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Roger Williams
Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto
Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto

Roger's posts

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I respect that Tony Robbins is not everyone's cup of tea, yet his writings on growth and change are powerful and useful. This book provides a wealth of techniques that can help you better understand yourself and create a way of life that is more satisfying and meaningful. For instance, his recommendations on creating morning and evening rituals pondering significant questions are excellent ways to become more introspective and happier.

This is NOT a book for people that are unable to read critically. For instance, much of Tony's writing on nutrition does not match up with personal experience nor expert advice. If you are not able to take the good parts and leave the rest, don't bother.

With that caveat, I recommend this book to anyone who has achieved things yet doesn't feel like they have been successful.

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This book provides a useful, structured approach to a topic that has been nebulous - "executive presence". Bates outlines 3 dimensions that make up executive presence - character, substance, and style. She outlines the five components of each dimension with clear definitions and examples.

While the book is a bit light on how best to make improvements in these areas, it is much better than the amorphous descriptions that tend to be used for this topic. As such, I recommend it to anyone who wishes to be a more effective leader.

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This book is a good read for those that are interested in "lean". It played an essential role in popularizing use of the term in the western world. The description of how the assembly line and mass production arose out of craft production and ultimately led to lean production was easy to follow and interesting.

I was surprised by how focused the book was on the auto industry. With 25 years gone since its publication, some of the details are only interesting if you are into cars. A lot of that can be scanned without losing the flavor of the book. While this book is not a perfect substitute for reading Ohno's works to understand the thinking behind the Toyota Production System, it is much more accessible and easier to acquire. Recommended.

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Ridley's latest book is a compelling exploration of how the idea of evolution applies to area beyond biology. He uses examples from areas such as the law, economics, and technology to illustrate the point that remarkable things can and will emerge without central planning and coordination required to do so. 

The secondary theme of the book is that centralization tends to lead to pain and misery, while bottom-up adaptation tends to create much of what is good about modern life. The numerous instances of simultaneous, independent invention of products and ideas illustrates that monopolies, patents, and top-down investments in "innovation" rarely contribute much value. Ridley also has strong things to say about top-down attempts to intervene in the world and cites numerous examples where well-intended efforts led to horrible outcomes.

You won't agree with all his ideas, yet even so this is a worthwhile read to expand your thinking on how we can continue to make our collective lives better.

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This book is required reading for anyone involved in IT work. Jeff Sussna brilliantly captures the essential shift of IT from a complicated system run and optimized by a central hierarchy of experts to a complex system that must continually evolve its design by learning and adaptation. Services must now be evaluated on more than whether they are stable:
- they must deliver customer outcomes
- they must be accessible when and where needed regardless of demand
- they must enable coherent customer journeys through accomplishing their work-to-be-done
- they must be able to continually adapt to changing customer needs

He makes a compelling argument that Quality Assurance must redefine its role to allow IT to meet its potential. QA is ideally positioned to help everyone involved in the delivery of IT services improve, yet can only do so by expanding its focus from identifying code defects to propagating feedback on service quality across the full lifecycle.

The master stroke comes from the advocacy for using Mark Burgess' Promise Theory as a unifying language for the various disciplines involved in IT to enable every component to evolve while still being able to coordinate. By thinking in the promises made to customers and to other service components, we can shift our thinking from meeting specifications to delivering value.

The book is well written and deep, with a lot of advanced thinking packed into less than 200 pages. I found myself making notes constantly. Read (and re-read) this book.

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This is a thought-provoking book that will make you re-examine your beliefs about why poverty is so difficult to eradicate and how best to alleviate it. In the process of doing so, Mullainathan and Shafir also provide a way of thinking that shows how scarcity in other domains such as schedules, calories and relationships has a similar effect.

When we focus on what we need, but don't have, we gain some focus, yet reduce our ability to optimally function. One study cited showed that just triggering the thought of not having enough money impairs our ability to do a cognitive task more than a sleepless night! This can quickly create "scarcity traps" where bad decisions lead to worse outcomes and create a vicious circle.

To counter this, we need to build slack into our lives. Emergency funds and reserved time blocks allow us to deal with challenges without spiraling into a crisis. We can also use artificial scarcity such as early deadlines and budgets to help us focus without paying the penalties of actual scarcity.

The authors do a good job of balancing the seriousness of topic with a disciplined yet fun approach, including talking about how their ideas impacted the creation of the book. This makes for an enjoyable read on an important topic. Highly recommended.

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Adam Grant's Originals is every bit as good as his first book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. He once again brings a fresh perspective based on current research, and uses anecdotes from a variety of domains to show how to apply his ideas effectively.

My key takeaway is that if we want to change how people think, we have to speak to them in terms of ideas they already understand, and shows the penalties that the victims of our current thinking are paying. Grant has additional advice for bosses, teachers, and parents on how to cultivate original thinking in others that is useful and insightful.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

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This book is a strong primer on the power of vulnerability. Brené Brown does a nice job of weaving her research with personal anecdotes on how our resistance to vulnerability leads to stress, disconnection, and unhappiness.

The title is a reference to a phrase commonly quoted from Teddy Roosevelt's Citizenship in a Republic, quoted below. Brown returns to this often in the book to inspire us to do our best, be candid with ourselves and others when we fall short, and, most of all, continue to take action despite the challenges we face every day. Strongly recommended.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." (emphasis mine)

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This book is an essential read for anyone that is unfamiliar with the concepts popularized by Dweck of "fixed mindsets" and "growth mindsets". She walks through her groundbreaking research and discusses strategies for moving to a growth mindset at work/school, in relationships, and in our overall approach to living.

The only caveat to this book is that you may not get a lot out of it if you are already familiar with these concepts. Even so, Dweck's analysis of what leads to fixed mindsets and how it occurs in different domains add depth to how to apply these ideas. In particular, teachers, parents, and managers will get a lot from sections devoted to instilling these mindsets in others. Highly recommended.

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This book is a valuable read for anyone who wants to get better at seeing into the future. Tetlock livens up his advice on improving this skill with profiles of "superforecasters", who demonstrate that you don't have to be a genius to be good at this if you have a structured approach and continually improve.

What I liked best about this book was that the author readily points out the limits of what can be forecast and how good a superforecaster can be. He also addressed directly the "black swan" problem that Taleb has made famous. Tetlock concedes that some significant events are so rare that we are unlikely to foresee them, yet many things that we consider "unpredictable" really aren't.

Chapter 16 of my book Managing in a Service-Focused World starts off "people are lousy forecasters", and that hasn't changed. But reading this book and applying its ideas will. Highly recommended.
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