How Google Works

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It’s always hard to tell how far a company’s ideals are from the reality of what is truly applied in practice. With Google’s over 50K workers, it’s tough to imagine the ideals laid out in the book are carried out through each and every employee. I sure hope so.

Whether they are or not, I found the concepts put forth compelling and exciting. Their definition and support of what they coin as “smart-creatives” paints a pretty accurate picture of what the doers, thinkers and makers in the SF entrepreneurial scene are made of. Their layout of methodologies and practices that replace the old corporate mindset with those based on “first-principles” are is truly after my own heart. To hell with tradition and “shoulds” – the world is more dynamic than ever and a management team that is as dynamic and forward thinking is necessary to stay ahead.

This book is a must read for entrepreneurs, managers and those ready to partake in the new generation of our technological workforce. Yes, there were inconsistencies in some sections and from time to time it sounded a bit self-promoting, but for the most part it provoked the formation of great questions and thoughts for our book club.

Fair warning, if you are a recent MBA student I would suggest putting of reading this for a couple of years. There are many references to how the Google way is able to overcome what they consider poor methodologies MBA students are taught to implement. Since I was reading this while taking some personal growth online MBA classes it was clear that the two visions for what creates success diverge.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Google-Works-Eric-Sc…/…/1455582344

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Guns Germs and Steel

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This book has been suggested to me numerous times by friends across many of my circles. So, I had to give it a shot.

The first few chapter were a bit slow (a lengthy,  seemingly repetitive explanation of how small islands grew and lost their kingdoms.) However, once you get past them it picks up quite a bit and you begin to realize why it is on so many people’s “top reads” list.

Guns, Germs, and Steel gives a deep cumulative explanation of how some civilization were able to rise, fall, or never to progress at all. If you’ve ever wondered why native Americans got all the European’s diseases and not the other way around or why some secluded tribes didn’t advance as quickly as the west, you should read this book. If someone you know ever made an ignorant racist comment on why their race is superior and you didn’t exactly  have the data to refute the superficial facts – you should 100% read this book. If you are a history nut, it is insane if you have yet to read this book – so give it a go. Power through the first few chapters and then let it ride 😉

http://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-S…/…/0393317552

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Zero to One


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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.

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The 6 Books That Shaped How I Think and Work

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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

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.

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