Start with Why

Start with why book coverThis is a book you’ll happily recommend to friends and colleagues many times over. Whilst it might not have the depth of research other Leadership books boast (Good to Great) Simon does a particularly good job of articulating a very clear vision as to what makes great leaders and how they inspire everyone else. Once you grasp the key concepts it will have an immediate impact on how you think about everything you do.

Why Start with WHY

Truly great leaders start with WHY. They inspire people to act, by creating a sense of purpose that everyone can connect to. Instead of using a carrot or a stick, they create a following that has very little to do with external factors such as incentives or rewards. People following them act because they are deeply connected to the same beliefs. They are loyal, they act with purpose and do what they do not because they have to but because they they want to.

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Good to Great

good-to-great-cover

Good to Great might be the most celebrated business book of the twenty-first century – perhaps even of all time. The catchy title and idea of greatness certainly helps; but the five year analytical study behind the findings is perhaps what provides its enduring appeal. It feels like a roadmap for greatness has been discovered and laid down for everybody to see. It’s not without criticism – which I’ve looked at separately here – but for this post, let’s summarize what the book is about, and what it tells us.

21 researchers, digging through data on hundreds of companies, over a five year period, in search of an answer to a simple question: what makes a company go from being just good, to great? Collins’ team produced a criteria for what it meant to be considered great in their research: Continue reading “Good to Great”

Designing the obvious

Designing the obviousThis book was written some time ago. Published back in 2007, a time when “web 2.0” was all the rage and seemed to be the answer to creating new, exciting and engaging web applications. Unlike the web 2.0 fad, the core principles from this book are still very relevant today. From understanding users to refining everything you do, Robert Hoekmans’ Designing the obvious, provides a great framework for approaching the design and continual process of improving web user interfaces.

What is “Obvious” design?

“The goal of every Web-based software company should be to design applications that are so intuitive that the people using them attribute their ability to use them effectively to pure common sense.”

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Don’t Make Me Think

Don't make me thinkA quick search on Amazon reveals around 6,500 books on usability. Back in 2000, when Krug first released Don’t Make Me Think, I’m pretty sure it was nowhere near this. Since then the idea of making software – particularly websites, web apps, and mobile apps – highly tuned for user experience, has become commonplace and a source of competitive advantage. We have a lot to thank Apple for in that sense; delighting the user has become a rich pursuit.

Although, usability has always been about the same basic things, and it shows in this updated third edition of Krug’s classic work. Not much has changed in his advice, the core lessons are all the same, just some of the examples now reference Facebook and YouTube. He’s also added a chapter specifically on mobile, but even that makes constant reference to the general principles laid down before. Continue reading “Don’t Make Me Think”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz is probably best known as one of two founders of Andreessen Horowitz, a $4 billion venture capital firm formed with Marc Andreessen. With this in mind, before I began to read this great book, I was under the impression it would be heavily focussed on investment. It soon became apparent that it was so much more than that. I was blown away by some incredible stories of highs and lows along with countless pieces of high level advice, any aspiring entrepreneur, manager, executive or CEO would be foolish to ignore.

What is the book all about?

As the title suggests, the focus of this book is on the really hard stuff. It’s the stuff that most self help books don’t really want to talk about as there isn’t always a clear ‘formula’ for dealing with them. Ben doesn’t claim to offer a secret formula either. He does however take you on a journey, using his experience as the driving force to provide some incredible advice that could only be offered up by someone who has seen and lived the things he has.

It would be impossible to cram all the great advice from this book into one single post. Hopefully this covers a handful of great points that stood out for me at the time of reading. Continue reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”