Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Review: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

This is another book I heard in Audio format during commuting. It started out well but I think it sort of fizzled towards the end. Maybe it's a cruel irony because of its title. Primarily it feels as if you were spending a long happy hour with Guy Kawasaki, getting advice from him, which is legitimate since he seems to know the best way to run a startup in a realistic way. I think the problem is that there's a dissonance between the expectations of the book and the actual content. Before you read it, it suggests that you could use that advice for any area of life where you need to "start" something. But then you find out that it's a book strictly about startup companies, dealing with specific issues such as mantras, presentations, hiring, looking for financiers, etc. Also I think the voice is undermined by some inconsistent advice, such as "don't use war analogies" like "attack", but way into the book he uses a war analogy and declares it will be the last one, and later still he uses the expression "establish a beachhead". I'll settle for this conclusion: it's OK to use war analogies but in moderation.
Some concepts I liked were about using a mantra instead of a mission statement, since a mantra has more passion and fun. Also I liked the advice that one shouldn't be putting effort on selling services that anyone can do, but instead into "doing your magic".
I enjoyed hearing about Powerpoint presentations and things one should and shouldn't do. Definitely if you're interested in running a start-up, there's a lot of good advice in this book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: Judgment, by Noel Tichy & Warren Bennis

I heard this book in audio format, and it was probably not the best to way to go through this book, because it has a lot of tabulated information that doesn't carry well as a narration. The premise is pretty simple: that performance of a company is affected by the judgment calls made by the leaders. It outlines a framework for judgment that is carried through several real-world examples, mentioning stories about big businesses such as GE, HP, Best Buy, Microsoft, etc., and how their leaders dealt with challenges. I found it very informative and educational. I liked how they defined the concept of strategy: The choices we make for the allocation of resources. Another question that intrigued me was in regards to G.E. Can a company grow through innovation? Apparently it can. Another section talked about how to recognize some of the abilities of a leader by posing some questions: can they solve problems? Have they taken innovative ideas and turn them into solutions for customers? Can they take these solutions and and turn them into a viable business?.

The book is a little dry, and tries to sound academic and authoritative, but it has very good perspective on the human aspect of organizations.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gentle Leadership

If you ever watch the TV show Dog Whisperer, you should know I take it with a grain of salt, but I find it pretty fascinating sometimes. I was impressed in this episode when I saw Cesar Millan coaching a woman who owned a feisty little chihuahua, to assert herself by letting "her gentle side come out".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: How to Make Millions with Your Ideas by Dan Kennedy

This book I actually bought from Amazon and read it in several nights. It's a pretty good book, assuming you already have your ideas in place but are looking for a primer on how to make them go to market, and assuming that you've already tried but need more ideas. It feels a bit like a catalog of all the possible avenues for marketing a product, with plenty of real, well known examples. It has a lot of revelations, but mainly that there are many ways of getting your product out, and you should basically try as many as you can. This I would have probably read later in the program since it's more beneficial if you know about marketing. Some topics are a bit dated (such as the virtual absence of e-mail marketing), but in general it's timeless advice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

I can't complain because I got this book for free thanks to an offer from Beggars can't be choosers. At the end of the book, Seth Godin challenges the reader to take potshots at him for the shorfalls of the book, so I will humor him. He said so himself, the book is "disorganized". I would say it's written with the voice of the stream of consciousness, loosely associating ideas around the concept of a social construct defined as a "tribe" which actually is not the same as a group of natives but it's fairly close. The book is not really about tribes, but it's a call to all readers to become leaders, and to make a mental shift that can shoo away preconceptions and the fear that might come with it. I did like hearing Seth Godin's own voice narrating the book. I would say that it's definitely a book to keep around and possibly going through another time. It can energize your mind and make you think in different ways.