Category Archives: Book Review

Getting outside your comfort zone

comfort-zone-image-01I recently participated in a “Biggest Loser” weight competition.  Like most people I have some pounds to lose, but I’m not sure anyone would call me overweight.

I was successful at all the goals I set and felt great about the experience despite the discomfort I endured in the process.

I did it for a few reasons:

  1. To lose about 10lbs in order do achieve a more ideal weight.  I had been living at my previous weight for quite a long time (upwards of a decade) and I really wanted to shake it up
  2. To jumpstart training for a triathlon 3 months later
  3. I like to compete
  4. To experience something I had never tried before

Mostly due to #3, the experience was pretty intense.  And though I am not recommending that everyone get outside their comfort zone in this way, re-considering some of the ways that I had taken food and the way I relate to my body for granted was illuminating.

A few months ago I read a book called Living with a Seal all about an amateur athlete and entrepreneur who wanted to achieve a higher level of performance by getting a seal to train him.  It’s a very amusing light read….my most surprising takeaway (and the authors) is that the seal’s perspective can be applied to many aspects of life.

I am making this post within a business oriented blog because one of those applicable aspects is your business life.  If you are going to gain perspective and grow, you and your company need to have the capacity to examine issues/opportunities from a variety of angles.  Getting input from a broad set of people helps.  If those people are well rounded, complex people your analyses will be even better.

Are you continuing to grow?  Are you stopping to think about what is the important work that is not right in front of your face?  Are you challenging yourself and your business to explore outside of its comfort zone?

Take a few minutes and think about some sort of challenge that you could set for yourself where you are not certain of success because you’ve never tried something like that.  I guarantee you will learn a great deal in the process.



Book Review – Super Sad True Love Story

I aim to cover progressive approaches to business.  Reviews of fictional works don’t usually qualify.   However, a novel I just finished seems germane to my “future business” theme:  “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart.

Shteyngart explores one possible future that may follow from some of our current trends.  He painfully describes in detail the distopian demise of the american society and economy.  It would not be quite so painful if it were not obvious that we have already started down many of the paths he treads.

In his future, people have become fanatically involved in their personal information devices;  to the point where face to face interaction has become somewhat awkward.  People relate to each other based on a series of public scores/rankings.  Starting to sound familiar?

In this fictional society the US is even more indebted to foreign powers who have grown impatient with our inability to handle our economic and social issues.  Everyone is so worried about their personal status and their purchasing power that they have lost all sight of what it takes to create real value and drive an economy.

Happily, I can envision some different paths for the US.  I am heartened by the new class of social entrepreneurs and the recent increased focus on education.  We have a growing set of people with good ideas and the gumption to execute.  If we can win the masses over from their sense of entitlement, innovation could usher in a new wave of prosperity.  The US has a rare combination of access to capital, resources, and tools for innovators to succeed.

My hope is that more and more people will weave innovation into their day job, ideas they have for a side business, or social projects they pursue.  Future business in this country can be even more successful than ever if the majority stop acting like cogs and begin working as engines.

Anyone else read this book? Even if you haven’t, what are your thoughts on where we are headed?

Book Review – Nudge

This book covers an approach with which I agree : Paternalistic Libertarianism.  Two big words that mean everyone should have the right to make choices for themselves, but that the system should be set-up to subtly encourage choices that we, as the decision framers, believe are in the decision-makers’ best interest and the best interest of the larger population.

I think Libertarian ideals are great, but game theory tells us that when we are left to each fend for ourselves, we do not always end up with an optimal solution that creates the most total utility.  In situations where there is a history of people making choices that are sub-optimal, a paternalistic nudge can be for the individual and overall good.

However, problems start to arise when you think about who should be the framer of these paternalistic decision choices.  Do they have motives beyond the common good?  Do they measure common good in different ways than we do?  While nudging is certainly better than legislating against something (from a Libertarian point of view), it may not match with our own personal definition of “good”.

This book, like so many business books, would have been much better as a long magazine article.  It gets quite repetitive.  I feel that the authors could have traded out some of the endless examples for more space to help potential framers think through how to best approach setting up a nudge.

Though I skimmed it at parts, all in all, I thought it was an interesting read.  What I learned will hopefully inform my approach next time I am faced with framing a decision for others.

Please share if you have ever experienced or set-up a nudge and what you felt about the experience.

Book Review – Game Based Marketing

I have the pleasure of knowing Gabe Zickermann quite well as the leader of the NYC Fall program for the Founder Institute. I am developing a start-up right now through that incubator.  He treated us to his presentation on gamification a few weeks ago.  The idea of gamifying customer experiences is already intriguing to me, Gabe’s talk made it even more appealing.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the book version of his ideas does not hold a candle to his in-person presentation.  While I had hoped that it would provide lots more examples and even some tactical approaches to go about thinking how to gamify a specific business, it did not.  It remained a very high-level overview of the history and general concepts of gamification.  This book is a perfect example of an article being stretched too far.

I highly recommend that people think about booking Gabe as a speaker.  He is entertaining and this topic is pertinent to the Future of Business.  Gabe will help your group to think about engaging with customers in new ways.