Friday Book Review! Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole

Image result for hopping over the rabbit holeGrowing up on Long Island, young Anthony Scaramucci had only one dream: to own his own company. In his book, Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success, Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager and conservative TV personality, recalls his success in building up his Long Island Newsday paper route through hard work and creativity. He would, for example, get free newspapers from his managers and deliver them to houses that did not subscribe, then follow up with a visit the following day, asking the “nice ladies at the door” if they enjoyed the free paper and would like to subscribe. They often did.


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As Scaramucci explains, he enjoyed receiving the money from the paper route, but his pleasure in building up his route was about much more than money. “I felt proud,” he writes. “Proud of my accomplishment. Proud that I was doing something that served people. Proud that I made people happy.” Yes, he liked the money, he continues, “but more than anything, I loved the sense of pride I felt in building something. Of hustling day-in and day-out to earn my keep. Of being my own boss.”

An Entrepreneurial Blueprint

In Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole, Scaramucci combines colorful and well-described biographical details with how-to advice drawn from the stories that end each chapter. The result is a solid overview of attitudes and approaches that can help entrepreneurs succeed.

The chapter called “An Entrepreneurial Blueprint,” for example, ends with four valuable pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t spend money on the wrong things. Scaramucci describes visiting the offices of a new investment company at the request of a mutual friend. The founder of the company, a highly respected bond trader, leads Scaramucci on a 40-minute tour of the sumptuous offices, with long discussions about the furniture and art collection. When Scaramucci returns to his own offices, he warns his friend that the bond trader will be out of business in one year.

Click here to continue reading to find out the other 3 pieces of advice.

 

Friday Book Review! Thank You For Being Late

9780374273538In the latest book from influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, readers are taken through a typical globe-spanning Friedman-esque journey of ideas, insights and, of course, people — many people of a wide variety of nationalities and perspectives, but all supporting in some way Friedman’s central theme: The world is speeding up — and that’s okay, as long as we all keep moving ourselves.


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Friedman compares thriving in today’s world to riding a bicycle: a bike is steady, upright and comfortable when you are moving; stop moving and you topple over. The way to keep moving is to embrace collaboration, pluralism, trust of others — and to not be afraid of change. “So many people today seem to be looking for someone to put on the brakes, to take a hammer to the forces of change — or just give them a simple answer to make their anxiety go away,” he writes. “It is time to redouble our efforts to close that anxiety gap with imagination and innovation and not scare tactics and simplistic solutions.”

Not that there isn’t good reason for trepidation. As Friedman notes, the most dangerous period on New York City streets occurred when cars started appearing but horse-and-buggies had not yet disappeared. We are currently in a similar transition period, with the world accelerating at such a rate that humans are having trouble adapting to the changes.

The Machine and The Supernova

In Thank You for Being Late, Friedman explores in detail the three accelerations driving “the machine” today — the machine being Friedman’s term for the “world’s biggest gears and pulleys [that] are shaping events.”

The first acceleration is in the domain of technology. When visiting the laboratories of the multinationals driving technology forward, Friedman writes, he feels a bit like James Bond visiting Q’s laboratory to discover the latest high-tech spy gadgets.

Except that the mechanical gadgets of Fleming’s hero have been replaced by what most people refer to as “the cloud” and what Friedman calls “the supernova.” Beginning in 2007, according to Friedman, the supernova started launching Moore’s law on the exponential increase in processing power into the stratosphere. Friedman uses the example of an information-technology multinational company based in the surprisingly named town of Batman, Turkey to exemplify how the supernova empowers innovators to reach everywhere from anywhere.

The second…(click here to continue reading this review)

Friday Book Review! The Analytical Marketer by Adele Sweetwood

TheAnalyticalMarketer_3D-237x290In her illuminating book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization, author Adele Sweetwood, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing of analytic software giant SAS, tells the story of a large business-to-consumer prospect who came to SAS for information about customer intelligence software. SAS marketers sent representatives from the prospect more than 30 emails during a 90-day period. Unfortunately, none of them had anything to do with CI solutions but were focused instead on Big Data solutions and user-group meetings for other product offerings. These emails kept coming even after the prospect company had informed SAS that it had decided to use a competitor’s solution.

What went wrong? According to Sweetwood, SAS completely fumbled this opportunity because, she writes, “what we had failed to recognize was that this particular customer was in his ‘decide’ phase, meaning he was ready to choose a vendor to work with. Yet we were treating the customer as if he was still unsure about what he needed.”

The Customer Decision Journey

For Sweetwood, marketing analytics is not about the accumulation of big data. It is about knowing how to leverage this data to engage the customer in a personalized marketing conversation, one that is centered around who they are and what they need — or what she calls the customer-decision journey.

Today, Sweetwood writes, the customer-decision journey is not the company-driven process it used to be. Customers have the tools and data available to be the drivers of the process. They are the ones who control their interactions with the company. “That means,” she writes, “that how you as an organization respond to new customers — while nurturing and retaining existing customers — has also changed.”

Specifically, she writes, companies must 1) understand the decision or experience the journey of their customers, 2) identify a prospect’s location on this journey and, finally, 3) “leverage the data and analytics to tell your customer’s story and listen to it.”

For example…(click here to continue reading this review)

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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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