SBR: Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seth is back. He really gets it right on this one. This is an excellent book to pair with Richard Florida’s Reset. The world and they way we work in it is radically changing.

This is a good book to help people get ahead during this great changing of industry. One of the better books I read this year. It is easy reading. If you put yourself to it you should be able to finish it in one sitting.

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1% Improvement Over Time Is Significant

Who wants to be 1% better?  Not very many people.

Who wants to be 50% better? Significantly more people.

Who wishes they could be perfect? Most people.

I had heard the quotes “Perfection not a destination, it is a journey that never ends” and “The longest journey starts with a single step”.  This is why I love the principles behind agile software development.  There are really only two imperatives.  Inspect and Adapt.  If you are regularly doing these two things you should be seeing some form of continuous improvement in what you are doing.

It took Agile Bob presenting “Being Agile vs Doing Agile” at the Phoenix SCRUM User Group (phxsug) to remind me of this very simple principle.  The hammer to drive the nail home was that if a team is doing 1 week iterations and improves 1% per iteration, they will see over a 50% improvement in the course of a single year.

Stop and think about that for just a minute.  50% improvement in a single year!  Can you imagine bench pressing 50% more 12 months now?  How about cutting 50% off your marathon time this year?  50% more push ups?  Reading 50% more?  Knowing 50% more people.  What about making 50% more money per year?

The problem is we try to make 50% improvement in single week instead of an incremental improvement as little as 1% and when we don’t, we give up and fall back into regular patterns of the status quo.  I challenge you to be 1% better this week.  Then the week after that and the week after that.

Hell.  Be Dangerous.  Consider yourself a 1%-er.  An outlaw to the status quo!

Sunday Book Review: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-downInfluencer: The Power to Change Anything

Take Away: Too clinical of a writing style made it hard to stay engaged, but content was decent. Once again deliberate practice is something that makes people shine.

Sunday Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-upThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Take Away: Building Teams and Leading them is very simple, but very difficult. Reminds me a lot about Agile Software Development

Sunday Review: The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-upThe Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America

Take Away: Strong networks of smart people can change the world. Those that change the world have a deep understanding of science, politics and religion.

Sunday Review: Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-upTalent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Take Away: Deliberate practice is hard work, but is the only sure way to becoming excellent at something.

Sunday Review: Driven From Within by Michael Jordan

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.
thumbs-upDriven from Within

Take Away: Jordan proves that talent had little to do with his rise to success. He was clearly the hardest working guy in the NBA.

Challenge Conventional Assumptions

I have been reading “ThinkerToys” by Michael Michalko.  I am going to try to do one Thinkertoy exercise per day (or at least a few per week).  The goal is to help get my brain to be in a creative state more often than not.  I will attempt to share the exercises here.  Today I got in a debate on twitter challenging the local university system.  (thanks @ninky, @YuriArtibise and @jose602).  So when tonight’s Thinkertoy came up I figured that I would tackle the problem of “Lack of funding in Elementary Education”.

Exercise: False Faces

“All warfare is based on deception.” – Sun Tzu

The idea of this exercise is to reverse all your assumptions.  “Obviously, many things have to be taken for granted, and the purpose is not to pretend that one has the time to challenge every assumption, but instead to show nothing is sacrosanct.  Once you truly realize this, you are open to all sorts of discoveries…. Reversing your assumptions broadens your thinking.  You may often find yourself looking at the same thing as everybody else, yet seeing something different.  Many creative thinkers get their most original ideas when they challenge and reverse the obvious.”

To reverse a challenge:

1. State your challenge.

Lack of funding in Elementary Education is hurting education.

2. List your assumptions.

I think a little differently than most on this subject, so to make sure my guesses about the fundamental assumptions were correct I put a call out to twitter.  I got some good responses from (@acydlord, @casademora, @jivadevoe, @dr1665, @refriedchicken, @conrey and @claytonlz ).  From them I got the following list.

Some common assumptions about more funding is necessary to improve education in elementary schools are:

A. Lack of funds reduces effectiveness in reading, math, social skills, technology and the arts.

B. Teachers will not stay if they are not compensated well. (teacher retention) (x2)

C. Basic supplies are needed to properly educate.

D. Need more teachers. (smaller class sizes increase learning) (x2)

E. More technology in the class room makes education better.

3. Challenge the fundamental assumptions.

Each of these assumptions hold up to most arguments, except for assumption (A) which is fairly broad and vague.  Assumptions (B) and (D) are likely widely held.

4. Reverse each assumption. (What is the opposite?)

The reverse assumptions would be:

A. The original assumptions are too vague.  Reversing them doesn’t make a lot of sense.

B. Paying teachers less money would encourage them to stay at their current school and be more dedicated.

C. Student learn better and teachers teach better without basic school supplies.

D. Larger class sizes make for better learning enivornments.

E. Technology in the class room hinders learning.

5. Record differing view points that might prove useful to you.

At least three respondents held the different view point on more funding.

A. Current administration of schools has to change first.

B. More funding won’t help at all.

C. More creative use of funding is necessary, just more money won’t fix it.

6. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal.

How can we increase educational effectiveness in elementary schools without increasing funding?

A. Skipping

B. A school that pays teachers less money.

IDEA: Reward the best teachers with the freedom to compile and execute their own curriculum and set their own benchmarks for success.

C. Operate a school with no budget for school supplies.

IDEA: Partner with private companies to let them provide school supplies and in exchange let them sell advertising space on the school supplies.

D. A school that operates with class sizes of over 40 students.

IDEA: Use educational techniques that require collaboration by the students and allow the strongest students to teach the weakest students.

E. A school that doesn’t use technology in the classroom.

IDEA: Offer a back to basics curriculum that specializes in the core concepts using theory instead of technology.

Ideally, you should pick one of the ideas and work all the angles to implement it.  If I were to pick one idea to focus on it would be Item B above.  I think giving teachers back the creativity to teach how they see fit opposed to some government mandate would be far more appealing than more pay.  What are your thoughts?  On the exercise?  The assumptions?  The challenges?  The solutions?

Three Reasons Your Ideas Are Failing

If your ideas or products keep failing, perhaps it’s time to stop blaming others and look in the mirror.  I suspect that issue lies in one of the following, if not more than one of them.   I know it always does for me.

  1. Lack of Discipline
  2. Lack of Focus
  3. Lack of Commitment

Thomas Edison, a famous producer of new inventions put it nicely, “Genius is 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration”.

How often are we inspired by something and a new idea is sparked.  We quickly pursue it and throw something together.  Then 2 weeks later when it’s not the next Twitter we move on to the next thing.  Then six months later someone releases something similar that is well accepted.  We then cry foul and blame it on lack of capital or lack of connections to the correct people.  When in reality we should be blaming our own sorry selves.

Truthfully, the next big thing will be built and brought to market on discipline and focus, sweat and blood.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can stop wasting our time on fruitless pursuits and lies the media has us believing.  Instead we can put our focus on the things that will change the world. Our time is already constrained.  Wasting it is simply consuming the most valuable resource we have without any return.

While exploring as many new products as possible is good for discovery, it is not good for producing results.  It is hard to not become distracted in life and lose time that can not be regained.  Boden speaks volumes in saying, “A person needs time, and enormous effort, to amass mental structures and to explore their potential.  It is not always easy.  Even when it is, life has many other attractions.  Only a strong commitment to the domain can prevent something from dissipating their energy on other things.”

So, the next time you start to pursue something ask yourself, Am I committed to this?

When you start to tire of the idea and people are encouraging you to give up, Will you be disciplined enough to stick with it?

When your friends all tweet about that next great event or send you a link to “the next big thing”, Will you have the focus that allows you to filter out signal from noise?

If you can’t say yes to these three questions.  Give up now.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  You are wasting those around you and your own time.