Monthly Archives: March 2020

Book Notes: Rebel Ideas

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book starts off with some stories highlighting the importance of diverse knowledge and experience. The book highlights that no only do homogeneous groups underperform but they underperform in predictable ways – not only do homogeneous groups share the same blind spots but they reinforce them as such groups become more sure of their judgements.

One of the challenge with diverse groups is that discussions in them are cognitively demanding – including plenty of debates and disagreements as a result of different perspectives being aired. Such groups (in the experiment) typically came to the right result but they were not certain of it because the discussion highlighted the inherent complexity. Compared to a homogenous group which was more likely to be wrong because of mirroring behaviour and not challenging blind spots, as a result they were also more sure they were correct.

When we have complex (as opposed to simple) problems e,g, economic forecasts then there is no single model which takes everything into account as such using multiple models by different people produces a better result. The reason for this is that each forecaster has their own frame of reference and builds a model to reflect that including its blind spots, however different economists (as an example) have different worlds views so by combining them the results can be more inclusive. In this world having clones of the best economists in the world would not produce the benefit which diversity brings.

In uncertain times people are naturally attracted to people who are dominant leaders. The ironic part is that at exactly these times is when the diversity of opinions is of it’s most importance.

Immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs – because they see beyond the status quo and can envisage new products and ways of working which people who are incumbent can not.

Echo chambers – the interesting part is that their opinions tend to become stronger when exposed to opposing ideas. The reason is that when they feel under attack they find holes in the other persons arguments which confirms their position. As such they hear but dismiss outside voices which they don’t trust, they trust their opinion and those who agree with them.

When people are in small diverse communities there is less opportunity for echo chambers to form, the challenge is in large environments (e.g. the internet) it is very easy to find people who agree with your perspective and to make a reinforcing group.

Book Notes: The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The one simple thing which everyone should take away from this book is – you have a bussiness plan, in it there are assumptions – run experiments to test each of the assumptions. With this you can then see if you should pivot the strategy for your vision if people don’t react as you were expecting, however first you must launch early and learn. Then you can optimise your product using experiments to refine.

A startup should be properly understood as “a human institution designed to create a new product or service under extreme uncertainty”

To see if things are going the right way don’t just use number of people vs time – these up and to the right graphs are misleading/vanity metrics. Instead use cohort analysis where you see of the 100% of people who visited your site, the percentage that signed up, the percentage that signed up and used the product etc – if you are making changes and these percentages stay the same then things are not improving. To do this needs small batches and speedy feedback loops.

Experiments must be : Actionable, demonstrating clear cause and effect, accessible, aka understandable, and auditable, to be able to go and actually validate the accuracy of the numbers so we have trust in them.

There are two engines for a bussiness : growth, acquiring customers, and revenue, earning money from customers.

If things are not improving and the current state is inevitable then a pivot is needed, there are various types of pivots:

  • Zoom in – focusing on a sub part of the product
  • Zoom out – where the current product becomes a feature of a bigger product
  • Customer segment – where your customers turn out to be not the ones you expected
  • Customer need – by getting to know our customer we find a greater need for them
  • Platform – turning from a product to a platform
  • Business architecture – e.g. from B2B to B2C
  • Value capture – a change in monetisation or revenue models
  • Engine of growth – viral (word of mouth), sticky (returning) or paid (adverts)
  • Channel – how the content is delivered e.g. DVD or internet
  • Technology – using a different technical solution to solve the same problem

Book Notes: Wooden on Leadership

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden, Steve Jamison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book starts by going through the pyramid – highlighting the corner stoned of industriousness (proactivity) and enthusiasm then building up layer by layer. However they key to the book is really in team work – the examples are all about basketball are relevant to all teams. Building an environment where “what can I do to help the team?” is much more important than “how can I get ahead?”. Focusing on the team performing at it’s peak- not on the opposition. Using the analogy that it takes 10 hands to score a basket.