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This year's highlights of the popular blog
Author and business advisor Kevin Duncan reads business books extensively and summarises them so you don't have to.

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  1. 1. 17 FROM 17 THE BEST BOOKS OF 2017
  2. 2. WHAT IS ?  A library of over 300 books  A blog  A series of printed books  One-page summaries  One-sentence summaries  Training programmes  Motivational speeches  A fertile source of new ideas
  3. 3. Tim Harford Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy The world economy is a weird and wonderful thing, interconnected in billions of ways, understood by no single individual, and with no one in charge.
  4. 4. Tim Harford Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy • The world economy defies comprehension. A constantly changing system of immense complexity, it offers over ten billion distinct products, doubles in size every fifteen years, and links 7 billion people. Nobody is in charge of it, and no individual understands more than a fraction of what’s going on. • This book is effectively 50 short sections. 4 examples… • The plough: because it enabled people to stay in one place for the first time. • The gramophone: along with all subsequent recording formats, it enables artists to be experienced without going to a concert in person. • Barbed wire: enabled the ownership of land to be designated and enforced, particularly with regard to livestock. • Seller feedback: has allowed many online services to circumnavigate concerns about trust.
  5. 5. FISH CAN’T SEE WATER Hammerich & Lewis Diversity of thinking and respect for other peoples’ perspectives are critical virtues for the leadership of global corporations.
  6. 6. FISH CAN’T SEE WATER Hammerich & Lewis • National culture can make or break your corporate strategy. • Management and the board are often blind to their own culture – fish can’t see water. They may not spot derailing cultural dynamics in time to understand underperformance or even financial disaster. • How these traits affect performance often depends on what stage the corporation has reached: traits good at launch could be poor ones later. • Culture is the social programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one category of people from another. • The purpose of culture is to help the group survive and succeed. Culture is behaviour and behaviour is culture. Strategy and culture are intrinsically linked. • National culture is at the core of virtually every organization, and this will affect its ability to execute strategy at each stage of the cycle.
  7. 7. HOW TO HAVE A GOOD DAY Caroline Webb It is possible to have fulfilling and productive days when you understand the psychology and neuroscience behind how people behave.
  8. 8. Caroline Webb HOW TO HAVE A GOOD DAY • This book outlines the science essentials that explain how people behave, looks at priorities and productivity, relationships and thinking, along with resilience and energy. • Set intentional direction for your day: choose filters for aim, attitudes, assumptions and attention, set better goals. • Make the hours in the day go further: multitasking doesn’t work – use singletasking instead; batch your tasks, zone your day, remove distractions, plan deliberate downtime, make decisions at peaks, not troughs, allow reflection time; automate the small stuff, or turn it into a simple routine. • Make the most of every interaction: build real rapport, resolve tensions and bring the best out of others; don’t demean others by assuming that they “don’t get it” – you may be missing something; ask quality questions and listen properly; ditch your device and pay attention. • Be your smartest, wisest, most creative self: switch views and look for analogies; beware the Einstellung Effect, where having an existing solution in mind makes it harder for us to see a radically different but better way to solve the problem.
  9. 9. HUNCH Bernadette Jiwa Smart hunches come from being curious, seeing other points of view, and applying experience to solve problems.
  10. 10. HUNCH Bernadette Jiwa • Most people can turn everyday insights into the next big thing by making intuitive connections that other people overlook. • You know more than you think – start with what you know. • Our insights are only as good as our questions – ask a lot. • The myth of the Innovation Epiphany – it’s usually a slow hunch. • Ideas are overrated – simply having them isn’t enough. They need to be improved and evaluated. • It takes practice – you have to keep working at it. • What we see is not all there is – there is always more to it. • Groundbreaking ideas start with a problem. The birth of a hunch involves: • Embracing curiosity (interest + attention) • Tapping into empathy (worldview + understanding) • Firing the imagination (context + experience) There are three types of curiosity: • Diversive: a hunger for novelty. • Empathetic: the drive to understand others and see their view. • Epistemic: a deeper quest for understanding and exploration.
  11. 11. GRIT Angela Duckworth People with grit start with interest, practice hard, ally it to a common purpose, and retain hope at all times
  12. 12. GRIT Angela Duckworth Patience and resilience are the secrets of success. Grit is what goes through your head when you fall, down, and it’s what makes all the difference – not talent or luck. The components: 1. Interest: you have to find something you actually like, or think you might. 2. Practice: those with grit indulge in deliberate practice – they set themselves specific goals and focus on the nasty stuff they find difficult. That means a clearly defined stretch goal, full concentration and effort, immediate and informative feedback, and repetition with reflection and refinement. 3. Purpose: the intention to contribute to the wellbeing of others. Reflect on how the work you are already doing can make a positive contribution to society. 4. Hope: learned industriousness is shown by people who deliberately train on more difficult tasks. Learned optimism assumes that something can indeed be achieved. Learned helplessness makes people not bother and/or give up too easily. Showing up is more important than innate talent.
  13. 13. PRE-SUASION Robert Cialdini Pre-suasion is guiding preliminary attention strategically to move recipients into agreement with a message before they experience it.
  14. 14. PRE-SUASION Robert Cialdini • It isn’t just what we say or how we say it that counts, but also what goes on in the moments before we speak. • In the world of ‘pre-suasion’, subtle turns of phrase, seemingly insignificant visual clues, and apparently unimportant details of location can prime people to say yes before they are asked. • Who we are with respect to any choice is where our attention is in the moment before the choice. • The frontloading of attention is influenced by privileged moments (identifiable points in time when an individual is particularly receptive), channelled attention, and attentional focus that leads to perceptions of causality. Preparatory steps to selling can take multiple forms, sometimes called frames, anchors or primes - openers. • Attractors are natural commanders of attention: sexual, threatening or different cues. • Magnetizers keep attention there once gained: self-relevant, unfinished and mysterious information for example. • The primacy of associations is important: I link therefore I am.
  15. 15. REORG Heidari-Robinson & Heywood A reorg is like any other business problem, so you need to understand the benefits, risks, time and effort before proceeding.
  16. 16. REORG Heidari-Robinson & Heywood • Reorg(anisation)s can be a good way to unlock latent value in companies, but everyone hates them. They create anxiety and fear and distract employees from their day-to-day jobs. 1. Construct the reorg’s profit and loss Often the benefits are ill defined, with no consideration of resources required and no agreed timeline. You need to explicitly define the value (or don’t do a reorg). 2. Understand current strengths and weaknesses Often people only concentrate on weaknesses, and only listen to leaders and hearsay. Proper analysis gives a fuller picture. 3. Choose from multiple options Often companies skip the first two steps, impose one generic solution, and focus on org charts (avoiding difficult leaders). 4. Get the plumbing and wiring right Long, evolutionary planning doesn’t work, nor does leaving leaders in old positions to resist change, or trying to change everything. Better to plan in parallel. 5. Launch, learn, and course correct It’s no good only measuring inputs, letting issues fester, or going back to business as usual. Better to measure outputs.
  17. 17. Gary Klein SEEING WHAT OTHERS DON’T Clear insights can transform how we view things, and we need to ditch our flawed beliefs to achieve them.
  18. 18. Gary Klein SEEING WHAT OTHERS DON’T • This is all about the remarkable ways in which we gain insights. • Performance improvements are all about reducing errors and uncertainty, increasing the chance and frequency of insights. • The old model of how we gain insights is: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification, but the author examined 120 cases and found that this doesn’t always apply. • Aha moments don’t necessarily occur either: “Aha is to insights as orgasms are to conception. In both cases the experience is more noticeable than the achievement, but the experience doesn’t guarantee the achievement, and the achievement can happen without the experience.” 5 strategies for gaining insights: Connections – spotting an implication. Coincidences – is this an accident, or is there something deeper? Curiosities – what’s going on here? Contradictions – finding an inconsistency. Creative desperation – escaping an impasse. • In the cases studied, the author found connection insights in 82% of them, contradictions in 38%, coincidences in 10%, curiosities in 7%, and creative desperation in 25%.
  19. 19. Thomas Friedman THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE As everything accelerates, it pays to pause and reflect on what is happening.
  20. 20. Thomas Friedman THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE • To understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces are all accelerating at once. These are: • Moore’s Law (technology – computing power doubles every two years) • The Market (globalisation – the world is now one market, not many) • Mother nature (climate change and biodiversity loss) • The book is also an argument for being late – for pausing to appreciate this epoch and reflect on its possibilities and dangers. The title refers to waiting for someone to turn up to a meeting. Instead of getting cross with them, we should thank them for giving us unexpected thinking time. • Technologists believe they have made waiting obsolete. Who needs patience any more? But on the other hand: • “Knowledge is only good if you can reflect on it.” Leon Wieseltier
  21. 21. THINK SIMPLE Ken Segall Smart leaders can defeat complexity by defining a simple mission, rallying everyone around it, and streamlining everything.
  22. 22. THINK SIMPLE Ken Segall • Smart leaders can defeat complexity in a variety of ways, but simplicity isn’t simple. • Commitment is the key – bringing simplicity to a company is not a part- time thing. Only the determined need apply. • Have a mission – a very simple one that simplifies what everyone does. • Observe – the role of the simplifier is to take a cold hard look at (a) the company’s organisation, (b) its processes, and (c) the customer experience. • Pick your team – simplicity is a team sport. You can’t do it on your own. • Involve – make the workforce become part of the transformation. The simpler it is, the more people like it. • Be the customer – is the journey consistent, would the experience make you an evangelist, is the marketing focused, does the website achieve flow? • Clarify and aim high – people enjoy being part of a higher purpose. • Streamline everything: marketing, the org chart, and the approval process. Most companies have become too flabby. • Think like a start-up. Leading for outcomes is most effective.
  23. 23. THE BRAND FLIP Marty Neumeier Customers now run companies, so you need to flip your brand their new orientation.
  24. 24. THE BRAND FLIP Marty Neumeier Customers now run companies. They are no longer consumers – they are people with hopes, dreams, needs and emotions, focused on meaning. They don’t buy brands – they join them to build their identities. This is your tribe. 18 brand flips you should consider: 1. Products > meaning 2. Tangible > immaterial 3. Selling > enrolling 4. Company identity > customer identity 5. Better products > better customers 6. Customer segments > customer tribes 7. Transactions > relationships 8. Authority > authenticity 9. Competing > differentiating 10. Processes > values 11. Features > experiences 12. Punishment > protection 13. Deciding > designing 14. Plans > experiments 15. Overchoice > simplicity 16. Static brands > liquid brands 17. Storytelling > storyframing 18. Purchase funnel > brand ladder
  25. 25. THE EFFORTLESS EXPERIENCE Dixon, Toman & Delisi The idea that delighting customers increases loyalty is wrong – it’s all to do with delivering on basic problems and minimizing customer effort.
  26. 26. THE EFFORTLESS EXPERIENCE Dixon, Toman & Delisi • Everyone knows that the best way to create customer loyalty is with service so good that it surprises and delights. But everyone is wrong. • All the data in the book comes from a massive survey of nearly 100,000 customers. The main findings are: 1. A strategy of delight doesn’t pay 2. Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty 3. Customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty 4. The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort • Customers view only 20% of the companies they deal with as unique. • 96% of customers who had high effort experiences were disloyal, but only 9% with low effort ones. So the role of customer service is to reduce customer effort. • Bad word of mouth has additional power. 45% of people with something positive to say about a company tell 3 people. 48% with negative things to say told 10 other people.
  27. 27. Robert Sutton THE ASSHOLE SURVIVAL GUIDE Bad behaviour is on the rise, but there are some ingenious approaches you can use to cope with it.
  28. 28. Robert Sutton THE ASSHOLE SURVIVAL GUIDE • The TCA is the Total Cost of Assholes – behaviour like this is proven to reduce the individual and company performance. • Coping with this is craft not science. Some questions: 1. Do you feel like the alleged asshole is treating you as dirt? 2. How long will the ugliness persist? 3. Are you dealing with a temporary or certified asshole? 4. Is it an individual or a systemic disease? 5. How much more power do you have over the asshole? 6. How much are you really suffering? • Coping techniques include: Sit as far away from assholes as possible – 10 feet helps. Try not to interact with them – leave meetings early, avoid confrontation or engaging with them. Wear an invisibility cloak – stay below the radar and just get on with your work, putting in MVE – Minimum Viable Effort. Find bully blockers – bosses who can protect you from assholes. Go backstage – designate areas to get temporary relief. In 2007 the author wrote The No Asshole Rule. This book draws on the experiences in 8,000 emails he has subsequently received, and contains best advice on how to deal with assholes in all walks of life. Bad behaviour has been on the increase, with incidents of abusive supervision, rudeness, bullying, road rage, air rage and phone rage growing.
  29. 29. Mark Manson THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK You can lead a more contented and grounded life by deciding what to give a f*ck about, and what not.
  30. 30. Mark Manson THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK • We should get to know our limitations and accept them - once we embrace our fears, faults and uncertainties we can begin to find courage and confidence. • Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable about being different. • To not give a f*ck about adversity, you have to care about something more important than adversity. • Whether you realise it or not, you can always choose what to give a f*ck about. Say no and stay true to yourself. • It’s counterintuitive, but wanting positive experience is a negative experience; and accepting negative one is positive. • The feedback loop from hell involves getting anxious about confronting something, then you start worrying about why you’re so anxious, then become anxious about being anxious. • Many fail to achieve fulfilment because they either deny that the problems exist in the first place, or have a victim mentality, choosing to believe that there is nothing they can do. • Happiness comes from solving problems. Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it. Who you are is defined by what you want to struggle for.
  31. 31. UNSUBSCRIBE Jocelyn K Glei Most people can reduce anxiety and get more real work done by being disciplined about their approach to email.
  32. 32. UNSUBSCRIBE Jocelyn K Glei • This is all about how to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions and get real work done. The rat brain makes email addictive. In the 30s, psychologist B. F. Skinner tested rats with fixed and variable rewards. People are more motivated when they think they might get an email reward. • The progress paradox: inbox zero is irresistible because of urge for completion - we never get there. • The negativity bias: Daniel Goleman discovered that if the sender feels positive about an email, the receiver is usually neutral. If the sender is neutral, the receiver is usually negative. Our words betray us because all emotion is stripped from these conversations in relation to face-to-face, or even phone, where we pick up subtleties and social cues. • The rule of reciprocity: inbox overload gives us a guilt complex, and we feel obliged to reply, even to the detriment of things we really want to do. • The asker’s advantage: there’s a difference between askers and guessers: askers assume people might decline; guessers believe you should only ask if you guess they’ll say yes. So guessers find it hard to say no to askers.
  33. 33. WHEN TEAMS COLLIDE Richard Lewis It takes subtlety and understanding to get international teams to work effectively by playing to the strengths of each culture.
  34. 34. WHEN TEAMS COLLIDE Richard Lewis • This is all about how to manage international teams successfully. • They are becoming the central operating mode for global enterprises. They often know local markets better and are more culturally aware than their parent company. But how can you get things done with colleagues with different word views? • How to strike the right balance between core values and diversity? • Linear-Active cultures (German, Swiss, UK etc.) are anchored in facts, planning, products, timelines, word-deed correlation, institutions, and law. • Multi-active cultures (Italy, Spain, Brazil etc.) are anchored in family, hierarchy, relationships, emotion, eloquence, persuasion and loyalty. • Reactive cultures (Vietnam, China, Japan etc.) are anchored in intuition, courtesy, network, common obligations, collective harmony, and face. • There is a high correlation between linear active cultures and low context behaviour, in which the language is apparently obvious, so the context doesn’t matter that much. For reactive and Multi-active cultures, high context deduction is the norm. Context is everything. • Brainstorming is not universally popular because many cultures are unwilling to contradict or offend superiors or colleagues (eg. Brazil), and many dislike thinking aloud (eg. Japan).
  35. 35. SYSTEM 1 Kearon, Ewing & Wood Feeling is at the heart of system 1 – if you feel good about something, then it’s a good choice.
  36. 36. SYSTEM 1 Kearon, Ewing & Wood • We think much less than we think we think. • System 1 dominates, makes quick judgements, and is guided by experience, emotion and pattern recognition. System 2 is the lazy policeman – good for calculation and rational thinking, but mostly a rubber stamp for System 1. So you should design your marketing for System 1. • Aim for fluent innovation. Fluency means something is easy to recognise and understand. This should be 80% familiar so customers feel comfortable, and 20% new to create appeal. • When it comes to advertising, the more people feel, the more they buy. Emotional ads are far more likely to lead to long-term profitable growth. Seduction beats persuasion. • It therefore pays to work out how to use the seven basic emotions described by Paul Ekman: surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, contempt and happiness. Also beware neutrality, where people feel nothing at all. Aim for the 3 Fs: Fame (readily come to mind) Feeling (feel good) Fluency (be recognisable)
  37. 37. HOW TO USE • Be inquisitive • Make the time • Understand the lines of argument • Have a point of view • Inform your work • Enjoy the debate • Ask Kevin to speak or train
  38. 38. KEVIN DUNCAN More detail at: Ask Kevin to speak or train: 07979 808770 Twitter: @kevinduncan