Friday Book Review! Be the Business by Martha Heller

heller-book-excerpt2-100684008-primary.idgeThe information-age tidal wave has submerged our companies and organizations. If the IT department was once contained in a room where brainy technologists worked their magic, today every office, every desk, every employee and manager — and every customer! — is involved with the company’s information technology.

In many ways, this new digital era (“new” relative to eras, of course) has not changed the core mandate of most executives and managers. What has changed is how that mandate is fulfilled. At the C-suite level, for example, the CEO must still guide strategy, instill a culture, lead his or her top management team, and take responsibility for the successes and failures of the company. The Chief Marketing Officer is responsible for the successful positioning of the company’s products in the marketplace. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company.

The role of the Chief Information Officer, however, has been dramatically altered. In her thoughtful new book, Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT, Martha Heller explains the challenges and opportunities that CIOs must face and embrace. The book’s title — as spare and relevant as her chapters — tells the story: CIOs must “be the business.” Information technology is in every nook and cranny of a business. Information technology is back office and front office and connecting the two. Information technology is about digital marketing but also — as one CIO tells Heller — about turning operations into “algorithms.”

CDOs Are Not the Solution

Today’s organizations recognize the omnipresence of information technology in every department and function. One response, according to Heller, is the creation of a new Chief Digital Officer (CDO) function — in essence, relegating the CIO to the operational side of information technology as the fancy new CDO occupies himself or herself with the strategic implications of the digital age. Unfortunately, CDOs are often glorified CMOs — they understand the digital contribution to marketing but do not have a complete end-to-end grasp of the organization…(to continue reading this review, click here).

Don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter to receive the latest business book reviews in your inbox every month!

 

Friday Book Review! Master Your Time, Master Your Life by Brian Tracy

Image result for brian tracy master your time master your lifeSuccess guru Brian Tracy’s new book is centered on the concept of time. Although each chapter has the word “time” in it, Master Your Time, Master Your Life is not about time management as much as it is about life goals and on what areas to focus your efforts.

The first chapter, for example, is about “Strategic Planning and Goal Setting Time.” Successful people, Tracy writes, are those who plan their strategy and select their goals. “One of the most important types of time is the time you spend thinking, deciding and planning how to achieve the things you really want in life.”

Tracy recommends establishing a personal strategic plan based on four questions:

  • Where am I now in my life? Review your accomplishments, family situation, financial situation, and health and fitness.
  • How did I get to where I am today? Identify the choices and decisions that led to where you are today. Recognize the sources of your successes — and setbacks.
  • Where do I want to go in the future? Imagine a perfect life five years in the future. Get into the details of how it would be different from the present.
  • How can I get from where I am to where I want to be? Identify what you need to be doing today to make that ideal future become a reality.

Some of the chapters, such as “Productive Time” and “Work Time,” involve more conventional time management suggestions.

In the “Work Time” chapter, Tracy dives into how to overcome the “seven major time wasters” at work (telephone, email and text interruptions; unexpected visitors; meetings; fire fighting; procrastination; socializing and idle conversations; and indecision and delay).

In the “Productive Time” chapter, Tracy highlights the three keys to productivity:

  • Clarity. Tracy’s focus here is on a clear understanding of expected results — the production part of productivity. Exactly what will make people see you as dependable and valuable?
  • Focus. Productivity depends on a single-minded focus on the task at hand. Multitasking productivity, writes Tracy, is a myth.
  • Concentration. Being able to concentrate for extended periods of time is a difficult but vital skill, he writes.

To read this review in full, click here. Don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter to receive reviews just like this one every month right to your inbox!

 

Friday Book Review! 5 Habits to Lead from Your Heart

Image result for 5 habits to lead from your heartHow do you choose to react to experiences both good and bad? According to Johnny Covey, author of 5 Habits to Lead from Your Heart, there are two choices to make: You can react with your head or you can react with your heart. When you react with your head, he writes, you are mostly trying to protect yourself. In essence, you are acting out of fear or self-preservation. A better alternative, Covey argues, is to react with your heart instead — to focus on progressing instead of protecting. Covey uses this dichotomous choice in response to experience to build a head-to-heart framework. Across the top of the framework are his three Ps of progress: previous, present and possible. The present is the experience you are reacting to, Covey writes, and the other two Ps represent the different choices: the “head” choice to retreat to the comfort of the past (the previous) or the “heart” choice to reach for the possible. Under previous and possible, Covey places the three phases of experience: think, feel and do. Thus, faced with an experience, one can react by thinking, feeling and doing what was done previously or, on the contrary, by thinking, feeling and doing something new, ambitious and courageous so that you can progress. Covey’s five habits are intended to lead his readers to choose possible over previous.

Making the Right Choices

The first habit is to Be Courageous. For Covey, this is the foundational habit of leading from your heart. Covey describes, as an example, the decision he and his wife made to become foster parents — when at the time they had four children aged 5, 3, 2 and 7 months. Their heads told them not to become foster parents (as did many of their friends and family). However, Covey writes, they took the plunge and became foster parents to two girls, who are now teenagers thriving in the Covey household. Covey’s second habit is to Be You. In this section, Covey urges readers to understand why they feel the way they do (their core motivations), what they are good at doing and how they think about things. In each of these areas, Coveys offers four archetypes. For example, “visionaries,” “thinkers,” “artists” and “researchers” are the do archetypes, each having different strengths. “Managers,” “project managers,” “organizers” and “playmakers” think differently. And our core motives, Covey writes, will lead each one of us to be a “producer,” “people” person, “playful” person or “peaceful” person.

To continue reading this review, click here, or sign up for our FREE monthly Executive Book Alert newsletter!

Friday Book Review! The Elegant Pitch by Mike Figliuolo

bookOne day, Mike Figliuolo and his team went to his boss to make a recommendation for action. Another team was present with its own recommendation and went first. The leader of the other team handed the boss the team’s 25-page presentation in support of the recommendation. The boss threw the 25 pages across the room and said, “Talk to me! What do you want? I’m busy. I don’t have time for all this paper.” As Figliuolo recounts in his book, The Elegant Pitch, “They were surprised. We weren’t. We knew better, and our presentation was three pages.” The Elegant Pitch is a tutorial on how to get recommendations accepted by making presentations that tell decision-makers everything they need to know — not everything you know. This may seem obvious, and yet most people never make the distinction, Figliuolo writes. Instead of carefully parsing down their presentations to the most salient and compelling points, they try to include every single supporting point, hoping that the cumulative weight of the argument will carry the day. The typical process for developing a recommendation, writes Figliuolo, follows four steps: 1) gather large amounts of data and do excessive amounts of analysis; 2) identify insights from this excessive analysis; 3) assemble all of the analysis into a comprehensive 30- to 60-page document to show the rigor of the analysis; 4) present this tome in a two-hour meeting, impressing decision-makers with the depth of the insights. Does it work? Not usually, writes Figliuolo.

The Structured Thought Process

To make presentations that lead to accepted ideas and recommendations, Figliuolo argues that the data-heavy and analysis-heavy tomes should be replaced by what he calls the “structured thought process.”

This process follows nine carefully defined steps that, he writes, must be followed in order:

1. Define the Question. What is the problem and why does it need to be solved? Absolute clarity is essential.

Click here to read the other 8 steps.

Friday Book Review! Play Bigger

readinglist_playbiggerWhat do Uber and Birdseye frozen foods have in common? They are what the authors of a new book, Play Bigger, call category kings. Category kings are unique companies that revolutionize industries by inventing entirely new categories — and then dominating that category. Play Bigger is written by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson and Christopher Lochhead, three Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who co-founded a consultancy focused on designing category king companies — the name of the book is the name of their consultancy; a fourth co-author is long-time technology journalist Kevin Maney. The authors begin by defining the term “category.” A great category, they write, “solves a problem people didn’t know they had, or solves an obvious problem no one thought could be solved.”

On a visit to the Arctic, Clarence Birdseye, who created the frozen food category, watched the Inuit catch a fish and throw it on the ice, where it would instantly flash freeze. Birdseye’s reaction was not, “Finally, the solution to the problem of frozen food!” — for the simple reason that frozen food was not a concept and, therefore, not a problem. The founders of Uber, on the other hand, realized that their concept would solve a problem familiar to nearly anyone who has been near a city: the often frustrating experience of trying to hail a cab. It was an obvious problem but not one that people thought could be solved.

Finding the Missing

A vision for a new category, write the authors, often emerges from what they call a “missing” — the recognition by entrepreneurs that there is something missing in the market and that their solution can fill the gap. Marc Benioff realized that the cloud offered a way to provide CRM solutions without the expense and hassle of software. Leaving Oracle, he founded a new company called Salesforce.com, which would become the king of the cloud-based salesforce automation. An inventive idea, however, is just a small initial step in the category king strategy. The authors tell the story of a company called Jawbone. Among its inventions was a small headset that connected wirelessly to cell phones — just as states were passing no-hands regulations for drivers. However…(click to continue reading this review)

 

Friday Book Review! Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger

 

invisible-influence-9781476759692_hrWho Makes Our Decisions?

In a provocative new book called Invisible Influence, Wharton professor Jonah Berger explains that we are not the independent thinkers making well-informed decisions and choices that we might think we are. The reason is that many of our decisions and choices are made based on what others are doing. This is called social influence, and in Invisible Influence, Berger demonstrates, through scores of stories and academic research, the power of others on our decisions.

What Makes a Hit

For example, Berger describes an experiment by Princeton sociologist Matthew Salganik based on a website where people could download free music (actual but obscure music that no one knew). Salganik provided a list of songs to choose from, and included in the list how many other people had downloaded the song. Eventually certain songs began to attract more and more downloads, while other songs elicited much less interest. Over time, the chasm between the popular and unpopular songs grew wider and wider. Most people were attracted to the songs that most people had already downloaded.

However, the most surprising stage of Salganik’s experiment was yet to come. Salganik, writes Berger, decided to create eight different websites but with exactly the same list of songs and the same rules. Only the listeners were different. Over time, the same chasm between popular and unpopular songs appeared. The popular and unpopular songs, however, were different for each of the eight websites. Salganik thus demonstrated that if any song started to gain momentum, the mimicry gene kicked in: People decided that was the song they liked best. (Quality plays a role, but smaller than we might think).

Click here to continue reading this review, or sign up for our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter to receive business book reviews in your inbox every month!

 

Friday Book Review! Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez

160627143727-chaos-monkeys-book-780x439A Visit to the Entrepreneurial Zoo

In 2007, digital advertising veteran Antonio García Martínez left Goldman Sachs for the startup world, joining one ad tech startup before launching his own startup, which he would eventually sell to Twitter for $10 million.

Martínez describes his adventures in Silicon Valley in colorful (and sometimes lurid) detail in a new book entitled Chaos Monkeys. The term refers to software invented by Netflix that tests a product’s or website’s robustness. A chaos monkey, as Martínez explains, is the digital equivalent of a “chimpanzee rampaging through a data center,” destroying the place by randomly yanking cables or smashing boxes. Symbolically, he writes, “technology entrepreneurs are society’s chaos monkeys, pulling the plug on everything from taxi medallions (Uber) to traditional hotels (Airbnb) to dating (Tinder)… Silicon Valley is the zoo where the chaos monkeys are kept, and their numbers only grow in time… The question for society is whether it can survive these entrepreneurial chaos monkeys intact, and at what human cost.”

Taken out of the book’s context, these paragraphs may position Martínez as a concerned observer of the zoo. In truth, however, Martínez was a joyous participant in the zoo’s antics, describing a place where extremes — in money, risks and sex — are celebrated. It is also a place where business is combat and few rules of traditional business seem to apply.

Martínez’s fascinating description of the sale of his ad tech startup to Twitter, which includes a chapter appropriately titled “Acquisition Chicken,” offers a case in point. In the early discussions, Martínez and his two co-founders reject Twitter’s offer of $5 million, a sum that in Silicon Valley is equivalent to a low-ball offer. As Martínez explains, given that “the market price for acquired engineers in the Valley then was anywhere from half a million to $2 million each… $5 million for three hires plus intellectual property Twitter might use… was way too cheap. We hadn’t risked everything from our finances to our sanity for just over a million each that would take four years to earn.”

Martínez decides to dangle the company in front of Yahoo, which passes on the company. However, they are interested in poaching Martínez, who must then decide whether to abandon his fellow entrepreneurs. This type of situation, he writes, is typical for the Valley.

Click here to continue reading this review or sign up for our free monthly Executive Book Alert newsletter.

Friday Book Review! Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

pre-suasion_cialdini_book-209x300In 1984, a book by unknown psychologist Robert Cialdini purported to show the world the best way to influence people. Influence would become an international best-seller and help introduce the concept of social psychological analysis to a skeptical world.

In Pre-Suasion, his first solo work since 1984, Cialdini adds a new take to the art of influence. “Pre-Suasion,” as he calls it, is the ability to do or say that one thing at just the right time before attempting to influence someone.

For example, Cialdini tells the story of Jim, a fire-alarm system salesman who consistently sold significantly more of his company’s expensive systems than any other salesman. When Cialdini accompanied Jim, he saw only one thing that Jim did differently from the rest: While the prospects were filling out a fire-alarm test, he would invariably say that he had forgotten something in the car and ask if he could go get it. Because the prospects were in the middle of the test, this involved letting himself back in the house, sometimes with the help of a borrowed key.

How was this planned forgetfulness helping Jim sell his alarm systems? The reason, according to Cialdini, is that letting someone enter the house on his own, with or without a key, is a sign of trust; subconsciously, Jim’s little (slightly unethical) charade made him much more trustworthy to the prospects, who were thus more inclined to believe his argument that they should have the system. Jim had instinctively discovered the power of pre-suasion.

As Cialdini explains, there is a moment in time just before the attempt to influence (e.g., a sales pitch or a speech) called a “privileged moment”; during this window of opportunity, influencers should get the people they are trying to focus on something that will help the influencer’s cause.

Here’s a simple (and actual) example from a research test. The researchers stopped people in a mall and asked them to fill out a survey. Only 29 percent agreed to participate. The researchers then started stopping people and asking, “Do you consider yourself helpful?” Invariably, most of those people (77.3 percent) responded yes and filled out the survey. The response rate went from under 30 percent to more than 77 percent … just because of one simple question.

Click here to continue reading this review, or sign up for our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter to get exclusive book review delivered straight to your inbox every month!

 

Friday Book Review! Scrappy by Terri Sjodin

Image result for scrappy sjodin“Scrappiness” is a term that is easier to recognize in action than to define. To describe someone as scrappy is to describe a person who fights against the odds and manages to come out victorious against opponents or obstacles that are much “bigger” in some way than he or she might be. Terri Sjodin’s latest book, Scrappy, is filled with stories of such battles, as she explains to her readers exactly how and why being scrappy works.

For Sjodin, scrappiness is a combination of three elements: attitude, strategy and execution. The first required step to being scrappy is attitude: a mindset in which people recognize the bruises and pitfalls that might lie ahead, but decide to go for it anyway. For example, Sjodin tells the inspiring story of health club owner Susan Sly, who was struck by a diagnosis of multiple-sclerosis, a husband who leaves three days after the diagnosis and the loss of the health club due to unpaid taxes. Despite her illness, the single mother fought back and became one of the most successful sales producers for the Bally Fitness chain.

Successful scrappiness is about attitude, explains Sjodin, but it’s also about having the right strategy. In the second section of her book, Sjodin describes how to develop a strategy that is bold and somewhat risky without being reckless. Brian Palmer, president of National Speakers Bureau, was trying to land the business of an executive vice president at a large financial-services company who was unmoved by his approaches.

Finally, a mutual friend shared a conversation that she had with the EVP, who told her, half-seriously, “Brian Palmer doesn’t suck up enough!” Palmer decided to send a newly bought dustbuster to the prospect, explaining that he didn’t mind sucking up, but if he was not available, his dustbuster would take care of the sucking up. The move might have fallen flat but didn’t: The EVP loved the humor (and gumption), and Palmer started getting speaking gigs for his speakers.

According to Sjodin, scrappiness can range from big, bold moves to small gestures. To be scrappy is to have creative, often (but not always) humorous approaches to a problem, combined with a certain fearlessness. For example, rather than turning to online dating sites, 36-year-old serial entrepreneur Jennifer Matthey Riker decided to try a different tack: She took a part-time job (which she did not need) in the men’s department at a local Nordstrom’s. One day, she locked eyes with a man cutting through the store, and the two have now been married 13 years and have two children.

Once you “decide to go” and have developed a strategy to achieve what you want, the final step is to execute the plan, Sjodin writes. One of the important decisions is to determine when to launch. Timing can often make the difference between success and failure.

Another recommendation of Sjodin’s is to…(click here to continue reading)

Friday Book Review! Grit by Angela Duckworth

gritThe Power of Passion & Perseverance

Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, won a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, an award so prestigious that it is also known as the “genius grant.” As Duckworth explains in the foreword to her latest book, Grit, the award of the grant reminded her that throughout her childhood, her scientist father would despair that she was no “genius” — in other words, that she just wasn’t smart enough or didn’t have a great-enough talent in anything.

And he was right. As Duckworth explains in her book, genius or talent didn’t win her the coveted MacArthur Fellowship: It was grit. According to Duckworth, grit is the combination of unbridled passion and unrelenting perseverance — a combination, she writes, that will overcome innate talent or hard work or high IQ or any of the other assumed key success factors for individuals. Duckworth first demonstrated the power of grit at West Point, where she sought to answer a question that had eluded a number of psychologists for decades: Why did so many new cadets drop out in the first training program of their West Point careers? Only a tiny portion of candidates make it through the admission gauntlet into West Point — and only if they receive a high-enough Whole Candidate Score, which carefully measures the likelihood that candidates have the mental and physical capabilities to make it at West Point. Thus, most should be in a position to survive the brutal seven-week training course known as “Beast Barracks.” Yet, many didn’t — and surprisingly their scores on the Whole Candidate Score bore no correlation to whether or not they dropped out.

In July 2004, Duckworth had new cadets take her Grit Scale, which was…(click here to continue reading)