Tag: Books (page 1 of 2)

The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs

The best are the best for a reason. The most wealthy, most ambitious, most successful entrepreneurs in the world—Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Sara Blakely from Spanx, Mark Pincus from Zynga, Kevin Plank from Under Armour—have all oriented their perception in order to be as successful as possible. They have changed their very way of thinking; they have developed The Entrepreneur Mind.

The author, Kevin D. Johnson, of The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs has boiled down these characteristics to their very essence in his insightful landmark novel. After running his own multi-million dollar corporation, Johnson Media Inc. in addition to founding and investing in a host of other entrepreneurial ventures, Kevin Johnson has developed the wherewithal, the resilience, and the motivation that has driven the planet’s most successful capitalists over the course of history.

Written specifically for both emerging and established entrepreneurs, the book concisely articulates one hundred key lessons that aid the new and the experienced alike. Restricted to seven categories, Strategy, Education, People, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Leadership, and Motivation, this valuable advice makes the bumpy road to true fiscal freedom a smooth path free from hiccups. Relying on his own experience, Johnson delves into detail on several particular points in his life, potentially the most captivating of which is a life-changing visit to Harvard Business School.

Yet, these life experiences merely support his main points and illustrate how to change, and the value of changing, your perception of the contemporary economic climate. Some of his tremendous tidbits of advice include but are not limited to: learning to think big, understanding who makes the best business partners, knowing what captivates investors, comprehending when to let go of an idea, and figuring out where to avoid opening a business bank account. Perhaps one of his most engaging ideas is his belief that too much formal education can actually hinder your entrepreneurial growth, a seemingly paradoxical idea that, in reality, largely rings true.

For those looking to dip their toes in the water of entrepreneurial instability, The Entrepreneur Mind is a wonderful introduction to the groundwork of capitalism.

Misbehaving, The Making of Behavioral Economics

Richard H. Thaler has brought humanity back to economics with his wonderfully entertaining novel, Misbehaving, The Making of Behavioral Economics. In the academia of economics, humans are perceived as rational individuals, making proper decisions founded on logic. Yet, as we all know, human beings are hardly perfect.

We’re prone to mistakes, to misperceptions, to mishaps. Thaler, a distinguished economist himself, has recognized this fallacy and is seeking to change that perception in his field, thus bringing economics back down to Earth. His clear and often comedic prose breathes life into the pages, engaging readers’ interest while teaching them at the same time.

By identifying with human nature through our universal inclination toward mistakes, Thaler touches upon something many educational novels miss, humanity. He realizes that the standards of rationality which have characterized economics through the centuries is not fool-proof, and he is exploring an oft-neglected though necessary facet of market behavior.

Incorporating recent psychological discoveries with a clear comprehension of broad economic behavior, Thaler is able to shed light on how we, as individuals, should behave in the current marketplace. He offers insight into how to make smarter economic decisions despite our natural predisposition for impulsive, irrational, emotional behaviors. However, his advice is not merely limited to personal finance, for it also encompasses general trends in commercial building, in the NFL draft, and even in current ride-sharing behemoth Uber.

What’s more is that this book could, quite frankly, indicate a paradigm shift in economic theory. His findings pose interesting possibilities for the science, potentially bringing it roaring back to life in academic circles. By acknowledging the very real possibility of human foible in economic discretion, Thaler is being a realist. The fact that he is able to introduce such an intriguing and innovative perspective with such a candid tone is merely an added benefit.

While I’m not saying this book is entirely comprehensive, or even entirely accurate, I am saying it poses questions that need to be asked, that need to addressed. All science should reflect contemporary thought, and contemporary evidence. Thaler does just that with a gusto that simply cannot be ignored.

By combining anecdotal evidence with market theory, Richard Thaler remarkably brings economics to life. His engaging prose, direct manner of speaking, and outright hilarious memories offer any reader a memorable and valuable literary experience.

Leadership is an Art

Inspiring others, stoking a fire of passion in others, is an art that cannot be understated. To inspire others to follow you, embrace your dream as their own, and work towards making that dream come true, is a phenomenal though poorly understood concept that paradoxically remains of the utmost significance in the professional world, yet fails to be taught. How does an entrepreneur teach others to be the best of themselves? How does a leader cultivate ambition while retaining top talent? How does a CEO gain the loyalty of his/her workers and not encourage stagnancy?

Such are but a few of the many questions that Max Depree’s Leadership is an Art explores with versatile accuracy. Acknowledging the multitude of prevailing beliefs that currently characterize the ‘right way’ to lead, Depree concisely but comprehensively answers many of the questions that plague modern leadership. He teaches many lessons, and so I have chosen to list a few of my favorite just below:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank you.’ In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.

In developing any capitalistic enterprise, the leader must understand expectation and articulate what is considered success and what is failure. In achieving such, the leader must do whatever they can to produce what he or she said would be produced, be that a product or service. Yet, even when acting as a “servant,” the leader must understand they are always doing so for a price, thus acting as a “debtor.”

“Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.”

The harsh reality of running a business is that there is sacrifice. There is burden. There is pain. However, even in the face of difficulty, a leader cannot bend to the stress. To bend to the stress, to take your stress and displace it onto others, namely other employees, is to discourage those you’re supposed to encourage. In order to secure the best possible productivity from your workers, you must set a stellar example they can model. While it is hard to not internalize stress, leaders must strive to remain relaxed. Otherwise, said internalized stress will manifest in other ways, hurtful ways.

“Participative management is not democratic. Having a say differs from having a vote.”

An important though subjective distinction, it is significant to let your employees know they have a voice in the organization and where it’s going. However, an effective leader must also realize that, ultimately, the final decision is up to him or her. Moreover, employees themselves must realize this. They must understand that while their input is appreciated, it is not necessarily, or by any means really, the end all be all. Depree delves into detail on this vague idea and provides insightful advice on how to approach and implement this philosophy.

The truth is that leadership is a dynamic skill, changing with the tides and altering with the current state of the company. What leadership requires a year ago may be different today. What leadership requires at one company may differ considerably from what leadership requires at a different company. Leadership is malleable, flexible, but strong. It is an art top business executives must learn and must always continue to learn; and Depree helps do just that.

The Zigzag Principle

In the startup industry, there is a widespread ‘get it done’ mentality, through which entrepreneurs are urged to push forward to their goal at all costs. Rich Christiansen challenges this mentality in The ZIgzag Principle, in which he postulates that forging a straight path toward a goal does not produce lasting results. Instead, Christiansen advocates for taking time to raise money, acquire resources, scale, and learn to fail. By following a select set of ‘zigzag’ principles, he asserts that a business will become profitable and surpass its initial startup stage.

The Zigzag principleThe zigzag principle stemmed from a skiing session that Christiansen had one winter with his son. The two were beginners, and accidentally ended up on the most difficult slope. Instead of attempting to ski straight down the hill, which was very dangerous at their level, Christiansen decided he and his son should zigzag down the hill until they reached the bottom. This allowed them to get safely off of the slope without injury. Christiansen says the same mentality should be applied to life and business – while shooting straight toward a goal may get you to that goal faster, there is more chance of sustaining lasting repercussions along the way.

The zigzag principle starts at the very beginning of forming a business. Christiansen challenges his readers to look at their internal motivation, rather than focus on mission statements. He believes that the motivation behind beginning a company will help determine if the company is sustainable to its founder, and therefore if the mission statement should even be written.

The first ‘zig’ principle focuses on making money. The book guides its reader through a process to determine how to make a business profitable. Far too many startups do not focus on profitability at the beginning, which increases their chance of failing. The second ‘zag’ principle is all about additional resources. Once a new business becomes profitable, it can focus on adding more people and capital to expand. The third and final ‘zag’ principle involves scaling in a big way. Christiansen guides readers through deciding how large they want to make their business, and through determining how they will get there.

The rest of the book helps its readers navigate how to deal with a creative team and how to track progress. Christiansen also includes demonstrative success stories from himself and other companies.

This book is a must-read resource for all people looking to start a new business. Christiansen’s zigzag principle is a revolutionary approach to starting a business that can guarantee lasting success.

The Power of Habit

THe Power of HabitA large portion of success depends on habit. What we do on a day to day basis and how we do it can determine how much we get done. Adopting beneficial habits can boost productivity but, unfortunately, bad habits run rampant as well, and these are hard to change.

Charles Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times, takes a business approach to the concept of habit in his book The Power of Habit, which explores the psychology behind forming habits, and how to break the bad ones. His insight is based on years of reading scientific research and interviewing scientists. He chronicles his findings in an interesting way, which makes this book an authority on habits for everyday readers.

Duhigg wrote the book with the idea that people can change what about themselves they understand. He believed that recognizing the science behind forming habits would be able to help not only individuals, but also entire companies. Changing personal habits can influence group changes and lead even companies that struggle the most down a successful road.

His focus in the book is three-pronged – the psychological formation of habits, how habits are used in and by companies, and how habits have sparked social movement. He refers to habit formation as ‘The Habit Loop.’ Habits, he reports, are formed based on repetition until they become routine. One trigger from the environment can lead to a constant behavior that is connected to a reward. This is true for all habits; even ones detrimental to our health or productivity are associated with rewards. Additionally, our habits take up almost half of our daily operating.

Duhigg spends the first section of the book emphasizing how prevalent habits are in our daily lives and how every habit, no matter how small it may seem, can drastically affect our performance. In the second section of the book, he approaches habit formation from a company standpoint. More specifically, he writes about a feedback system to help instill habits in others. This system involves making a reward at the end of an action known and desirable, to making the action itself routine. Entire corporations have been altered by this feedback system. Creating habits based on company values instills a company culture based on value of the company and respect for its work.

The third and final section of the book, and arguably the most important, describes why habits change, and therefore how a change can be made. Duhigg writes that recognizing and addressing a specific habit’s cue is all a person, or a company, needs to change that habit entirely. He uses this part of the book to investigate how entire social movements were influenced by habit. Leaders of such movements initiate habits that are followed by others, which is how a small routine can become a societal change. Habits instilled by leaders become a part of an individual’s identity, and it is there that they thrive and endure.

This book is an important read for anyone looking to become more productive, or to boost the productivity of their team. Duhigg has written an invaluable resource that, if heeded, will surely lead to success.


Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Succes. No, that’s not a typo. Succes, or SUCCES, is the acronym used by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, the latter a Duke University professor and the former a professor at Made to Stick - Chip and Dan HeathStanford Graduate School of Business, in their bestselling book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007). For two years, Made to Stick was on the bestseller list for BusinessWeek which makes it not very surprising if you have heard of this great book by now.

What does SUCCES stand for? It stands for six principles or traits that the Heath brothers have identified as essential to making an idea “stick.”

Sticky ideas have these traits – sticky ideas are remembered, easily understood, and they also change something. The recommendation is, that by using these six traits, or most of them at least, when communicating ideas and strategies, one can make those ideas “stick.”

Simple – Strip the idea to its core

Unexpected – Getting attention and keeping it

Concrete – Easy to accept

Credible – Creating credibility without having authority

Emotional – Making people care

Stories – Telling it like a story

Dan and Chip Heath use a combination of funny, fictional stories/urban legends and case studies, some of which cover memorable events, figures and companies in recent history. Through this, they show how certain principles were employed in their respective moment and how the reader can do something similar.

One of the many tips and tricks that the authors provide is the idea of using people’s own memories to pitch ideas. These “memory schemas” could be used by Hollywood movie producers, for example, when they pitch ideas by putting the new idea in perspective with a hit movie that already came out. When pitching the idea for the 1979 sci-fi thriller, Alien, a producer could say “Alien will be Jaws on a spaceship,” which came out 4 years prior to Alien.

A big takeaway from this book is that a person who is sharing an idea, be it a CEO, manager, or politician, has to consider that they already possess knowledge that their audience does not. The audience is unable to frame the issue in the same way that the idea sharer can. In all, this is where making ideas sticky comes into play.

Learning from Pixar: Creativity Inc.

Known for creating some of the best, highest rated animated movies in the world, Pixar Animated Studios is an example of management and leadership done right and on an immense scale. Some Pixar - Creativity Incinsight into how this was possible in just under 30 years is undoubtedly helpful and Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull (co founder and brains behind Pixar), provides just that.

Ed Catmull co founded Pixar with the help of Steve Jobs back when Catmull was working at Lucasfilms. After Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm’s digital division, Catmull became the Chief Technology Officer for what would become Pixar. Just years later, Toy Story was released in 1995 helping solidify Pixar as a studio that not only makes beautiful, innovative animated films but ties them well with captivating, timeless stories. But how was all of this achieved?

In Creativity Inc., we learn of the close relationship between Steve Jobs and Pixar as well as the impact he had with recruiting the right people. Catmull, of course, being one of those people. His contributions to digital animation technology have been a driving force behind the movies adults and children enjoy today. But Catmull’s academic and industry achievements alone do not explain Pixar’s impressive success – 15 movies under their belt with all but one receiving critical acclaim. So we have to look at how their management makes things work as well as they do.

Here are some important lessons we can glean from Creativity Inc., on the leadership over at Pixar (now owned by Disney following a $7 billion deal in 2006):

  1. Delegating tasks and ideas to be worked on: At Pixar, good ideas are given to great teams that can either find flaws in those ideas and improve on them or come up with something even better.
  2. While agreement is essential to getting things done or make changes happen, a lot more has to go into actually implementing what everyone agrees on.
  3. The leadership should strive to make a company into a place where employees can take risks and not a place where the main goal is to prevent risks. Along with that, it costs a lot more to prevent errors than to fix them.
  4. While we talk about “leadership” and “management” things should not be so cut and dry. Communication should not be structured in this way and everyone should feel comfortable with talking to anyone further up the existing structure.

The importance of these philosophies behind Pixar’s success is that they were developed in order to sustained this creative culture that has propelled Pixar. This culture, however, was not something that Pixar’s leadership tacked on later on – it was built and developed from within as the company rose to greater heights. A good take away from that is that established companies looking to mimic this sustainable creative culture should work with what they already have and develop it in a similar fashion.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters

This year, with the political scene in the United States heating up as primary elections are creeping up, you will hear politicians left and right talking about their “strategies” for improving the country. If elected president they will do this, as president they will do that, but are those strategies? No, far from it. What you are hearing are goals, not Good Strategy Bad Strategy - Richard Rumeltstrategies. It is wishful thinking, what they hope to accomplish and rarely will you hear how they will accomplish what they say. This revelation, if it is even a revelation to many of you, comes from Richard P. Rumelt’s book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters (2011).

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy differs from the pack of advice-giving books on business strategy in that it gets to the root of the issues of identifying what are good strategies and bad strategies and giving the readers the tools to form the former. According Rumelt, a good strategy is one that is implemented as a response to obstacles that stand in the way of your organization and achieving some sort of goal. As the book reveals, many organizations get bogged down with misleading thoughts on what a strategy, and more so what a good strategy is. They often mistake financial goals with a strategy or implement faulty policies that are motivated by those common buzzwords heard across the business world. Good strategy building, however, is driven by insight and focused toward being a response to a specific area.

Another aspect of good strategy building is that the process and ideas behind it are applicable across the board, not just for a growing business. Be it governments (as with the politician example above), schools, nonprofits, churches, etc. To demonstrate this, Rumelt uses examples that range from recent wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), major corporations like Apple and Walmart, to small, local businesses.

Richard Rumelt is the Harry and Elsa Kunin Chair in Business and Society at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. With a background in electrical engineer, followed by a time working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab which oversees much of the United States outer space activities, Rumelt has focused his research on corporate and business strategy.

Below you can Professor Richard Rumelt discuss Good Strategy/Bad Strategy at the London School of Economics and Political Science:

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

In business, how does one create more value for themselves and for society as a whole? In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam Grant argues that there are 3 kinds of people in the workplace and one of adam-grant-give-and-takethose types is the one bound to readily find more success down the line. If the name Adam Grant sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time this blog has mentioned him. Just some weeks ago, we covered some of his recommendations for your 2015 fall reading list. Adam happens to be the youngest tenured professor (at 34) at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s finest business schools.

Adam Grant’s cutting edge research, which has given him a lot of notoriety aside from also being Wharton’s highest rated professor, covers success, motivation, and other social behaviors as they relate to economics and the workplace. In Give and Take, Grant dives into 3 types of personalities in the workplace and how they relate to success, which is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others – not just on skills or experience.

The three types of people that Grant points out are:

  1. Takers – Takers make the attempt to take as much from others as possible without having to take time to return favors if they can get away with it.
  2. Matchers – Matchers try to trade equally, matching the work someone does for them with the work that they will do for that person in return.
  3. Givers – Givers are more selfless and willing to go beyond to perform favors for a coworker, sometimes never expecting anything in return.

Using his own research, Grant demonstrates that Givers end up achieving more success across several types of industries. Of course, many Givers do get exploited by fellow coworkers (Takers, perhaps?), but in all their willingness to cooperate and help others leads to higher levels of success. In a way, this makes a lot of sense because Matchers, for examples, although not exhibiting selfishness like Takers, are more likely to just coast on by and doing just enough to get the work done.

The book contains several useful tips on how to be more like the more successful type as well as how to deal with the other types. For Givers, for example, Give and Take shows how one can be charitable with their time and skills yet not come to regret it after (get taken advantage of).

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

One of the toughest problems in practically any industry is good employees burning out due to a number of factors. Perhaps the workload is unevenly distributed in an understaffed department, or The 5 Language of appreciation in the workplaceperhaps the employee feels like their hard work, despite stepping up to challenges, is not appreciated. Leaders – managers, supervisors, CEOs alike, can do a lot to improve on this problem. For starters, show appreciation for your employees. In The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Gary D. Chapman and Paul White, you can learn to do just that with valuable insight into how people work with receiving appreciation.

If the name Gary Chapman sounds familiar, it may be because he is the writer of the popular mid 1990s book, The Five Love Languages. As a relationship counselor, Chapman is well versed in advising couples on how to talk and treat each other to better their relationship. Similarly, Chapman introduces methods that he has found to work and translates them to the workplace. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace advises on ways to properly show your appreciation for someone who works with you. On top of that, it also makes the important distinctions between “appreciation” and “recognition/reward”

Appreciation: This is valuing the person simply for being there to work with you or for you. Even if the person is an employee that is struggling with the tasks at hand, being shown that someone is appreciative of their attempt can go a long way toward improving their performance.

Recognition/Reward: This is given due to an individual or team’s performance or achievements. If your employees do good work, tell them and show them that.

Overall, one of the most important points that Chapman tries to make is that there are various ways of showing appreciation in the workplace. Sometimes, simple gestures can make a difference in how employees feel about management or the company as a whole.