Book Summary: Good to Great

Good to Great Flywheel

Good to Great is an insightful book by Jim Collins recommended by Blair, the MD of Amicus Digital (where I work). It revolves (pun intended) around the concept of the the Flywheel, and consistent factors in organisations that went from mediocre to consistently great.

The Flywheel – Recurrent, margin-generating heart of a business (see here)

The Flywheel contains two parts, with 3 thematic concepts in discipline :

Part 1: Buildup of Good to Great Companies

Level 5 Leadership (Disciplined People)

  • Good to Great organisation have Level 5 leaders
  • A paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • Ambitious first and foremost for the company not themselves
  • More a plow horse than a show horse
  • Looks out window to attribute success and towards a mirror for failure

First Who…Then What (Disciplined People)

  • Good to Great companies first get the right people on the bus before figuring where to drive it
  • “A genius with a thousand helpers” is not sustainable
  • Salary should not incentivise the wrong people with the right behaviours
  • Instead it should attract the right people and keep them in the right positions
  • The right person has more to do with character traits and innate capabilities than specific knowledge, background or skills
  • The ultimate bottleneck for growth is not markets, technology, competition or products, but keeping the right people
  • Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems

Confront the Brutal Facts (Disciplined Thought)

  • The Stockdale Paradox – Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties WHILST confront the brutal factors of your current situation
  • Culture of opportunity to be heard – for extracting truth
    • Leading with questions
    • Promote dialogue and debate, not coercion
    • Conduct autopsies without blame
    • Build red flags mechanisms – for information that cannot be ignored
  • Instead of trying to motivate, consider how to prevent de-motivation
  • The right people are naturally motivated

Part 2: Breakthrough and Rapid Growth for Good to Great organisations

Hedgehog Concept (Disciplined Thought)

  • Three circles for the concept, which have focus and drives success for Good to Great Companies:
    • Passion
    • Best in world potential
    • Economic Engine – one metric that has single greatest impact e.g. profit per x
  • The council for an iterative process to reach the concept: Questions –> Dialogue and Debate –> Decision and Execution –> Autopsies and Analysis
    • 5-12 people
    • Each member capable of debating and challenging with respect
    • Range of perspectives with deep domain knowledge
    • An informal standing body that meets periodically
    • Does not seek consensus
  • Took on average 4 years to develop

Culture of Discipline (Disciplined Action)

  • Culture of disciplined people who take disciplined action within the 3 circles
  • Incompetence and lack of discipline breeds bureaucracy
  • A duality of a consistent system that gives people responsibility and freedom within its framework
  • Budgeting is a decision on activities that are either fully funded or not funded at all
  • A stop doing list is more important than a to do list

Technology Accelerators (Disciplined Action)

  • Good to Great companies pioneer in carefully selected technologies that fit within Hedgehog concept
  • Technology is an accelerator of momentum not a creator
  • Great companies respond to technology with thoughtfulness and creativity, and are motivated to turn potential into results whilst mediocre companies react from fear of being left behind

(Media) Consumption – Recommendations

Some quick  recommendations.

Netflix

Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark. Get a good laugh and also some pretty amazing insights into culture of different races.

Youtube

Ping pong carnival. This video has it all. Trick shots, comedy, romance and ball suit.

Good Reads

Homo Deus (by Yuval Noah Harari) – Latin for “Human God”, this book delves into what human beings should strive for now that we have overcome (for the most part) war, famine and disease.

Spotify Music

Playlist: Monster Dance Hits. Some work out music for a run or hitting the gym and getting shredded.

Shopping

Compressible Packing Cubes. Why I enjoy Kickstarter: the delayed gratification and the need to really think about a purchase before you commit. I’m also a sucker for packing efficiency, especially now that I’ve been travelling more.

Boardgames

And then we held hands. Fun co-op boardgame that emphasises cooperation and understanding, with a interesting theme.

Report Card for my decade younger self

Things you did well and should keep on doing

  1. Wearing your heart on your sleeve and even though it won’t all go your way, there’s nothing to regret.
  2. Staying away from unnecessary drama caused by toxic people and finding people who are weird and wonderfully friendly as you are.
  3. Finding and having creative outlet. Not being afraid of looking stupid or expressing yourself.
  4. Being resilient in the face of personal struggles. You have been surviving relatively unscathed physically and mentally.

Things you didn’t do so well and could improve on

  1. Not having a bajillion superannuation accounts. Roll that up into one dude!
  2. Understanding how to dress, but don’t let it be all consuming for you self conciousness. Like most things, moderation is key.
  3. Stretching + Cardio + Physio = this will make your body feel so much better
  4. Read more, watch less – those youtube videos will not add much value to your life (except for this one … and this one)
  5. Staying in touch with those who are important to you. Just because you aren’t in the same city/country as them, doesn’t excuse you for making an effort.

Things I wish you’d know earlier

  1. Dating is tiring, take nothing for granted. There will be peaks and troughs, but you’ll come out of it knowing yourself better and what you want.
  2. It’s impossible to keep everyone happy. It’s ok to put yourself first sometimes.
  3. Understanding personal finance – being poor sucks, becoming financially independent does not.
  4. Time is the most valuable thing you have, guard it diligently from those who seek to take it from you for selfish motivation.

Final Comments

B-

You did a little above mediocre, with significant room for improvement. The irony, that the last sentence sounds like it came out of an Asian parent’s mouth hasn’t escaped me.

Shanghai, China – Observations during Chinese New Year 2017

Going to China, as an ‘independent’ young adult for the first time was eye opening. Being born there, and moving to Australia at a very young age I’m an “inbetweener”.

To my family living there I’m seen as an Aussie, whilst 2nd generation (and over) caucasians don’t see me exactly as ‘Aussie’ (intially anyway). Culturally (on a broader sense), I don’t usually fit in and identify most closely with a relatively small group of the Australian population of  1st generation born in Australia and those growing up in an immigrant household.

Regardless here are a couple observations:

Internet and Smart Phones

  • WeChat – China’s facebook absolutely dominates the market. All my aunties and uncles are on it. It has a cashless wallet, payment system and is integrated with China’s Uber (Didi). More and more it seems like it should be mentioned in the context of Facebook being the Western World’s WeChat. What started as a messaging app permeates the daily lives of individuals more greatly than Facebook ever has.
  • Due to the Great Firewall, China’s censorship and regulations has made it difficult for big tech companies from the rest of the world to gain traction and adoption. Because of this there are Chinese equivalents  of most big players:
    • Baidu (Google)
    • Ebay (Taobao)
    • YouKou (Youtube)
    • Sina Weibo (Twitter)
    • Alipay (Paypal)
  • Most smart phones look like iPhones – product design and innovation isn’t a strong suite right now for China. When I go to mobile phone retailers, there’s a feeling of homogeneity between all smartphone manufacturers
  • VPNs – It’s very common for Gen Y and younger to use VPNs which is (as described by a cousin of mine), “A grey area in Chinese Law, but closer to the dark side”. Many use it for accessing their Google accounts, but also for accessing Facebook.

Television

  • Television plays a big part of family life
  • The TV was on in every household I visited but was what channel what was on varied – the television still seems to be the place where friends and family gather around in the living room of a household
  • Besides Sports and News, there was a massive amount of TV dramas
  • The majority of the dramas were set in the past, either in a relatively recent historical context or a more romanticised distant past. Very few were set in the present, and none were in the future i.e. sci-fi
  • I couldn’t help but feel that the television programming has undertones of propaganda pushing the message of civil obedience.

Miscellaneous

  • Transportation smart cards were implementation over a decade earlier in Shanghai (1999) compared to Sydney (2013). Sydney seems so behind in some areas.
  • Shanghai has two types of roads:
    1. Elevated roads – which are above ground and have no traffic lights and used to travel between different districts. (Click here for a sneak peak.)
    2. Street roads – which are on ground level used to travel around locally within districts and contain traffic light
  • Child care – day cares don’t really exists. Children are usually taken care of by their grandparent’s generation who are retired, whilst the parents are away earning the family’s income
  • Schooling – nearly all children go to tutoring which is outside of the normal school hours. This is because the content in exams is significantly more difficult than what is taught. This (broken) system has led to children (who can afford it) going to after school tutoring at least twice a week.

Food for thought. Food for offering.

Premise

Noticing that I was being offered food constantly in Shanghai by my extended family. I decided to note down each time this happened through out a particular day.

This day is 03/02/2017. An asterisk (*) denotes my acceptance of the offer. Also, note this was a below average offering day. (That last sentence made it sound ritualistic.)

  • 0845 – woke up (this was action, not a type of Shanhainese cuisine with a wierd name)
  • 0900 – noodles*
  • 0908 – coffee
  • 0915 – pickled vegetables*
  • 0920 – dumplings*
  • 0929 – more dumplings
  • 1026 – nougat lolly
  • 1200 – hotpot*
  • 1539 – mandarin*
  • 1745 – dinner*
  • 2015 – tea*
  • 2020 – apple*
  • 2145 – tea and fruit

Conclusion

My Asian relatives are jealous of my physique and want me to be fat. But seriously, this is Chinese hospitality.

Up Next

My next post will be thoughts on the cultural differences and nuances of China I observed compared to Australian culture.

What if…Running Replaced Walking

This is funny one (at least in my head), inspired by the current book I’m reading, What If? by the creator of XKCD, Randall Munroe. His book attempts to provide “Serious scientific  answers to absurd hypothetical questions”.

Walking to work one day I had the current thought: What if it took more effort walking compared to running?

And down the rabbit hole we go…

***

Premise

Firstly, why? Trying to do a slo-mo walk, takes considerable more effort and concentration compared to normal speed. So by this (flawed) logical running SHOULD be easier than walking.

In this world, walking would also lead to sweating and a higher heart rate. The slower the walk, the more effort. People would be competing based on fixed times instead of distance i.e. shortest distance traveled in 10 seconds.

Impact

Many industries would be different, especially clothing (footware and fashion), fitness / health (exercise programs) and transportation (buses would be less common).

A standard speed for running would need to be in mandated, as people most conformable speed will vary, and walking lanes would be necessary on streets.

People would be more efficient in their day travelling between A, B and C more quickly. Being early would be more common than being late.

Children will be learning to run before they walk. Old people would be the fastest runners and no walking sticks will be needed.

***

So that’s all I have for the moment. I find these thought experiments fun and challenge the way we think about things in the world. I’ll call these shower thought impact analysis (STIA for short). I will share more of these in the future.

4 Thoughts on How we Leave a Digital Footprint

For the majority of us, we leave behind a digital footprint for everything we do online.

But just how much information do we leave behind? And what are the implications?

Here are my 4 thoughts/questions:

1. Web Pages

It’s been estimated that, on average a person has contributes approximately 10,000 unique web pages to the internet. This includes  dynamically generated pages from a Facebook post or a Tweet. (See the current book I’m reading: The Inevitable – Understand the 12 Technologcal Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly).

Given the right software and understanding, just how much could pieced together and track backed to us as individuals? Could this be scaled so machines can do this job? (See also point 4 about privacy)

2. Spam Emails

 Over 50% of ALL emails are spam, what is the energy/resource/time  (i.e. opportunity) cost of spamming people? Imagine a world, no digital spam. Less time spent defending our attention and less ‘technology overhead’ dedicated to spam traps/ whitelisting/ authentication protocols.

How easy is it develop ‘digital trust’ that doesn’t involve humans? Dedicating more resources to innovation, increasing productivity and improving functionality in HOW we communicate.

3. Useless Banner Ads

Banner Ads being served to me waste so much money. See Banner blindness. Where could these dollars go otherwise? What could replace the spaces used for ineffectual ads?

How would the internet look like with better advertising? Is advertising the best revenue model for websites to be self-sustaining? (More on this in Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of  a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday)

4. Privacy and Affecting Others

What’s the etiquette for sharing information of other individuals ? Children growing up now have their baby photos on social media platforms which they never explicitly gave consent to. Anything that touches the internet is almost permanent. Do these children just need to ‘deal with it’. Blame their parents?

Uploading a photo of friends or family, there’s implicit consent in which people need to optout (e.g. “Can you please not post his on Snapchat? I don’t want my workmates seeing me like this.”). Is this the right assumption?

Reading Challenge 2017 – Jan Update

First of all. New blog layout!

Secondly, I’ve just completed my first book for the year (hurray!):

Quick Review

Title: To Sell is Human

Author: Dan Pink

Premise:  Nearly all of us are in sales, whether we like it or not. By “sales” Pink refers to convincing a person to part ways with a resource they own (i.e. time/money/attention) in exchange for something you are offering (i.e. service/product)

Some key Takeaways:

  • The Sales ABC has changed from  BEING Always Be Closing –> Attunement Buoyancy Clarity
  • An interesting way of examining depression and Anxiety:
    • Depression = Stuck in the Past
    • Anxiety = Stuck in the future
  • There is a golden ratio of positive to negative moments throughout a day, which tips the scale of  a person’s “general mood” from negative to positive – minimum ratio of 3 positive : 1 negative (any lower ration and you’ll be predominately feeling negativel) to a maximum of 11:1 (anything greater and you’re looking at being delusional)
  • Three things which sales should DO –> Pitch, Improvise and Serve

Conclusion:

Very insightful and practical book. Case studies/exercises were really helpful. Worth reading, especially those who think ‘used car salesman’ when thinking about sales.

Current reading list:

#Book TitleAuthorStatus
1To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing OthersDaniel H. PinkCompleted
2The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our FutureKevin KellyStarted
3Thinking, Fast and SlowDaniel KahnemanNot Started
4Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class PerformersTimonthy FerrissNot Started
5What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsRandall MunroeNot Started
6Homo Deus: A Brief History of TomorrowYuval Noah HarariNot Started
7Diffusion of InnovationsEverett M. RogersNot Started
8The Goal: A Process of Ongoing ImprovementEliyahu M GoldrattNot Started
9Flip the ScriptBill WackermannNot Started
10A Theory of Fun for Game DesignRaph KosterNot Started
11The 4 Hour Work WeekTimonthy FerrissNot Started
12The Lean StartupEric RiesNot Started

Goal tracking

Here’s my spreadsheet for those interested in my progress so far – link

An unconventional way to motivate myself – My 4 Goals for 2017

Just quickly goals need to be SMART:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Action Oriented
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Time based

My 2016 goal was very straight forward and successful:

  • No Maccas (McDonald’s) or KFC for the whole year with no cheat days

New Goals 2017 Edition

Using the SMART goal methodology I’m going to up the ante for this year. The main point of this to develop life long habits (or correct the bad ones). They shouldn’t replace any positive habits or traits I have already.

First I’ll list my goals, I’ll then go into more detail.

This year, I want to focus on the body and mind. In no particular order of priority:

  1. Be able to bench press 100kg
  2. Read 26 books (1/fortnight)
  3. No fast food (except for the 1st of Jan)
  4. Post 52 times (1/week) on this blog

1. Be able to bench press 100kg

  • I did my PB back in 2013 of 95kg, so I’m looking to get to triple digits
  • This will require me working out at least twice a week
  • Will need to research protein options – I’ve never taken protein before (not a real gym bro)
  • A ‘physical health’ goal

2. Read 26 books (1/fortnight)

  • Towards the end of last year I began reading, as a way of trying to improve my reading speed
  • I came to enjoy it, and felt more productive reading vs binge watching videos
  • In the end I read about 7 books in 4 months, so I’m looking to make this a habit
  • 1 book a fortnight seems like a good pace
  • A ‘mental health’ goal

3. No fast food (except for the 1st of Jan)

  • Pretty self explanatory – more difficult version of my 2016 goal
  • My definition of ‘fast food’ – western food chains which I consider generally unhealthy
  • Will precede to pig out of the 1st of January again
  • A ‘physical health’ goal

4. Post 52 times (1/week) on this blog

  • I want to improve my communication and writing is very important for that
  • Will focus on the habit of writing before worrying about quality
  • Also an outlet of creativity and expression
  • A ‘mental health’ goal

Motivation

For each goal I don’t meet, I’m committing myself to donating $100 to an ‘anti-charity’.

More information can be found here: https://www.stickk.com/

Pokemon Go – Thought Experiments and Exercise in Lateral Thinking

Long time no blog. So here’s a post for you all.

Pokemon Go was released on 6 July (2016). From what I’ve read and witnessed it’s pretty huge.

I’m not going to go into the basics as there’s already enough news / media coverage about it. But I there’s some interesting implications / noteworthy thoughts I’d like to share about Pokemon Go.

1. Crowdsourcing 2.0 – Product Development

Niantic, Inc which was born out of a passion project internally from Google spent 6 years creating the Augmented Reality game Ingress. It involved players submitting landmarks to be part of the game. Why is this import? Because Pokemon Go uses these landmarks as part of its world, essentially having a very important part of its content crowdsourced!

It had me thinking about where this kind of crowdsourcing data/content in design philosophy  can be applied elsewhere:

Idea # 1:

A dating site such as OK Cupid, could make use of its matching meta data of distance/time of day/location/demographic information. First personal information would be anonymised and then aggregated on some arbitrary grouping to creating a fantasy dating league.PokemonGo_Dating

Idea #2:

A food reviews site such as Zomato, could apply sentiment analysis and build statistical models combining external factors such as weather metrics and economic factors to generate
a recommendation for restaurants on which menu items should be placed on special.

Those are just two examples that came to mind.

2. Who said marketing is dead? – Not just a logo

People say we are smarter and more savvy, becoming resistant to marketing. But the power of nostalgia and branding has gripped us in a way never seen before due to mobile technology providing scale to disseminate ideas on a personal level. Nothing beats re-living childhood memories, where times were simpler with less responsibility and stress.PokemonGo_Logo

The thought of escaping the present to relive a happy past can be very effective in changing behaviour. Homebodies and those with a sedentary lifestyle have walked more in the last week than they have in the last 3 months prior.

Pokemon Go has about 1/5th of the features of Ingress and I would guess that it has larger player base (active and non-active) than its predecessor of 6 years. TV show, Trading Card Game, Gameboy cartridges, movies and the catchy songs.

That’s the power of branding, but it’s the accumulation of its prevelance in the past which has made its success in the present.

3. Possies, Pokestops and Pokies – Social Impact

We’re already seeing communities Bellsprout up. (Sorry I couldn’t help myself with at least 1 pun)

Some things which have already happened:

PokemonGo_Restaurant
source: https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4s7caf/sign_at_a_local_bar/
  • Not only that they’re dropping ‘Lures’ (an item you can purchase with in game currency with will increase Pokemon encounters for a short period of time) in hopes of attracting Pokemon Go players:
PokemonGo_Restaurant2
source: http://pancakeparlour.com.au/promotions/register-for-pokemon-parlour
  • PSAs about predators also taking advantage of these ‘Lures’ for criminal activity including theft and kidnapping – something Team Rocket specialise in

What I could see happening:

  • If a trading feature was ever implemented, a whole black/grey market could develop which may include money laundering or more ironically child ‘sweat shops’ generating valuable in game goods (i.e. Pokemon) for real world cash

PokemonGo_Sweatshop

  • Legislation similar to no phones whilst driving, but for pedestrians
  • 3rd party exercise regimes and products tailored to the game and maximising rewards – think GPS which determines best running route option or running shoes that uses kentic energy to power a battery for charging your phone
  • Partnership with other services (e.g. Uber, Air BnB, telcos) to provide exclusive content using beacon technology

Thanks for reading until the end, as a final plug I’m doing the Oxfam Trailwalker here in Sydney. This involves is walking 100km nonstop for 30 hours. If you would like to support me and this awesome cause in fighting poverty please click here.