is created but is never shared for others to see it is it still content?

I mean if content can stand on its own without the communication aspect…
Would you say then that all the hundreds or thousands of ideas and thoughts locked in our heads are actually hundreds or thousands of pieces of content then? Maybe.
Or maybe content is so inextricably tied to sharing that the two can’t maintain the definition on their own.

Hmmm.. Okay…if that’s the case then what side is more important in determining goodness? How well it’s distributed OR how well it’s formed and presented?
On one hand can we determine how good or bad content is if no one ever sees it? And, on the other hand, how worthwhile is content that everyone sees if it’s not useful or actionable? Content is more than text, sound, or an image in and of itself. In its most basic form it’s a projection of our thoughts that we thrust out into the world. As Maslov would probably put it: it’s a basic human need that makes us social and allows us to self-actualize.
If Descartes was alive today he may devise a whole new Cogito (“I think therefor I am”) to “I Share Therefore I am.”

We always hear there are no good or bad questions. And we are all unique – all our thoughts are important reflections of ourselves (which you may realize after thousands of dollars of therapy.) So why are we so driven to deem content good or bad if it is fundamentally a projection of self? Hmmmm… Interesting but I don’t think we’ve dived deep enough yet to form an answer… Let’s take another dive…
Let’s deconstruct content even further and ask

WHY is content?

(Min 23:00 in Slides Above)

(not a well formed sentence I know but you get the idea.)
Content is a transferring of our minds and being into an everlasting form.

It gives us eternal life and has so for thousands of years. In that regard it is one of the most advanced technologies ever created in the world. Our short finite lives are made infinite!

As the acronym YOLO so eloquently states, “You only live once” – but with the entire world filled with all these projected minds in the form of content we can live many lives vicariously through others.
If those concept are too abstract for your fancy and you’re more of the practical type then let’s frame it this way: Content gets stuff done more quickly. The faster we communicate the faster we can act between us.
I give you information locked in my head – you give your version back to me –
and like DNA all our contributions result in a greater overall result that may have taken ages had we attempted to think through it all on our own.
So with that I present my first thesis: The figuring out how to label content as good or bad comes from entirely the wrong place. The real question should be how do we use THIS content or THAT content? Where can we put each bit of content to allow our thoughts a chance to live in the open so that anyone can get the value from it if they so choose?
Content is simply a medium we use at the moments we have thoughts to overcome our inability to be able to be inside one another’s head.

The real endeavor is to cut out the middleman completely and just exchange thoughts. And until we can do that our goal is to shorten the time it takes to transfer our emotions, ideas, and – our lives – as much as possible. Ultimate efficiency, eternal life, and dare I say maybe even peace will be achieved in that final move. It won’t be about us dealing with good and bad content it will be about us accepting all thoughts as a chance to achieve those ultimate goals.

If you appreciate the reality that a single mind is the ultimate goal then it will give way to clues to foresee what product, or content society will embrace next. I’m not saying we will achieve singularity tomorrow,
nor am I here to rally everyone to start making change so we do something – because it is inevitable whether you like it or not. I am here to help add to a map on how and why content exists so we can navigate what comes our way, or create useful products along the way.

The real problem we are attempting to solve in almost all products created today is: how do we decrease the inefficiency impeding us from what can be called a mind meld. Each new product attempts to close that time-gap from one persons mind and emotion to the next.

Still not convinced that is the ultimate direction?– lets take a break from the abstract and look at our known history for validation…
In the beginning it was the lack of the written word, passing down information through story. It got the job done but it could take a lifetime or more for anyone to have a chance to see ones work or hear ones thoughts in order to make use of them. It was also super lossy – changing with each storyteller and generation. The written word helped us set those words in stone so although interpretation was still at play the base from which we worked was identical to those that could read the original. Unfortunately there was only one original so it still took a while to get it circulating and – you break, you buy.
Then, boom, the creation of the printing press! Anyone with an idea could have a shot of distributing their thoughts in ones lifetime – rich or poor, academically educated or not –– well, as long as you could read or had someone that could read to you. An example of how powerful an easily copied text can be is seen in the 1500s when the Christian world’s perception of their religion was altered because of a German Friar named Martin Luther and the content he shared. Powerful yes,

but it still took 2 YEARS for his thoughts to circulate in his community. Could you imagine waiting 2 years for your questions or ideas to be circulated?

How frustrating for us to imagine?! At that time not only did communication work on a schedule like that but the perception was that not everyone needed to read or share content in the first place because the common folk were too dumb to make use of it. What value could they bring to the table?

We look back then and see a travesty around the freedom of information – but does our generation think all that differently? When we created AppMakr the same objections came up – “not everyone needs an app.”

The prediction was we would maybe make 4 apps a month. In our first day we had requests to make thousands. Against all doubt we knew that it has always been true that the power of distributing content should be given to the people “good” or “bad” – it was our guiding principle. … But I’m jumping ahead …

We’ve seen the drive to democratize content and speed its ability to be distributed for hundreds of years since the printing press.

Getting our thoughts out to the world in years
to weeks, to seconds with radio and TV. But then a problem still remained – instant is great but everyone should have a voice and the access to hear it – not just the privileged – we still wanted more.
And so the Internet was born: Instant transfer of anyone’s thoughts to anyone willing to access it. It was given the perfect term: “getting connected.” And our path to do so continued.

From dial up to Wi-Fi, from PC to laptop, from Laptop to phone. We are decreasing the time it takes for each of our thoughts to get out there.

The iPhone was also thought of as a fad by critiques after its release – for years large corporations wondered how they succeeded. Many missed that its main achievement was to further decrease the time and complexity it takes for us to create, share, and ingest content from anyone saying anything more instantly.

Whether it’s a lifetime to years or 3 seconds to 1 second. If you can decrease the time it takes to get ANYONES mind into the open you are on to something.

Of course we all hear the call to arms that everything is so different now, and bad, and chaotic – we are so much worst and impatient than in the past! I offer a different perspective, things are only different in the tools we use but our yearning and desires are exactly the same: “Hear me!”
Or, may I please have access to what is going out there.
Our heads are no more immersed in that desire today.
Than it has been in generations before us. We are just able to achieve those goals more practically.
Data has always been thrust upon us.

We are simply trying to make it ALL more manageable from one person to the next.

What we’re driving towards is a moment where my thoughts are yours in the same moment. Think of the frustration you’ve ever felt when you just wanted someone to understand what you were trying to convey but left only with words and gestures and maybe a white board. How awfully inefficient it is! Just get in my head for a second so we can move on! The channels we’ve seen are just manifestations of that desire we have. It’s still far away but that IS the direction we’re headed and have been headed since the word “I”.

Anything that shortens that gap for ANYONE to get ANYTHING to ANYONE ELSE is following that trajectory and delivering goodness.

Is it asking too much? Are we really so much more impatient than the past?

Why is a month too long to wait but a minute juuuuust short enough?

What is it compared to?

Cutting the time in half is cutting time in half when you move forward – period. And it will always take twice as long as it does now to those looking back. It’s not time thats a problem – time is relative. 

All content that is caged is bad content because it doesn’t have the chance to allow someone to try and make their mark, live vicariously through shared story, or help them self-actualize. Sure with this digital tool there’s great power, fear and concern in how we will handle it all but it’s not about getting rid of some of it based on it being good or bad. Content is a tool to convey our thoughts – and we have all kinds of them that seem like garbage or gold from one person to the next.
It’s the difference between this
and this. Same tool different purpose
This is a knife
and so is this. And there are tons others out there. More and more a minute with a better edge or handle or metal or balance. They’re the channels we use to express ourselves with one another more quickly.
We connect in less time by decreasing the physical distance between us and our technology.
We connect with less clicks or gestures.
And yes sometimes that stream of consciousness means we trade breadth of connection about something trivial and seemingly painful to read
for accuracy and depth of critical information that is otherwise caged. Never the less, in both instances we are connecting more effectively. Believe me when we do end up truly “connecting” our thoughts it will be scarier and far noisier than today but innovators will be propelled to figure out how to appreciate and allow for that connection to build from – not work on tearing them down. And each passing generation will have a higher bandwidth they can handle than the last.

So. Maybe it’s not about whether the content is good or bad quality, heck maybe it’s not even about how much it gets shared –

maybe it’s always been purely about how many people are connected and how quickly they can achieve that connection.

Content and sharing are the two fundamental ways we are able to do it today – they are the means to the ends. They are our rocks, and knives, and arrows for lack of any other available means. But they themselves is not the goal. So, maybe good content could be defined as ANY-THING that connects ANY-ONE in less time or complexity then what is currently out there.
From stones
to books
to TV still lacking the option to connect or comment
To the websites and blogs where interaction intertwined itself with the content being shared.

Once communication and distribution became instant we shifted our strategy to decrease the time-gap between exchanges by limiting the amount of content exchanged when conveying a thought in the first place.
Those thoughts, emotions and ideas were created and deployed more quickly and frequently with statuses, and 140 letter max tweets – a real stream of consciousness was born. And that consciousness was further fed with the ability to post even if you weren’t by a computer.
So who are we to judge even shorter content still?

The end goal is about getting a feeling, thought and/or emotion to whom ever you want or as many people as you want with the least amount of friction.

So why is Yo so surprising?

Less characters and a quick intuitive interface has created a quicker connection between people. In first principles we aren’t searching for depth in substance – we are searching for a mind meld.
With 2 clicks I can convey “yo I’m thinking of you”, or
YO “I’m in town” – if the message is received and the minds are linked then it is content and it is valuable and it is good.
Yes, there is beauty in the creation process and that shouldn’t be forgotten, but let’s also recognize that the PROCESS was originally created to convey the idea with the tools available at the time. Losing site of one is as destructive as the other. The art comes from the need and some of our needs are satisfied within the art.
Which could be why memes are so powerful. Quick, efficient, creatively assembled, instantly connecting complex an otherwise tough to describe moment of humor or feelings with others through a shared experience we can relate to.
We can have taken the concept of video and trimmed it to its essence in a 5 second clip.

if you are afraid to share because to many people will see it then
a product removes that barrier so your security can be guaranteed with ephemeral storage.
We want to be closer still and our tools are extensions of that. Now we are cutting out the middleman entirely (pun intended) and letting our body do the communicating for us – instantly.

It’s amazing – in the pursuit of closing the time-gap between us we’ve managed to jumped right over our stream of consciousness and found a way to release what our body is saying even before our consciousness realizes it; a whole new level of getting connected.

So I that I think our thought experiment has yielded a conclusion for the question on what is good content:

GOOD CONTENT IS: ANYTHING THAT CONNECTS ANYONE’S THOUGHTS EFFECTIVELY IN LESS TIME OR WITH LESS COMPLEXITY THATN IS CURRENTLY OUT THERE.

So if nothing else keep that in mind when you see the next best thing and wonder why.

 

Thank you for keeping an open mind.

=============================================

We used the Google On Air tool (basically Google Hangouts but for public live streams that are also automatically uploaded to Youtube when the broadcast ends.) This is my 3rd attempt to use On Air in some live stream capacity and it finally worked well! The trick was setting up a second computer than from my own with more memory. Long story short, here is the presentation using that product:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_64IZjmIY8&edit=vd

On Air Event Page: https://plus.google.com/events/c1ginlf8oufe9pkl6mcq38tb1mc

Take the complexity out of planning by using it as the metric

Creating a product is inherently riddled with unknowns and hurdles. As we refine and define processes to streamline the confluence of a team’s efforts, following those processes can be distracting. Process should help streamline work, not create it; it is the ever present balancing act of development and managing a team.

For this post I wanted to share one aspect of that process that tries to measure your team’s output called “Story Points” where the “story” represents the work requested and its set of requirements, and the metric applied to it called a “point”. Since estimating time is almost always inaccurate, processes like Scrum work within that reality by using points instead of time; it embraces the grey of estimation.

Problem is if you try to be too exacting with those points then you have gone full circle, back to the original problem of an inability to be accurate. In our team we developed a loose definition of what each point means so that product owners and developers can communicate with a “rule of thumb” quickly in planning meetings, that way the “hard work” can be focused back on output.

We use fibonacci to list our point values. Why? Well, it’s not a scientific answer but we believe it does a better job enforcing the concept of “fuzzy numbers” into more separated buckets. In our point breakdown, we relate points to complexity, not time, and summarize the amount of unknowns into the point as well. Here is our list of points and their meaning:

1 = Simple text change 
2 = Simple code change
3 = More complex code change

Notes: 1 – 3 are changes that the developer has a strong grasp and awareness on what needs to be changed/created and where it needs to be done. The more complex the number of changes are (i.e. you work between many function vs working within one function) the higher the number, but in all cases it’s a fairly well known problem/solution. Then we have:

5 = Complex code change with a few unknowns
8 = Complex changes with many unknowns

5 and 8 represent complex changes that involve known unknowns. For example, a developer may know what is being requested but that developer may have no idea how to do it. We find that when a 5 point story appears in a project (and definitely when 8 pointers show up) then it’s a red flag that something may not be clear in the requirements, or the story has become too bulky and needs to be broken down into smaller chunks. In rare occasions, something ends up simply being a 5 or 8.

In the world of product development completing smaller chunks of work help you deliver and iterate on your results more quickly. Any time there is an opportunity to catch a bulky implementation its a good thing. With this point system those warnings are built into the pipeline naturally.

Hope that helps add consistency and ease to your development process!

The 6 Books That Shaped How I Think and Work

gettintoyes
Getting to Yes
The first biz related book I read as a child. I learned early on that negotiating wasn’t just an art of cleverly persuading your counterpart  to yield to your will (which I believe many old and young try to do) but instead it taught me the notion around doing your best to find a situation that benefits both sides of the fence. This book is also filled with tactics and lessons that give you a whole new perspective on what is really happening when a buyer and a seller meet and a tool belt too.
thedipThe Dip
The first startup book I read almost a decade ago. It is a short book but a frank and honest one too. The dip sets a tone and map for what’s in store when creating a startup. I remember when I ended up facing a dip or two  along the way there was comfort in knowing that the rollercoaster ride was just a necessary step in a path towards…?
5tempsFive Temptations of a CEO
This book was suggested to me by the (former?) CTO of Zynga. Unlike most business books that are bullet point lessons and biographies this one is written as a fictional story of a man that has the conversation of a lifetime with a stranger on the subway. Often times when making harsh and rash decisions about setting expectations with employees, or when trying to manage my emotions or ego, memories of this book are triggered. It has helped me more than once find my way back to center.
madetostickMade to Stick
Fantastic book for those of us that didn’t come from a marketing background (although I am sure it is valuable to those that did too.) Often when I write letters, blogs, taglines or give presentations I use the lessons from this book to get a feel for whether or not it will “stick” with my audience and use some tactics to drive a message home.
reworkReWork
By the time I read this book  I had already learned many of its concepts through my own trial and error. Nevertheless it made my top 6 list because of how well it articulated those learnings. Reading this book is like sharpening your knives if you know the lessons of a startup already or it is a great set of building blocks to work from if not.

stumbling-on-happinessStumbling on Happiness
Boy did I love this book. It was given to me by my good friend Daniel and it was probably the fastest book I ever read. Dan Gilbert combines psychology, philosophy, history, and science beautifully to give a candid and thought provoking look at what happiness really means and why is it so different for everyone. I find myself referring to the lessons in this book quite often around relative happiness, how our imagination can be terribly misleading – but being aware is a big help!
Some other books of note:
The Fountain Head: A controversial book that seems to be either hated or loved. Which ever side you chose to be on I would be surprised if it was not called powerful. You don’t have to believe in the writers philosophy benefit from a perspective into  the power of ideals, confidence, and certainty in oneself.
Thinking fast and slow: A large dry read at times but making it through was worth it. I learned a lot about how great and poor the mind can be all at once. I learned not only to be more cautious with my assumptions  but a sense for where that cautions is needed more and why letting go can be a powerful tool as well.
Freakenomics: To see the world through the eyes of an economist is a gift. Thinking in terms of noise reduction, drawing data from samples and parallels and using statistics to prove how powerfully wrong our assumptions can be was thoroughly entertaining the whole way through.
The tipping point: I didn’t fall in love with this book like others but it definitely deserve a read for its historical observations around business that have succeeded and failed and the factors and people that contributed to them.
 4 hour work week: I hold the lesson passed down in this book around work/life balance with me. I truly believe that we should be working to make less work and using that reduction as a badge of honor instead of the more classic concept that more hours equal a better output.
Hard things about hard things: A glimpse into the mind and life of a entrepenuer that almost lost it all on more than one occasion and the lessons he learned about running a company are packaged up nicely for us to lern from with far  less scars

The Wheelbarrow Paradigm

cinderblock render.jpgab85c73f-67c5-46cd-8abe-780cb119c608LargerImagine yourself in this situation: A row of cinder blocks await you on a hill. Next to it is a dismantled wheelbarrow. You are asked to take the 10-20 cinder blocks 20 meters down a path – and you don’t have all day. What do you do? Do you take the time to put the wheelbarrow together or choose the simpler path of just walking the blocks a few steps to the shed as fast as you can.

Often we choose the simpler more direct path to get things done, especially when we need “quick” results. The problem with the way our mind works is that we are usually very poor judges of calculating unknowns.

Daniel Kahneman describes this type of brain activity in his book Thinking Fast and Slow as “What you see is all there is” (WYSIATI) This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily with Known Knowns, phenomena it has already observed. It rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information.

This leaves us with two truths: 1) We are terrible judges of knowing the unknowns and 2) there are always unknowns.Red_Wheelbarrow-thumb-300x232-25029

We do this at work when we try to get done more quickly by cutting corners, in the kitchen when we create a mess when we could have just used the proper bowls, when we show up late to an event due to traffic, or when we write sloppy code without proper testing. Smooth is fast and you work your fastest when you work smoothly.

Going back to the cynderblock situation, your hands may get more tired than you think and a cinder block could slip and break – now you have three problems: a need for a working wheelbarrow, a broom, and an explanation. The lesson here is take the extra time to set yourself up for success and don’t rush things. Create the situations and tools necessary to protect you from the unknowns you are surely missing.

P.S.

A funny thing happened to me while I was writing this blog. I took a break and went down to Fort Mason’s book $1 books sale. How many $1 books do you think you could possibly want? Well, there were tons of carts and baskets at the entrance and I walked right on by thinking I would just browse around. I found 1, 2, 3 books that I liked and before I knew it I was lugging around 5 heavy books on the other side of the huge warehouse. If that wasn’t ironic enough I looked to my left and saw this guy far worse off than I. The Wheelbarrow Paradigm in full effect right in front of my eyes!

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Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

ThinkingHow do the implications of how quickly you can add 3+3 and how much time you will take calculate 11*27 have on your daily life? Well – quite a lot says Daniel Kahneman, the writer of Thinking Fast and Slow and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. The fundamental occurrence between the “think fast brain” (which he calls Version 1) and the “thinking slow brain” (called Version 2) dictate how well we are able to make decisions at large. This book helps lay down a more clear understand of how we are able to, or unable to, make decision as they relate to specific topics such as finance, bias, regret, politics, happiness and more.

In it Daniel describes how the Version 1 brain allows us to make quick decisions using heuristics so that we don’t freeze up (like our Version 2 Brain would do) when we are asked a complex questions. Unfortunately although effective often times those heuristics are very wrong and we rarely are able to notice when they are. How can you slow your brain down when it is thinking fast and speed it up when thinking slow? It starts first with an understanding of how they fit together. It helped me understand why I have always created “rules of thumbs” and “red flags” in my life while having a desire and fascination for also creating “repeatable processes” and my love for making “extreme theories” that guide me through my decision making process. Based on the book it is a fairly optimal way of allow yourself to think fast as often as possible with an backup system to slow down and challenge what sounds good with what has been predetermined to be an irrational thought pattern.

This is a great foundational book for understanding how the mind interact with the world around it through a mix of psychology, statistics and probability. It is Freakonomics meets Tipping Point meets Stumbling on Happiness (all of which I greatly enjoyed reading). Where as each of those books are more focused on answering questions for a specific subject matter, Thinking Fast and Slow is a far more robust book that jumps into all the inputs and outputs surrounding life. Think of it as A History or Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson for the human condition.

 

I’ll leave you with another example of the fast thinking heuristics and the slow deliberate one battling it out:

A man drives a gas guzzler that gets 10 miles per gallon and his more environmentally friendly friend has an economic car that drives at 30 miles per gallon. In an effort to improve their carbon footprint they both upgrade from 10 mpg to 12 mpg and from 30 mpg to 40 mpg. Which upgrade has a greater net effect to the gallons used if they both drive an equal number of miles?

Let your quick mind answer, then grab a calculator and check your hunch. In the example the 10 mpg person improved by 10% where the 30 mpg increased by 33%. The difficulty is in the use of miles per gallon as the metric which does not work well for this comparison.

Now calculate them both before and after the upgrade traveling 3,000 miles.

3000/10=300
3000/12=250
50 less gallons used

3000/30=75
3000/40=50
25 less gallons used

The gas guzzling friend made a greater improvement to the world twice as much than the Eco friendly one.

You can see my running read book list on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/sshadmand/books

Why You Can’t Just Show Up to Innovation Day

1B5778763-1301229_trophy_hmed_1228p.blocks_desktop_smallI often get the “Hey, how can we innovate as a company?” question with little attention to each individual employee’s drive to innovate in their daily work lives being a major factor in one’s mind. That is the equivalent of asking “Hey, how can I win the super bowl?” without having a team composed of NFL football players.

Innovation is a sport to be practiced not something you can just show up on game day and expect to win. How many NFL football players don’t practice being great football players everyday and expect to win games every weekend?

Like any professional sport: if you don’t innovate in your daily life you won’t innovate anywhere else.  The funny thing is if you tell someone who wants to be the greatest football player in the world to practice everyday and to push themselves to be a better player every time they practice you will get nods of support from just about anyone listening. (After all running the same drill with the same times will keep you playing JV your whole life.) Conversely, if you ask someone within a business that wants to innovate to constantly be thinking and implementing ways to change their best practices, improve their tools set, update their processes, or try new ways to be more efficient at the office you will often get a majority of employees supporting a resistance and responding with rolled eyes followed by something to the effect of “it’s fine just the way it is – and it has been for years. Why change it now?”

How can you expect to innovate a few times a year with a company filled with workers that don’t believe in practicing innovating with the tools they use, the environment they are use to, and the way they interact with one another on a daily basis? How would a superbowl NFL coach react to an athlete that would rather just run his usual drills when asked to try something new? You can’t expect a company of employees resistant to change or improve HOW they work to then all of a sudden change how a company or the world around them works, can you? It all relates – like the seeds in a root of a blossoming flower. (Sorry, probably too dainty an analogy for a football heavy post, huh?)

Furthermore, just like with football it won’t work with one star player or one small group embracing this ideal. Use the best tools, challenge the old ideas, and try out new processes when you get the opportunity. The more the WHOLE company pushes and adopts an ever changing, improving, and growing daily work life the more that company will get a shot at the innovation ring.

Happy Super Bowl Weekend to all those out there wanting to be their best every chance they get!