Review: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world with so much noise and so many options, everyone needs to understand what makes certain products and services catch on and others not. Nir Eyal explains this in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

After much study, Nir formed his "Hook Model" to help founders and designers create better products and the book takes us through each stage, illustrated with great examples from modern companies. And since this type of mind-altering power can be used for ill, he's shared a matrix to help decide whether building a certain product is morally correct or not.

Even if you are not working on a product nor intend to do so, this book is worth reading to better understand why you're addicted to certain sites and/or products.

I highly recommend this informative and very readable book.

Review: Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for

Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for by Jonathan Raymond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leadership is a topic near to my heart and one I spend a lot of time reading, writing, thinking about, and discussing. Due to this it's rare when I come across a leadership book that has something really new and memorable to say, but Good Authority does that and more.

Jonathan Raymond, who has plenty of hands-on leadership experience himself, explains that to be the type of leader your team needs, you need to give them the room to find their own answers. Leaders who practice good authority lead with questions. They understand that their job is not to know all the answers or do all the work themselves; instead, their job is to support their team and guide them with the right questions, then get out of their way so that they can learn and grow.

Not only will this type of leadership help your team become their best selves, which in itself is a win-win, but this is also the only way that you can get fully engaged employees. And from my experience—both as a leader and as an employee—I know this to be true.

The book shares so many other great anecdotes and tips and is a must-read for any current leader/manager, or anyone aspiring to these roles.

The Successful Executive's Mindset

I just finished reading Scott Eblin's The Next Level: What Insiders know About Executive Success and it's a keeper I'll be referring back to.

In addition to strategies on what executives need to pick-up and let go to be successful at this higher level, Scott also touches on the different mindset necessary.

Although the new executive needed to be a results-oriented over-achiever to get to this level, this mindset will no longer work.

The executive, unlike the senior leader, needs to be focused on the organization's success and on furthering all their agendas, sometimes at his personal agenda's expense. The executive also has to be aware that his actions and words are always being carefully monitored and will be taken much more seriously than he had intended, both for the good and bad. Scott shares an anecdote where a new executive teased a previous peer only to have him ask if he's in trouble.

Scott's point is that when you get to the executive level, you need to spend more time looking out, collaborating, directing, inspiring, and working towards the greater good with your executive peers rather than focusing on your own good. And you need to be aware you are your company's ambassador and that you are now perceived differently by all.

I love that Scott also emphasizes the value of having an executive take the time to connect with staff at all levels, ask for feedback, and be approachable. This takes effort since people tend to be suspicious and wary of anyone at the executive level.

If you're contemplating whether an executive role is something you should aspire to or not, read this book. I think anyone taking on an executive role for the first time should read this book or one like it so that they know what will be expected of them. Yes, promotions and raises are nice, but being an executive is not for everyone.

Have you had the opportunity to watch a newly-made executive transition? What made the transition a success or failure?

Review: The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steve Case, founder of AOL, provides his informed opinion of what is coming in The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future. As founder of AOL, he was very much at the forefront of the First Wave, helping get America Online, literally and figuratively. By the time the Second Wave came around and the Internet had gone mobile, Steve Case was a startup and social entrepreneurship investor, so still involved albeit indirectly.

Steve predicts that the Third Wave will be more similar to the First Wave, the one he knows so well, since it will involve the disruption of large entrenched industries such as education, healthcare, travel, and food. Some of his other predictions are:
  • the Third Wave will require the 3 P's—partnerships, policy, and perseverance;
  • Rise of the Rest—these disruptions will not only happen in Silicon Valley, NY, or Boston but in other hubs throughout the US—and outside of the US too;
  • Impact Investing will be a rising trend;
  • and America itself can get disrupted and lose it's lead if government doesn't make it easier for entrepreneurs to start.
The book was a really quick and interesting read that shares both what it took to get the Internet to what it is today and what could come next. I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in how the Internet of Things or digital will continue to evolve.

Review: It's Not the How or the What but the Who

It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading about employee engagement, culture, and related topics since I am a firm believer that the "human resources" if treated right, are a company's true competitive advantage. Luckily more startups and companies are starting to understand this and more studies and books support this.

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz in his book It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best shows us the flip side of this. He has studies and anecdotes to demonstrate that if you figure out how to hire the best and surround yourself with these people, you will be able to succeed well beyond the average. This, he believes, is the secret behind the great CEOs such as Bezos, Jobs, Agnelli and others deemed top CEOs in terms of value they provide their shareholders.

The book helps us learn how to do this for ourselves: from recognizing internal biases that can interfere with hiring the best, to how to set-up a recruitment process that will ensure we find the best, to onboarding them correctly so that they can shine. Given the author's experience as a senior global executive search adviser, the information and advise are invaluable and also very readable.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to succeed, since you will have to learn how to surround yourself with those that can further your success.

Review: UnSelling: The New Customer Experience

UnSelling: The New Customer Experience UnSelling: The New Customer Experience by Scott Stratten
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unselling by Scott and Alison is what a business book should be: easy to read, full of anecdotes that make the lessons come alive, and full of takeaways that you can apply to your life or business. Just reading this book will give you a better understanding of how to improve your customer experience, so that the customers are happy to return and bring others with them. It's a must read for anyone who has any contact with customers or clients, even if indirectly, which is all of us.

And I love their writing style and format so much, I've ordered two more of their books and look forward to reading them.

The Executive Difference

There is a distinct difference between being a manager, even a senior manager, and being an executive and Scott Eblin in his book The Next Level: What Insiders know About Executive Success takes us through these differences.

As Scott explains, some things that lead to the executive level need to go and other things need to be picked-up to be successful at this new level and beyond. He breaks these down into personal, team, and organizational aspects.

One main difference is that an executive can no longer do or even check all the work but has to rely on his team—and allow them—to do the work. It is the difference between relying on your functional expertise and your leadership expertise. It is also the difference between being responsible for getting the work done or accountable for ensuring it is done. A big difference which many struggle with. 

Another related difference is that instead of directing how your team does the work, you need to direct the what and trust that they will get to your desired outcome in their own way. This requires having the right people in the right roles, which Scott also discusses.

Scott interviewed many executives across industries and uses their quotes to "mentor" readers on how to make this transition. A great quote that he repeats a few times is that executives can't stay on the dance floor with their dance partner but need to get on the balcony to see the bigger picture and patterns. The executive can then return to the dance floor to execute on what he's seen.

Have you had to make this transition or worked with someone who has? What made them succeed or fail in this?