At the end of 2010, I posted a list of the stuff I had been reading (or mostly listening to as audio books) in that year. People seemed to appreciate that kind of content, so I thought I’d share what I’ve read since.
As Black Friday is upon us and another merry season coming up, you might find some excuses on the list to stock up on brain food for yourself or gifts for family, friends and colleagues.
This is the list of the books I read in 2011 and 2012 thus far. I can recommend all, except where otherwise noted…
What did you read lately that you find worth sharing? What do you think I should read next? Did you read any of these books? What was your take?
Do More Faster
Brad Feld, David Cohen
As you know, I’m a big fan of TechStars and here’s a great opportunity to learn from the startup entrepreneurs and mentors in their program by a collection of lessons learned and anekdotes to help you do more faster.
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist
Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, you need to read this book. It explains everything in detail that you ever wanted to know but were to embarrassed or inexperienced to ask. Read it. It will make you smarter and it may save you a lot of headaches and maybe even the control of your company.
Robert D. Putnam
I’m a big fan of Putnam’s work. As lore will have it, he was the motivation behind Scott Heiferman founding meetup.com and it sure was a book I immediately read when in the process of founding Gauss- The People Magnet.
Basically it talks about the decay of social capital, more to the point, social bridging capital. What the book fails to take into account is the effects of the Internet (but he published a book later to rectify it, as you’ll see below).
Robert D. Putnam, Lewis D. Feldstein
Bowling Alone, the update. Putnam somewhat addresses the advent of the Internet and it’s positive effects on social capital.
Here’s another albeit unrelated talk by Putnam:
Your Marketing Sucks
A short and concise how-to manual for effective marketing in the digital and networked world based on anecdotal stories and from personal experiences with what works.
Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hyped, yet containing nuggets of productivity gold.
Stanford BIO 250: Human Behavioral Biology (2010)
I love professor Sapolsky! If I’d only had professors like him, there’s a pretty darn good chance I’d stayed in university. Nature, nurture? You owe it to yourself and humanity to know the latest status of the science of human behavioral biology (aka what makes you YOU) instead of guessing, opining and believing. It’s enlightening and a joy to follow along when you have Sapolsky to run you through it. You’ll love it.
Here’s the first lecture. Now watch them all.
Nicholas Christakis, James Fowler
An author and a topic near and dear to my heart, to our startup. About social connections and their (positive) effects.
“Because I think social networks are fundamentally linked to goodness. And what I think the world needs now, is more connections.” – Nicholas Christakis, author of “Connected” on TED 2010
The Bed of Procrustes
Nicholas N. Taleb
A collection of “Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms” by one of my favorite voices of reason, Taleb. Not a must, but good lighthearted fun – with depth.
Here’s Taleb ripping Bernanke:
And a lecture at Princeton as a bonus:
The Big Moo
Say what you will about Godin, he’s an awesome storyteller and epic packager of great ideas. This one is an essay on the virtues of being remarkable, not safe or average.
Here’s Godin doing what he does best:
Orbiting the Gian Hairball
“A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace” – I recommend this one to my corporate friends to stay sane and creative. I love the playfulness of the format and the hilarious illustrations.
Creativity is crucial to business success. But too often, even the most innovative organization quickly becomes a “giant hairball”–a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past–that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity. Gordon McKenzie worked at Hallmark Cards for thirty years, many of which he spent inspiring his colleagues to slip the bonds of Corporate Normalcy and rise to orbit–to a mode of dreaming, daring and doing above and beyond the rubber-stamp confines of the administrative mind-set. In his deeply funny book, exuberantly illustrated in full color, he shares the story of his own professional evolution, together with lessons on awakening and fostering creative genius.
The Blank Slate
Nature, nurture? How much of what you think you know is belief and how much can you back up with actual science? Again a book you owe it to yourself and humanity to read in my opinion. Although some chapters at the end sounds opining and personal anecdotes and agendas talking instead of science, the rest more than makes up for it.
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature is a best-selling 2002 book by Steven Pinker arguing against tabula rasa models of the social sciences. Pinker argues that human behavior is substantially shaped by evolutionary psychological adaptations. The book was nominated for the 2003 Aventis Prizes and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Daniel H. Pink
The surprising truth about what motivates us. That pretty much sums this one up. A good light read.
Here Comes Everybody
It’s no secret that I’m a Shirky fanboi. To me, it’s very rare that someone can consistently arrange arguments after arguments connecting the dots and make perfect sense. Shirky is one of those few people. To me, he’s in some ways feel like the spirit of Marshall McLuhan – but with an extremely down to earth commonsensical presentation.
Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that’s cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners—Belarus’s flash mobs, for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like Wikitorial, the Los Angeles Times’s attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The sum of Shirky’s incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts.
The Cognitive Surplus
More awesomeness from Shirky on “How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators”.
In his bestselling Here Comes Everybody, Internet guru Clay Shirky provided readers with a much-needed primer for the digital age. Now, with Cognitive Surplus, he reveals how new digital technology is unleashing a torrent of creative production that will transform our world. For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia to life-saving Web sites like Ushahidi.com, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. Cognitive Surplus explores what’s possible when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.
And watch his complete Watershed talk too.
The Innovator’s Dilemma
Clayton M. Christensen
The classic on how to innovate from inside a corporation. But avoid it. Read his follow-up “The Innovator’s Solution” to save the time and money instead.
The Innovator’s Solution
Clayton M. Christensen
If you’re an “intrapreneur” trying to innovate from the inside of a company or an enterprise, this is the bible for you.
In his international bestseller The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen exposed this crushing paradox behind the failure of many industry leaders: by placing too much focus on pleasing their most profitable customers, these firms actually paved the way for their own demise by ignoring the disruptive technologies that aggressively evolved to displace them. In The Innovator’s Solution, Christensen and coauthor Michael E. Raynor help all companies understand how to become disruptors themselves.
Norm Brodsky, Bo Burlingham
Anecdotes and lessons learned as an entrepreneur. Entertaining, albeit perhaps a bit heavy on the anecdotal side. I found one of the best nuggets to be “accountants are historians” – you should absolutely not take their advice about the future.
The Invisible Gorilla
Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons
On our limited cognitive abilities as humans. On cognitive biases and limitations that we should all know about and understand. Especially for ourselves when making decisions. Is it head or gut talking? Are we making an irrational or rational decision based on real facts or are we fooled by our biases?
Spoiler: I did see the gorilla back then when the video was first published. Meh.
The Lean Startup
Yes, the book is hyped to the max and rich on useless personal anecdotes, but still the definitive primer for you as an entrepreneur on how to get lean and the rosetta stone for sharing and communicating the lean approach with your startup team. Read it. Several times. Give it to your team. Everybody should read and understand it.
Also check out Ries’ blog http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/ for a continus stream of new lessons learned.
I’m fascinated by game theory and non-zero-sum games. I originally saw a TED talk by Wright that made me interested in his thinking.
After reading the book, I found it a bit too lacking in science and too high on beliefs (religion). Still, it’s an interesting read, albeit in most parts not making a convincing argument IMO.
Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
After reading this book I finally knew how to label my political persuasion: “Paternalistic Libertarian”. You need to read this book. You’ll get to appreciate and understand the power and the necessity of “nudges”, the power of “defaults”.
Every day we make decisions: about the things that we buy or the meals we eat; about the investments we make or our children’s health and education; even the causes that we champion or the planet itself. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. We are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions that make us poorer, less healthy and less happy. And, as Thaler and Sunstein show, no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way. By knowing how people think, we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society. Using dozens of eye-opening examples the authors demonstrate how to nudge us in the right directions, without restricting our freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new way of looking at the world for individuals and governments alike. This is one of the most engaging, provocative and important books you will ever read.
Poke The Box
Poke the Box is a manifesto by bestselling author Seth Godin that just might make you uncomfortable. It’s a call to action about the initiative you’re taking-–in your job or in your life. Godin knows that one of our scarcest resources is the spark of initiative in most organizations (and most careers)-–the person with the guts to say, “I want to start stuff.”
Yes. Obviously. In my book, the greatest entrepreneur and product person in our time together with Dean Kamen.
The most endearing traits of Jobs to me being the love and care for artists – the creators – and for great quality products and demanding epic greatness of everybody, not settling for mediocrity. If you come off as an asshole in the process, who am I to blame.
The thing I don’t get about Jobs is the lack of philanthropy. He did end up as probably “the richest man in the graveyard”. Maybe he simply didn’t have the time and wanted to keep focused. To each his own.
Stumbling on Happiness
This is a true nugget with nuggets of insight like:
“When your brain is at liberty to interpret a stimulus in more than one way, it tends to interpret it the way it wants to. Which is to say that your preferences influence your interpretations of stimuli in just the same way that context, frequency and recency do.” “studies […] suggest that people are quite adept at finding positive ways to view things – once those things become their own”
“The brain wants to control the experiences we’re about to have.”
“People find it gratifying to exercise control, not just for the futures that bides them – but for the exercise itself!”
“The feeling of being the captain, steering your boat, is more important than the port of call for mental happiness […] because the future is fundamentally different than it appears through [our own perspective].”
“The process that we discover these facts [cooking the facts to support our own views] must feel like a discovery process and not a snow job.”
“For positive views to be credible, they must be based on facts that we believe we have come upon honestly, we accomplish this by unconsciously cooking the facts, and then consciously consuming them.”
“Unexplained events seem rare, and rare events seem to have a natural higher emotional impact than common events do. […] The second reason why unexplained events have a disproportionate emotional impact is that we are especially likely to keep thinking about them. People spontaneously try to explain events, and studies show that when people don’t complete the things they set out to do they are especially inclined to think about and remember their unfinished business. Once we can explain an event, we can fold it up like freshly washed laundry, put it away in memory’s drawer and move on to the next one. But if an event defies explanation, it becomes a mystery or a conundrum. And if there is anything we know about mysterious conundrums, it’s that they generally refuse to stay in the back of our minds.” […] “Explanation robs events of their emotional impact because it makes them seem likely. It allows us to stop thinking about them. Oddly enough, an explanation doesn’t have to really explain anything to have these effects. It merely have to seem as though it does. […] Even a fake explanation can cause us to tuck an event away and move along to the next one. Uncertainty can preserve and prolong our happiness, thus we might expect people to cherish it. In fact, the opposite is generally the case. [People chose clarity and certainty even if it indeed has been shown to diminish happiness]. Our relentless desire to explain everything that happens may well distinguish us from fruit flies, but it can also kill our buzz.”
“The eye and the brain are conspirators and like most conspiracies, their’s is negotiated behind closed doors in the back room outside of our awareness. Because we don’t realize that we have generated a positive view of our current experience, we don’t realize we’ll do so again in the future. Not only does our naiveté cause us to overestimate the intensity and duration of our distress in the face of future adversity, but it also leads us to take actions that may undermine the conspiracy. We’re more likely to generate a positive and credible view of an action than an inaction, of a painful experience than of an annoying experience, of a pleasant experience that we can’t escape than one we can. And yet – we rarely chose action over inaction, pain over annoyance and commitment over freedom. The processes by which we generate positive views are many; We pay more attention to favorable information, we surround ourselves with those who provide it and we accept it uncritically. These tendencies make it easy for us to explain unpleasant experiences in ways that exonerates us and makes us feel better. The price we pay for our irrepressible explanatory urge is that we often spoil our most pleasant experiences by making good sense of them. “
Talk Less, Say More
I’m going to go out on a limb here and advice you to avoid this one. Procede with caution. I’d rather read or re-read Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people” instead. There’s nothing new to be had here except a lot of anecdotal bloating and gloating. And it’s an annoying listening experience to boot in my opinion.
I’m a big, big fan of Ariely. There’s several topics in this one that I’m incredibly interested in, like what happens when you mix social capital with financial capital.
Irrational behavior is a part of human nature, but as MIT professor Ariely has discovered in 20 years of researching behavioral economics, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money. According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy. Ariely’s intelligent, exuberant style and thought-provoking arguments make for a fascinating, eye-opening read.
The Upside of Irrationality
More awesomeness from Ariely.
Ariely (Predictably Irrational) expands his research on behavioral economics to offer a more positive and personal take on human irrationality’s implications for life, business, and public policy. After a youthful accident left him badly scarred and facing grueling physical therapy, Ariely’s treatment required him to accept temporary pain for long-term benefit—a trade-off so antithetical to normal human behavior that it sparked the author’s fascination with why we consistently fail to act in our own best interest. The author, professor of behavioral economics at Duke, leads us through experiments that reveals such idiosyncrasies as the IKEA effect (if you build something, pride and sentimental attachment are likely to give you an inflated sense of its quality) and the Baby Jessica effect (why we respond to one person’s suffering but not to the suffering of many). He concludes with prescriptions for how to make real personal and societal changes, and what behavioral patterns we must identify to improve how we love, live, work, innovate, manage, and govern. Self-deprecating humor, an enthusiasm for human eccentricities, and an affable and snappy style make this read an enriching and eye-opening pleasure.
Watch him talk you through all of the chapters of his book:
The Wealth of Nations
Another one of my experiments in learning by osmosis. A lot of details about a lot of things that are not relevant anymore. Some evergreen nuggets in between, but let’s face it, you’re only going to read this either when forced to or for the dubious bragging rights. “It’s onepence for the economy of the pre-industrial time, twopence for the division of labour, ninepence to free markets, so go cat, go…”
It is symbolic that Adam Smith’s masterpiece of economic analysis, The Wealth of Nations, was first published in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence.
In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations provided the first–and still the most eloquent–integrated description of the workings of a market economy.
The result of Smith’s efforts is a witty, highly readable work of genius filled with prescient theories that form the basis of a thriving capitalist system. This unabridged edition offers the modern reader a fresh look at a timeless and seminal work that revolutionized the way governments and individuals view the creation and dispersion of wealth–and that continues to influence our economy right up to the present day.
A Whole New Mind
Daniel H. Pink
About the left and the right side of the brain and the market place of the future (or the current) and which skills and properties that will be in demand and how you can teach yourself and practice to use more of one, suppressing the other.
The Purple Cow
Godin on the need to be remarkable. Again.
You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Apple, Starbucks, Dyson and Pret a Manger have in common? How do they achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and-true brands to gasp their last? The old checklist of P’s used by marketers – Pricing, Promotion, Publicity – aren’t working anymore. The golden age of advertising is over. It’s time to add a new P – the Purple Cow. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat-out unbelievable. In his new bestseller, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for anyone who wants to help create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place.
The Selfish Gene (2011 update)
Disclosure: It’s no secret that I’m a member of the
Dawson’s Fanboi Tree Hut Club Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
This is a book that you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to read. If you already read older versions, you should read the new updated version that include all scientific results and advances since the original was published. It’s a significant amount of changes. Spoiler alert: The conclusions looks more solid than ever.
The Blue Zones
On the search for longevity. After hearing this book mentioned in all sorts of places, I decided to read it. After reading it, I found it close to void of scientific merit. I was expecting something adhering to scientific standards, but was left with observational and anecdotal observations. IMO you can file this one under science as in “social sciences”. Why is there no single mention of the involvement of genes, double blind tests and sampling pools in the whole book? It instead focuses exclusively on behaviors, diets and environment – things more or less excluded as the most determining and conclusive factors for longevity. It left me with a bad aftertaste. That said, it’s well written and entertaining.
Ghost in the Wires
Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon
I grew up with BBS‘ (yes, there was a connected world even before the commercial Internet, before Geocities, before MySpace, before Twitter, Before Facebook), 2600, Phrak and the great witch hunt for Kevin Mitnick. To me, having lived through and having engaged on the surface of the controversy as it was unfolding, it was quite rewarding to finally hear the story as told by Kevin himself.
However, in some ways it was disappointing to find that Kevin was being straight forward stupid at times and not exactly the valiant super-intelligent hacker-god most of us were making him out to be at the time. On the other hand, that’s probably also more indicative of our naive fanboy cult worshipping views at the time. After all, Kevin Mitnick is also human.
Bonus: The Woz & The Mitnick
The Happiness Advantage
Most people want to be successful in life. And of course, everyone wants to be happy. When it comes to the pursuit of success and happiness, most people assume the same formula: if you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. The only problem is that a decade of cutting-edge research in the field of positive psychology has proven that this formula is backwards. Success does not beget happiness. Based on the largest study ever conducted on happiness and human potential (a survey conducted by the author of more than 1,600 students), Harvard lecturer Shawn Achor shares seven core principles of positive psychology that each one of us can use to improve our performance, grow our careers, and gain a competitive edge at work. He reveals how happiness actually fuels success and performance, not the other way around. Why? Because when we are happier and more positive we are more engaged, creative, resilient to stress, and productive. “The Happiness Advantage” will appeal to anyone who wants practical advice on how to become happier and also more successful.
Start with Why
I’m a big fan of Sinek and this has helped me thinking about my startup and its mission and vision. Steve Alexander of nowtalking.nl has also been helping us out over at Gauss working on thinking more about and better communicate the “why”.
“A powerful and penetrating exploration of what separates great companies and great leaders from the rest.”
-Polly LaBarre, coauthor of Mavericks at Work
Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?
In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.
Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.
The Power of Habit
If you’re into making stuff happen and changing yourself, this book is more helpful than self-help books and psycho-cybernetics mumbo jumbo. Still, not by any means a definite guide, it sure does make you more conscious of what you do, why you do it and how to change it.
A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.
Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.
An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.
What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.
They succeeded by transforming habits.
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
“How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live”. Insightful, to the point, very open and personal, and a joy to read.
A visionary and optimistic thinker examines the tension between privacy and publicness that is transforming how we form communities, create identities, do business, and live our lives.
Thanks to the internet, we now live—more and more—in public. More than 750 million people (and half of all Americans) use Facebook, where we share a billion times a day. The collective voice of Twitter echoes instantly 100 million times daily, from Tahrir Square to the Mall of America, on subjects that range from democratic reform to unfolding natural disasters to celebrity gossip. New tools let us share our photos, videos, purchases, knowledge, friendships, locations, and lives.
Yet change brings fear, and many people—nostalgic for a more homogeneous mass culture and provoked by well-meaning advocates for privacy—despair that the internet and how we share there is making us dumber, crasser, distracted, and vulnerable to threats of all kinds. But not Jeff Jarvis.
In this shibboleth-destroying book, Public Parts argues persuasively and personally that the internet and our new sense of publicness are, in fact, doing the opposite. Jarvis travels back in time to show the amazing parallels of fear and resistance that met the advent of other innovations such as the camera and the printing press. The internet, he argues, will change business, society, and life as profoundly as Gutenberg’s invention, shifting power from old institutions to us all.
Based on extensive interviews, Public Parts introduces us to the men and women building a new industry based on sharing. Some of them have become household names—Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and Twitter’s Evan Williams. Others may soon be recognized as the industrialists, philosophers, and designers of our future.
Jarvis explores the promising ways in which the internet and publicness allow us to collaborate, think, ways—how we manufacture and market, buy and sell, organize and govern, teach and learn. He also examines the necessity as well as the limits of privacy in an effort to understand and thus protect it.
This new and open era has already profoundly disrupted economies, industries, laws, ethics, childhood, and many other facets of our daily lives. But the change has just begun. The shape of the future is not assured. The amazing new tools of publicness can be used to good ends and bad. The choices—and the responsibilities—lie with us. Jarvis makes an urgent case that the future of the internet—what one technologist calls “the eighth continent”—requires as much protection as the physical space we share, the air we breathe, and the rights we afford one another. It is a space of the public, for the public, and by the public. It needs protection and respect from all of us. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in the wake of the uprisings in the Middle East, “If people around the world are going to come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.” Jeff Jarvis has that vision and will be that guide.
The Science of Fear
Less just about fear, more a great addition on cognitive biases and how limited our perception is.
We are the safest humans who ever lived – the statistics prove it. And yet the media tells a different story with its warnings and scare stories. How is it possible that anxiety has become the stuff of daily life? In this ground-breaking, compulsively readable book, Dan Gardner shows how our flawed strategies for perceiving risk influence our lives, often with unforeseen and sometimes – tragic consequences. He throws light on our paranoia about everything from pedophiles to terrorism and reveals how the most significant threats are actually the mundane risks to which we pay little attention. Speaking to psychologists and scientists, as well as looking at the influence of the media and politicians, Gardner uncovers one of the central puzzles of our time: why are the safest people in history living in a culture of fear?
Thinking, Fast and Slow
This is probably the most interesting and insightful book I have read in ages. If you’re only getting one book on this list, this is the one. The only psychologist ever winning the Nobel Prize in economics. An eye-opener. You must read it.
There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, distils a lifetime of research into an encyclopedic coverage of both the surprising miracles and the equally surprising mistakes of our conscious and unconscious thinking. He achieves an even greater miracle by weaving his insights into an engaging narrative that is compulsively readable from beginning to end. My main problem in doing this review was preventing family members and friends from stealing my copy of the book to read it for themselves…this is one of the greatest and most engaging collections of insights into the human mind I have read.
The Willpower Instinct
On “How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It”. Help change your habits and raise your awareness about what causes habits and how to form them. Also interesting from a marketing, product and process design perspective.
The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity.
After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the scientific community already knew about self-control, McGonigal created a course called “The Science of Willpower” for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. The course was an instant hit and spawned the hugely successful Psychology Today blog with the same name.
Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, McGonigal’s book explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. Readers will learn:
Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are healthier, happier, have more satisfying relationships, and make more money.
Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health.
Temptation and stress hijack the brain’s systems of self-control, and that the brain can be trained for greater willpower.
In the groundbreaking tradition of Getting Things Done, The Willpower Instinct combines life-changing prescriptive advice and complementary exercises to help readers with goals ranging from a healthier life to more patient parenting, from greater productivity at work to finally finishing the basement.
Wired to Care
On “How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy”. Also see “Start with the why” above.
In this essential and illuminating book, top business strategist Dev Patnaik tells the story of how organizations of all kinds prosper when they tap into a power each of us already has: empathy, the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people. When people inside a company develop a shared sense of what’s going on in the world, they see new opportunities faster than their competitors. They have the courage to take a risk on something new. And they have the gut-level certitude to stick with an idea that doesn’t take off right away. People are “Wired to Care,” and many of the world’s best organizations are, too. In pursuit of this idea, Patnaik takes readers inside big companies like IBM, Target, and Intel to see widespread empathy in action. But he also goes to farmers’ markets and a conference on world religions. He dives deep into the catacombs of the human brain to find the biological sources of empathy. And he spends time on both sides of the political aisle, with James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun, and John McCain, a national hero, to show how empathy can give you the acuity to cut through a morass of contradictory information. Wired to Care is a compelling tale of the power that people have to see the world through each other’s eyes, told with passion for the possibilities that lie ahead if leaders learn to stop worrying about their own problems and start caring about the world around them. As Patnaik notes, in addition to its considerable economic benefits, increasing empathy for the people you serve can have a personal impact, as well: It just might help you to have a better day at work.
The Drunkard’s Walk
“How Randomness Rules Our Lives”. On my favorite topics: Randomness versus the human (mis)perception of order and reason, our cognitive biases at play. After reading it, you might find yourself wanting to slap certain people when presenting you with obviously biased statements. Including yourself. It’s an eye-opener.
With the born storyteller’s command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe.
By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow’s intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.
Steve Blank‘s Lean Launchpad course on Udacity
If you’re a startup entrepreneur like me, you need to take this one to help mitigate the inherent risks of failure. This is all about what we know to date about avoiding terminal failure compiled into a very practical methodology.