Title: The Lean Startup
Author: Eric Ries
There are many books on entrepreneurship, few match up to the extent of detailing that Eric Ries provides on the key aspect – starting up. For a long time starting up a business was always thought of as an art, which only the blessed were to practice. It is only in recent times, that the science behind the creation of new enterprises has gained momentum. Eric Ries’s book on this subject is definitely a catalyst to this shift. Being from a technology background with lot of exposure to product development, his personal experience seems to have shaped the lean startup philosophy.
The author has borrowed extensively the principles of lean methodology and has carefully adapted them to a startup’s needs. He has also developed a clear methodology to turn the philosophy into a practically implementable approach. The number of examples quoted in the book of both new start-ups as well as existing enterprises venturing into new areas provide enough food for thought to the reader.
It is not surprising that the lean movement is catching up across the world with evangelists springing up in support of the movement from various disciplines. Though the book seems to be most suitable for product start-ups especially in technology, there are number of strong takeaways even for entrepreneurs in services and other traditional industries as well. Overall an interesting and an useful book if you are interested in enterprise creation, especially of a startup.
Title: The Power Of Habit
Author: Charles Duhigg
Many of us believe strongly that we live our lives making choices and that too rational ones. It is this myth that gets broken on reading this book. Very early into the book one is made to reflect and observe one’s own daily routines. Even a superficial reflection, exposes to us how habits rule our lives. The power of habits which we highly underestimate is detailed through numerous examples and cases throughout the book. The habit loop described by the author seems extremely simple and straight forward. It is to this obvious cycle that we smart human beings fall prey.
Almost every one of us without exception wants to improve our life which boils down to bringing about changes and developing new disciplines. This book will arm you with the fundamental key that brings about the change successfully. Becoming conscious of the existence of the habit loop in our daily lives is the first step towards changes that we desire to bring about.
On reading the book you would expect it to have been written by a veteran scientist of human behaviour. It will surprise you to know that Charles Duhigg is an award winning journalist. A close to sixty page section on notes and references at the end of the book speaks about the tremendous effort taken by the author to bring out the essence of habit formation and change. The references are varied across disciplines and seem almost impossible for any of us individually to read them and make connects, thus making the book a worthy contribution, especially for the practitioner of habits – which is almost every one of us!
The author’s short appendix titled ‘A reader’s guide to using these ideas’ provides an actionable framework which we can put to use. I have successfully put to use post my reading, this framework and managed to form couple of useful habits and realised first hand that this actually works.
Title: The Truth About Leadership
Authors: James M. Kousez & Barry Z. Posner
Kousez and Posner are leading thinkers on the subject of leadership. If you are even remotely interested in the subject it is very unlikely that you have not yet read a book of theirs. The duo have produced many classics on leadership over the past decades.
In today’s turbulent world, even established organizations, are being tested for their stability and sustainability. Small emerging enterprises are facing enormous challenges with respect to managing people. The overarching trend towards knowledge and information is also increasing the need for leading over managing. Leadership as a subject is probably the most written about in business and management. Right from identifying traits, behaviours and approaches, to suggesting systems and techniques – this body of literature seems swelling by the day. This trend only indicates the acute demand for thoughts on this subject. The authors themselves have some of the highest selling books to their credit in the genre.
This little book that can probably be completed in just a couple of hours has the essence of the subject that has lasted probably a generation. The authors have taken effort in identifying those aspects of leadership that have remained unchanged through the history of the subject. While at the first glance the ten truths listed by the authors seem obvious, it is only when we immerse in their detailing that we get to understand their deeper connotations. The book is not a quick fix to any leadership problems, but a reassurance on the importance of leading and the responsibility that leaders must take on for the sake of the larger good.
Title: Notes From A Small Room
Author: Ruskin Bond
Personally, I have not been a great reader of fiction. In recent times I have begun to realise that I must be missing a large part of a writer’s imaginative world. In an attempt to get closer to reading fiction, I decided to move from what I normally read (business and management) to general non-fiction. As a first step I decided to read the non-fiction work of an author who is successful at fiction. So when I found some works of Ruskin Bond under the non-fiction category I decided to give it a shot.
This collection of essays lives up to what Ruskin Bond says “It is the simple things in life that keeps us from going crazy”. This small book of fewer than 180 pages is unputdownable. Every essay is an independent piece not connected to the others around. There is no attempt by the author to provide connectivity. This I think makes the book even more interesting, even more gripping. While I attempted to race through the book with interest and enthusiasm, there were many points when I would stop and look up at the trees and the skies in wonderment. I asked myself many times through the book, how on earth did I miss so much all around? I suddenly realised sitting in my balcony in the heart of the city, that there were thirteen different types of leaves around. And this was only the start. My early tryst with non-fiction, especially with Ruskin Bond has made me become aware about the millions of simple things around me that I should become aware about.
Being a voracious reader and a bibliophile I enjoyed the essays: ‘ A book lover’s lifelong hunt’, ‘Read and get well’, ‘Bibliophiles and Book worms’. The essays ‘A Good Philosophy’, ‘Lonely or Alone’ and ‘Solitude’ spoke to my spiritual self. As an author and one who enjoys the process of writing there were numerous essays that served as inspiration and encouragement. Especially the one’s around describing the room, the view and the importance of a window were thoughtful and in a subtle way directional. Overall an easy read, well packaged as a book with deep meaning.
The write-up ‘Love Your Art’ was personally my favourite which I think I would be going back to a number of times. I am tempted to share this quote from that write-up which could serve as an inspiration to read the book “Love the art, poor as it may be, which thou hast learned, and be content with it; and pass through the rest of life like one who has entrusted to the gods with his whole soul and all that he has, making thyself neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man.”-Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D)
Title: Customer In The Boardroom?
Author: Rama Bijapurkar
For a long time in India, customers have never been treated like kings. The primary reason for this has been the supply driven nature of our economy. The last two decades with the increase in number of choices, competition and rising incomes, customer is slowly signalling the demand for his rightful position in the business environment.
Strategy has always been formulated with industry and competition as the primary focus. There are a plethora of books around competition based strategy formulation. In the midst of these numerous titles, there have been alternate suggestions – though sporadic on strategy formulation. ‘Customer in the boardroom?’ suggests one such alternative called customer based business strategy. The book is based on a course that the author has co-created with professor Abhinandan Jain for second year MBA students of IIM-A.
The customer based business strategy framework or CBB as proposed in the book, attempts to bring the customer to the centre of developing business strategy. There are detailed discussions on choosing market segments, developing value propositions, gaining market insights, source of competitive advantage and also discussions around where and how to compete.
Though the book is indexed under customer relationship management and also most often found under that shelf in the bookstore, the book is not about customer service. The book is more appropriate to be read as a part of strategic planning. It is not an easy read and rightfully so. Since it is taught as a post graduate course in management education, I would strongly suggest the reader to consider picking this book to study rather than read. As a teacher and consultant in strategy I enjoyed the take on the subject and have also been led to some further interesting reads as well.
Title: The Art of Effective Giving
There are many reasons why we may want to pick up this little gem on giving.
Reason #1 : The book is attractively packaged by the publishers. The size, the cover, the layout and the print, make the book irresistible, especially if you are looking for an easy read.
Reason #2: The title is interesting enough to elicit attention. It immediately raises some questions in one’s mind like is giving an art? What is effectiveness in giving? What is the art in effective giving? Is it really possible to teach giving? I am sure each of us will have our own list. The above ran in my head influencing me to pick it up.
Reason #3: With eleven books to his credit , the author R M Lala is not an unknown name amongst Indian Writers. Most of us may have read and been impacted by one of his earlier writings. My personal favourite which also introduced me to the author was the title ‘Beyond the Last Blue Mountain’. If you are a fan of the Tatas and their legacy there is probably no one who has written more on them than this man. This book also has an interesting foreword written by Ratan Tata, which seals the case for picking this book
The book is divided into two broad parts, with the first dedicated to personalities and the second to principles. Both parts have short chapters with specific and focused writing. The personalities section speaks about Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, Andrew Carnegie, Sir Jamsetjee JeJeebhoy, Jamsetji Tata, Sir Dorabji Tata, Sir Ratan Tata and Azim Premji. The second part discusses giving at the level of an individual, instituition and how to widen the group of people who give.
In today’s world where the number of charities and foundations are on the rise and the voice to make the world better is becoming louder this book provides ample suggestions on all aspects of giving. As I complete this blog post, I wonder why I should build a case for someone to be reading a book on giving. And the below quote present towards end of the book captures why every one of us should understand giving better “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Title: The $100 Startup
Author: Chris Guillebeau
This is a unique book. It is aimed at those who want to be solopreneurs / micropreneurs. These are entrepreneurial individuals, who have something that they are really good at, want to live a life doing that if possible, and make a decent living for themselves and their dependents and most importantly are not too keen on creating an institution around the business. We find numerous enterprises like these in India. In fact many of the Tiny / Micro and even many small enterprises in India belong to this category.
This book explains why it could be possible for more people with similar inclinations to get started quickly. Though the title is provocative stating that such businesses can be started off for as low as US $100 or INR 5000/- (approximately) – it should not be taken in the literal sense. Most example cited in the book get very close to that figure with exceptions stretching far higher
But if one reads the book, it is very unlikely that he/she will put it down without thinking that they could be in business very soon. Though I run a boutique professional services firm, I kept constantly thinking of extensions for my own business, which is primarily talent/person focused. The author has done a wonderful job of ensuring that he does not stop with enticing the reader
to dream. He takes the reader through all necessary aspects of the business namely: ideation, opportunity mapping, designing products/services, business planning, marketing, pricing and even strategies for growth. All these topics
have been written from the perspective of a micropreneur.
I would strongly suggest this book to aspiring entrepreneurs as well as people who have the entrepreneurial bug, but feel that they have missed the bus with respect to starting a firm. The author will convince you with enough reasons to get started either on the side or by taking the plunge full time. So if you are one of those who is on the verge of losing a job, who wants to let go of the job or not finding the right job – stop worrying and read this book!
Title: Leadership in the era of Economic Uncertainty
Author: Ram Charan
Ram Charan is a much sought after consultant. His books are interesting, practical and highly applicable almost instantaneously. As a regular reader of his books, I decided to pick this title as part of a research I have initiated on ‘managing in turbulent times’. The book is typical Ram Charan. After the first few pages of high level inputs on the nature of turbulence in the business world, he dives straight into what each one in the organization must contribute so that the organization can survive and thrive in rough weather.
Normally when I read a book, I mark up things that trigger some thoughts for contemplation and write down stuff that I can share with my consulting clients. With respect to Ram Charan’s book, there are scribbles, underlines and notes all along the margins. As to my notebook, there are just many things that are straight and to the point for application in most businesses. My favorite chapter is the first one “The challenge of managing in a toxic environment”.
The intent of the ideas are as much applicable to organizations of every size. I have been recommending this to my client CEO’s, insisting they read not just the chapters aimed at them but look at the other chapters aimed at innovation, finance and human resources as well. Since most of my consulting and training services are to mid-sized enterprises in Asia Pacific region, I ask them to look up the whole book – as it is common here for senior personnel to oversee more than one function. Though the concepts seem straight, some amount of customization of the views presented could be required before applying to their business.
Though the book is much shorter than what it seems by its layout, it is quite an intense read. The book is aimed at leaders who have to steer the organization through the recession. The author’s experience of working with large corporations is reflective in the chapters. With some customization of the ideas, they seem useful to small and medium enterprises as well.
Title: Winning in Turbulence
Author: Darrell Rigby
This book is not what it looks like! Don’t get carried away by its appearance. You will realize as soon as you get into the book, within a few pages that it’s definitely not a casual reading. It contains some of the best thoughts on ‘Managing in Turbulent Times’ in concise form. It lives up to the series that it belongs to – ‘Memo to the CEO’.
Every CEO / Entrepreneur / Small Business Owner should read the book. It has enough tips, tricks, techniques that can enable you sustain, survive and thrive during a rough patch. Considering that rough patches have become more frequent and more turbulent – such books are a useful addition to the leader’s bookshelf.
The book being in its concise form leaves a lot to be read further, if a leader wants to use any of the important ideas. Since it comes from Bain and Company, almost all the references also lead to their other works. Right from concepts on the core and adjacencies to Net Promoter Score – all of which are concepts, tools, and frameworks of Bain, they lead you inherently to further books and reading based on research at Bain. There is no doubt that each of them are wonderful books and extremely useful concepts and frameworks. This little book at times seems like a curtain raiser to the Bain concepts at large. The book infact matches your challenge to the right tool and book for your further consideration.
I enjoyed reading the book a lot. Being a strategy researcher and consultant, I take away a lot of interesting inputs and triggers for further thinking. Overall a book that will remain relevant for days to come!