New from Tim Ferriss: Tools of the Titans

One of my favorite podcasts is The Tim Ferriss Show. And a favorite read from 2007 was his The 4-Hour Work Week. A little strange, but packed with a lot of ideas. And I love ideas.

I recommended it to lots of people.

A few weeks ago I ordered his latest book: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

I can already tell you, this is a great read! Like his The 4-Hour Work Week, it’s a little strange, but packed with a lot of ideas. A LOT of ideas.

This one is set up as a kind of motivation and insight collection, sorted into three basic categories. The individual entries were captured from Tim’s nearly 200 interviews with world-class performers over the last few years. His guests have included chess prodigies, movie stars, four-star generals, pro athletes, hedge fund managers, navy seals, sommeliers, entrepreneurs, etc. As he notes in the introduction, “It was a motley crew.”

The three sections of the book, the three basic categories, are Healthy, Wealthy and Wise (based on Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”).

In the introduction he gives a valuable suggestion on how to read it:

  1. Skip Liberally. I want you to skip anything that doesn’t grab you.
  2. Skip, but do so intelligently. Take a brief mental note of anything you skip.

I’ve adopted the practice of marking the “chapters” I’ve read (there is a “chapter” devoted to individual interviews. I’ve also begun reading it one “chapter” at a time. And I’ve realized that I’ve got to have a pen (and maybe my notebook) with me anytime I read a chapter. I’m nowhere near completing it (it’s over 600 pages), but I’ve already learned so much I can tell you it is a great investment!

Whether you read  The 4-Hour Work Week or have listened to any of his podcasts…this is a great read! And I highly recommend it. If you read it with an eye for take-aways, you’ll be glad you picked this one up.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Don’t Miss The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds

I’ve been spending some time this month with The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds. Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group and the best selling author or co-author of seven books, including his latest book, The Culture Engine, and Ken Blanchard’s Leading at a Higher Level.

I picked The Culture Engine up because this summer I plan to do a little bit of a deep dive into transforming corporate cultures and developing healthy corporate cultures.

What I discovered was The Culture Engine is a gold mine!  In addition to a very nice set of tools designed to help organizations drive results, inspire employees and transform workplaces, a very robust look at applying the same tools in an effort to transform yourself is included in chapter two.

As I’ve worked my way through the book, I found it to be an easy and inspiring read. Interwoven with great stories about how various practices have played out in the companies with which Edmonds has consulted. It’s also been a challenging read as I’ve paused at many points to work through an exercise myself (and think through how it would play in some of the churches with which I am consulting.

The most important takeaway for me was Edmonds thinking about the importance of developing an organizational constitution; “a living, breathing document that outlines clear agreements on the team or company’s purposes and the values and behaviors that all team leaders and members believe in and commit to (p. 17).”

The rest of The Culture Engine includes the work that will help you develop an organizational constitution. Clarifying your organization’s purpose, defining values in behavioral terms (where they can be observed), and planning strategies and goals for the coming year are just a few of the very valuable aspects covered and they all play into the development of an organizational constitution.

If you’re involved at all in the development or stewardship of a culture, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace is a must read in my opinion. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Weight of What We Know Kills Innovation

innovation-copy“When it comes to innovation, the same hard-won experience, best practices, and processes that are the cornerstones of an organization’s success may be more like millstones that threaten to sink it. Said another way, the weight of what we know, expecially what we collectively ‘know,’ kills innovation…Why can knowledge and experience be so lethal to innovation? Because when we become expert, we often trade ‘what if’ flights of fancy for the grounded reality of ‘what is.’” Cynthia Barton Rabe

So much good stuff in Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways

Image by Thomas Hawk

New from Michael Port: Book Yourself Solid — Illustrated

book yourself solidNeed to learn how to fill an appointment book?  Michael Port’s new edition of Book Yourself Solid Illustrated might be exactly what you need.

I first came across Michael Port back in 200x when I received a advance copy of the original edition of this book.

I have to say, while I loved the original version and gleaned a great beginning understanding of how to build a professional service business…this new version is so much better!  As I worked through the sections, I remembered quite a bit of the basic concepts I learned several years ago.  Still, I noticed right away that studying this version is a vastly different experience.

Hard to believe, but seeing Book Yourself Solid Illustrated makes quite a difference in terms of readability, comprehension, and just plain enjoyment.  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the illustrations enhance the experience.  After all, there’s been quite a buzz in the last few years about visual thinking/learning.  Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin, Sunni Brown’s GameStorming and others have beaten this drum loud and clear.  Still…flipping through the pages of this new version of Book Yourself Solid was quite striking!

Laid out in a very easy-to-follow way, Book Yourself Solid Illustrated takes you through four key modules.  Developing your foundation, building trust and credibility, understanding pricing and selling, and developing expertise in promotion.  As I worked through the new edition, I was struck by how much I remembered from the first edition.  I was also really aware of how much easier it was to follow along and how much more effectively the illustrated version held my attention.

One of the best aspects of Book Yourself Solid Illustrated is the inclusion of worksheets and exercises that help guide through the process.  I found the genuinely step-by-step approach very helpful as I worked my way through.  And, I have to say, I rediscovered some aspects of the Book Yourself Solid strategy that are more meaningful now than they were several years ago.

This is really a soup-to-nuts package.  Now that I’ve spent a little time reviewing, I can see that I need to slow down and really engage with what’s here.  An ingenious design, I can see it redirecting quite a bit of what I’m currently doing.

If you have a consulting or coaching business, Book Yourself Solid Illustrated ought to be on your radar.  I’m finding it very helpful and I think you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Don’t Miss the Latest from 99u: Manage Your Day-To-Day

manage your day to dayPicked up your copy yet?  I poured through Making Ideas Happen in 2010 and became a real fan of 99u over the last year or so.  When the first announcement hit about Manage Your Day-To-Day, a new resource assembled by Jocelyn Glei (editor-in-chief of 99u), I knew I had to get my hands on it.  So glad I grabbed a copy!

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind is a thought-provoking collection of insights by 20 “leading creative minds.”  Along with many familiar names (Seth Godin, Scott Belsky, Todd Henry, Steven Pressfield and Cal Newport), there are contributions by a striking set of thought leaders that are perhaps less known but with very impressive bodies of work in the fields of productivity, creativity, mindfulness, and time management.

More thought-provoking than how-to, I found myself personally challenged by a number of the essays.  Recognizing my own struggles and challenges, I came away from sections with a renewed commitment to practice unplugging, to be aware of my surroundings, and focus on a few complex projects.  I even came away with an entirely new awareness of my physical posture and breathing patterns and how that might affect my productivity…not to mention life-span!

Although Manage Your Day-To-Day is less how-to than Making Ideas Happen or The Accidental Creative it is still packed with great takeaways that deserve immediate application.  My copy is pretty marked up with notes to digest and figure out how to implement.  Like these other favorites, this one will be re-read many times.

If you’re on the lookout for ways to increase productivity and creativity…Manage Your Day-To-Day needs to be on your stack right now.  More than inspirational, this is a book that has the potential to pull you out of the status quo and change your day-to-day patterns.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great Resource: Do More Great Work

do more great workPicked up a book a couple weeks back that I just know is really going to have a big impact on my work.  I heard about it on the Accidental Creative podcast (an essential part of my toolkit).  So glad I ordered it!

Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork, Start the Work That Matters is by Michael Bungay Stanier, the founder and senior partner of Box of Crayons, a company that works with organizations and teams around the world to help them do less Good Work and more Great Work.

Do More Great Work is a collection of fifteen key tools–conceptual maps–that Stanier uses to help identify “what matters to you, what drives the choices and the actions you take, and how to get onto a path to more creative, motivated and inspired work that’s good for you and good for those you work for.”

Way more than skim and put away collection, this is a pull it out and look at it daily kind of resource.  I love the way Do More Great Work is designed and have already made great use of many of the maps.  I can definitely see that with a little persistance and the right application this book will make a huge difference in my work.

If you’re interested in upping the ante personally (or if you lead a team that needs motivation and inspiration), don’t miss this resource.  Do More Great Work is now an essential part of my toolkit!  I love it and I bet you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

playing to win largeOne of the most important reads I’ve worked through lately is Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin.  If you can base the value of a book by the amount of underlining, starring, and dog-eared pages…this is a very valuable book!

I first discovered Roger Martin a few years ago when I tripped across The Design of Business.  Easily one of my top 5 reads in the area of design-thinking, it included several key questions and concepts that I use almost daily.  Very, very good stuff.  So, when I saw the announcement for the upcoming release of Playing to Win…I had to have it.  And I was not disappointed.  Playing to Win is literally jam-packed with great content and is very transferable to what all of us do!

A.G. Lafley is the former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble and the strategic concepts in Playing to Win in many ways form the playbook that orchestrated one of the most significant business turnarounds of the last century.  When Lafley was elected CEO in 2000 “most of P&G’s businesses were missing their goals, many by a wide margin.”  What happened over the next decade?  I found this quote to be very instructive:

“I was determined to get P&G’s strategy right.  To me, right meant that P&G would focus on achievable ways to win with the consumers who mattered the most and against the very best competition.  It meant leaders would make real strategic choices (identifying what they would do and not do, where they would play and not play, and how specifically they would create competitive advantage to win).”

Think about that in our context!  Winning with the consumers who matter the most.  See where that is going?  Making strategic choices.  Very helpful.

I also found Lafley’s definition of strategy very helpful: a “coordinated and integrated set of where-to-play, how-to-win, core capability, and management system choices that uniquely meet a consumer’s needs, thereby creating competitive advantage and superior value for a business.” (p. 50, Playing to Win)

Playing to Win is a fantastic read.  Packed with insights and transferable concepts, it has vaulted to the top of the list of books that I recommend for strategists.  If your organization needs to rethink and clarify strategy, Playing to Win is an absolute must-read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

Need a creativity injection?  You might want to take a look at inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig.  The Executive Director of Stanford’s Technology Ventures Program, Seelig’s course on Creativity and Innovation is one of the most popular classes in Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design or “d.school.”  With its provocative collection of ideas, inGenius provides a taste of the d.school course for the rest of us.

Packed with tools and techniques along with stories that illustrate their use, this is both a down-to-earth practical and imagination sparking book.  Seelig explores and explains “ways to increase your ability to see opportunities around you, to connect and combine ideas, to challenge assumptions, and to reframe problems.”

InGenius explores a model created by Seelig to explain how a variety of factors fit together to become an innovation engine and enhance creativity (p. 15):

  • Your knowledge provides the fuel for your imagination.
  • Your imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of knowledge into new ideas.
  • Your attitude is a spark that sets the Innovation Engine in motion.
  • Resources are all the assets in your community.
  • Habitats are your local environments, including your home, school, or office.
  • Culture is the collective beliefs, values, and behaviors in your community.

There’s a lot to really like about inGenius.  Several of the chapters are pretty marked up, starred and underlined.  There are several ideas that will get immediate use and absolutely make it into my bag of consulting tricks.  I particularly liked the chapters on paying attention and leveraging constraints.  So many great takeaways make this is a book I’ve already recommended several times.  If you’re in the market for a creativity boost, inGenius ought to be on your radar.

Review: What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

Gary Hamel is one of my favorites authors.  Anytime he comes out with a new book, I want to get into it right away.  His latest, What Matters Now, is no exception.  “Noted business thinker and strategist, he’s been on the faculty of the London Business School for many years and is the founder of the California-based think-tank The Management Lab (from the jacket).”

The subtitle of What Matters Now is a great hint at its contents: “How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation.”   You may be tempted to think this newest book will not apply to your field.  Don’t.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Whether you’re involved in leadership of a non-profit effort, an entrepreneur, a C-level executive or a mid-level manager, What Matters Now will matter to you.  I have no doubt that your copy will be as marked up as mine.

In some ways the next piece in the puzzle to The Future of Management, What Matters Now serves as a guide through five of the key underlying issues for many organizations.  Values, innovation, adaptability, passion, and ideology are all right at the heart of what leaders are struggling with in almost every organization.  Like me, you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement in some sections and shaking your head in others, but that’s one of the very best things about Hamel’s writing.  Packed with eye-opening insights and memorable quotes, this is a book that will inform lots of conversations that lead to new trajectories.

Every one of Hamel’s books (The Future of Management, Competing for the Future (with C.K. Prahalad), Leading the Revolution, and Strategic Intent) have been both thought-provoking and insight-generating to me.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to certain concepts and quotes sprinkled liberally through his books.  What Matters Now is no exception.

If you read MarkHowellLive.com, hear me speak, or arrange a coaching call, you”re very likely to come across some of Hamel’s unmistakeable thinking.  I loved What Matters Now and I bet you will too.