Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Leave a comment

Books and Me: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently

Book Title: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently

Author(s): Heidi Grant HalvorsonNine Things Successful People Do_Book Cover

Every one wants to be successful. While this little book distills 9 things that one can do to be successful, there are lists of varying lengths suggesting success. I have not come across too many people who have read their way to success. It is like reading writing guides to start writing – it rarely happens. But there are few reasons you may want to read this book:

  • it is short (really short)
  • it is easy to hold in your hand (less than A5 size i believe)
  • you can complete it in a couple of hours (maximum)
  • it is well written and to the point
  • written with authority for the busy professional
  • tips and suggestions for practice

Don’t expect anything that you don’t know in this book. This in my opinion makes the book useful. Of the nine things (listed below) the first is my favourite:

  1. Get specific goals
  2. Seize the moment to act on your goals
  3. Know exactly how far you have left to go
  4. Be a realistic optimist
  5. Focus on getting better rather than being good
  6. Have grit
  7. Build your willpower muscle
  8. Don’t tempt fate
  9. Focus on what you will do and not what you won’t do

I love the first one simply because all the others make no sense if it is not fixed. The problem that I have seen with most people is that nobody wants to fix the first thing. Most people feel that by fixing one thing they are letting go of a lot of things. Misunderstanding!! Think about it.

I am sure you will learn something from this book that can make you more successful than what you are. The reason I say ‘can’ and not ‘will’ is because you need to act on something to make success happen. So if you are ready to get off that chair or bed or whichever you are sitting on and get to doing something, this book can give you suggestions to sharpen it. The one thing that this book does not touch upon is – what is success? It is left to you the reader to decide that first. It makes sense to put the tools to use when you know what you want to achieve, else as they say, you may be simply climbing quickly the wrong wall. Think about it.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Books and Me: Strategy Rules – Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

Book Title: Strategy Rules – Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

Strategy Rules Book Cover

Strategy Rules Book Cover

Author: David B Yoffie and Michael A Cusumano

‘How To’ books in management are aplenty! Over time one tends to grow tired reading them. Rightly so – but this book may be an exception. There are many reasons for this:

  • Because you are a fan of either of the three CEOs mentioned in the title
  • Because you believe strategic thinking as a skill can be learned
  • Because you are a fan of strategy as a subject

Whatever be the reason, you are bound to find something of interest. While the five lessons (timeless according to the authors) may seem obvious, the better part of the book is how they link it to specific actions one can take to strengthen them. The five lessons are:

  1. Look forward, reason back
  2. Make big bets without betting your company
  3. Build ecosystems and platforms – not just products
  4. Exploit leverage and power – play judo and sumo
  5. Shape the organisation around your personal anchor

Every lesson has a dedicated chapter that provides number of examples from the lives of these master strategists. It then distills them into four principles each (20 principles in all) that one can ‘learn’ and ‘practice’. The authors’ having tracked these CEOs and their companies over time have an advantage in presenting this subject. It is also very different from the usual books on strategy that makes everything look so abstract. The book is good reading for entrepreneurs and business owners. Aspiring leaders will find number of tips and techniques to practice strategic decision making skills.

Overall an easy to read book, with simple to understand and easy to learn principles (distilled) which can help every one of us to learn and practice strategy. While it does look easy, on close study, one is bound to find contradictory lessons and practices. It is in digesting them that one can become a good strategist. The easy looking lessons have simple yet profound principles to learn and practice. It requires the same amount of courage, presence of mind, perseverance, and passion like the CEOs studied.

Every entrepreneur will find some definite take aways from this book. The last chapter also highlights that while all of the CEOs were strategic and successful, each of them had their own method. Their strength was in finding out their method early and aligning everything else to it. It is probably the biggest lesson every entrepreneur must learn and do: Find who you really are? Find what your method to business is? Find what your method to leadership is? Align all your activities around it. Then you will find success and happiness!

Isn’t that what people aspire for, eventually! Entrepreneurship is after all living your dreams. Try it. I am sure reading this book will inspire finding yourself, at the very least.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Books and Me: Brick by Red Brick – Ravi Matthai and the making of IIM Ahmedabad

Book Title: Brick by Red Brick – Ravi Matthai and the making of IIM Ahmedabad

Brick by red brick

Author: T T Ram Mohan

Books on leadership are dime a dozen. While many of them preach the virtues of leadership, most of the remaining discuss the ‘how-to’. Rarely does one comes across a book which discusses threadbare institution building and the role of the leader in such detail. This book is one of those rare ones.

Entrepreneurship brings firms into existence. But it is Leadership that turns them into institutions. This book is one such brilliant exposition of institution building. It is a double whammy because the leader in this story (Ravi Matthai) was entrepreneurial too. As the first full time Director of the now famous Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), he exemplified both organisational entrepreneurship and leadership.

This book is a must read for every leader. In a country like India where the education sector is looking for reform, we need more leaders like Ravi Matthai. We do not want imitators but people who can draw lessons from his illustrious life and adapt them to their respective contexts.

The book clearly displays the deep interest and research that the author has put in to produce such a non-hagiographic account. Without deifying, the author highlights why Ravi Matthai may have been an exception in the education sector in India. The author brings out a balanced view of his personality making the story both inspiring and insightful. Leaders (current and future) in the education sector must read it for the sake of the future of this country. Faculty have innumerable lessons to draw from the book.

Though this book had been suggested to me earlier, it was only this week that I actually picked it up. It was in response to my search for something light after all the heavy reading and writing I had engaged in. But what began as a slow start in the evening ended up consuming much of the night and early part of next day. I wanted to get to the end. I wanted to know it all. The writing kept my interest alive and left me wanting to know more about the protagonist. I learned how one can lead a complete life, a passionate one and be consumed by it, till the very end. I finished the book inspired and will definitely make it to the Vikram Sarabhai Library soon to read more – works about and by Ravi Matthai.

Leadership is a big challenge today across the world. Our institutions need entrepreneurial leaders, most chronically needed (probably) in educational institutions. The system is crying for renewal. Many more visionary leaders such as Ravi Matthai are needed to resurrect the prized Indian Education system. It is urgently needed considering the fact that we would be educating the maximum number of youth over the next few decades. Who will be their inspiration?

Read the book. Be inspired. Inspire.

1 Comment

Books and Me: Why now is the time to crush it!

Book Title: Why now is the time to crush it! Cash in on your passioncrush-it-cover

Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

This book is not really about how to build a firm, but it is very close to that. It talks about how to build a brand. While the entire focus is on building a personal brand, I think the fall out of the efforts can really help transform your start-up venture. The case-in-point for this is the author himself. Apart from having created a fan following for himself, he has also built up his family business and taken it to great heights. How? By using social media correctly.

The author is famous for the Wine Library TV that he runs online. He comes from a family business in the liquor business. But I am sure there are so many with similar backgrounds! What makes him different is the passion that with which he built and spread knowledge about wines. Doing this correctly has also led him to become a personal brand. This personal brand building has enabled him launch himself into related businesses, gain book deals, hit the lecture circuits and most of all: enable him live doing what he loves!

I think that’s one big point that the book makes. Today there are enough tools and enough freedom to enable one to channelise their passion. They can use the power of the internet and spread their passions, find others who relate to them, enable others who want to know about them, and even become a celebrity in their own right. One can then actually make a living doing number of related activities around the identified passion. All of this is today possible – thanks to the internet.

The book speaks about how one can do this. Right from selecting the right area, choosing the medium that is most suitable for us, and creating content that can spread like fire – the books covers good ground. But it is not a how to book. It does not talk about how to actually shoot a video or how to write a blog, it does however deal with the thought process behind it, the intent behind how to leverage the social media tools, and exposes one to how it has worked in the case of the author.

There is enough inspiration in the book, directions to get started, and where to head to get started too. But as the author says, it is up to us to make use of this wonderful opportunity that has been provided to our generation and live a fulfilling life. What more can one ask? Make money (more than what one can imagine or at least need) doing what one always wanted to do (life’s task).

If you are an entrepreneurial mind, then this book can quickly show you how to get started. If you are in the advisory / consulting / training space, these can be used by you to establish yourself as a thought leader in your domain. If you are a start-up, you can use these to help your start-up benefit by leveraging an existing shared passion.

Find yours now!

Leave a comment

Books and Me: What would Apple do?

Book Title: What would Apple do?What would apple do book cover

Author: Dirk Beckmann

To be very honest with you, my reader, I bought the book almost impulsively because it was beautifully designed and produced by Jaico Books. It was sleek, light weight, well printed and perfect for reading on the flight. But I must say that if the title had nothing to do with business, I may have just appreciated it and left it behind. Apple is a company I admire (like so many others) and hence pick material written about it. The intent is not to see if they have got something that is insider information about their growth strategies – but to see if the thought process can produce some insights which are applicable for emerging enterprises.

The author of the book initially wrote this book in German and then translated it into English. But there is no difficulty in reading as it has been well done. The author seems to have written most of this book for a blog that he runs himself: www.what-would-apple-do.com

The book primarily has two parts, the first that attempts to decipher the communication strategy of Apple and the second that attempts to apply how these will apply in emerging sectors / opportunities. While the first book is a typical refresher on what we have been hearing about Apple from many authors, the second seems more interesting as topics than thoughts. Honestly I would encourage the readers to take the topic or idea and think for themselves about how Apple would have commercialised it. The author provides his perspective, but to be honest, I somehow enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half.

Even though the thoughts in the first half seem like what we have heard there are a lot of interesting connections to other thinking that the author brings forward. I loved the references to some aspects of industrial design ideas, design thinking and the concept of virtual design concepts and patents. These sprinkled across the book were sure takeaways from the reading.

Overall a simple book, a quick read, a sure refresher of Apple’s philosophy to creating products and communication. How many ever times we read books on this subject, how many ever times it seems repeated, it does not matter. If we can get one good insight into how we can bring simplicity to our products, services and especially communication – it is worth all the money we spend on such books.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Books and Me: The Myth of the Garage

Book Title: The Myth of the GarageMyth of the Garage Book Cover

Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This is not really a book in the real sense. It is a collection of articles previously written by the authors. Having read some of their other books which made immense sense, I downloaded this booklet on my Kindle to read. I always look for some random light reading on business on days when I feel too full. So on one such day, I decided to go over these articles.

I was immediately caught on to the variety of articles that the brothers have brought together during their writing these for a column in a popular trade magazine. There is tremendous breadth to their writing with an underlying theme. I think this reminds us over and over again about the importance of making ideas stick. Getting our products / services and the related communication stick with consumers is a big challenge to almost every marketer. I think the problem goes well beyond business – into education, non profits, governance, politics, etc The authors highlight number of other books, research articles and case studies to impress upon us the importance of doing away with myths.

The biggest myth that I smiled on reading was the one that bears the title of the collection – ‘The Myth of the Garage’. Being a researcher, writer and teacher of entrepreneurship it was a pleasant surprise to see some references to academic research citing the contrary to be true. It was surprising and a welcome perspective to spend time on, share in classes and aid students to try entrepreneurship at later stages in their careers and lives.

There are many other counter-intuitive studies are showcased in those articles related to interesting and pertinent topics such as: talent, communication, happiness, buying, etc

One is bound to have enough inputs for reflection upon reading this little collection. I completed the book in a couple of hours while making notes. I have enough references for inciting me to read more, write more and share more in classes. Thanks to the authors for bringing these articles together as an e-book as it made it easy to consume them.

Happy Reading!

Leave a comment

Books and Me: My Days, Autobiography

Book Title: My Days, Autobiographymy days r k narayan book cover

Author: R K Narayan

I recently picked this up at the Chennai airport book store as I was leaving for a workshop for entrepreneurial CEOs. I wanted something light and inspiring. R K Narayan was a celebrated writer and his life for a person like me (a writer) could be both inspirational and motivating. A quick look at the book also convinced me that I should read it because there were many references to places I was familiar to in Chennai.

Over the next two flights before I returned to base, I completed the book. It was a direct from heart story written in the typical Narayan style. The language is simple, the message clear and direct. His ability to craft stories is simply amazing. As with any other person who has come up to great success, he has had his fair share of challenges – both personal and social.

The beauty is that he found his calling pretty much early in life. While many of us have glimpses of this in our early lives and many times thereafter, I think the problem is that we silence that voice within us. Narayan gives us many episodes from his life that indicate how these obstacles and forces come our way. Family members trying to persuade him to make writing a hobby rather than a vocation. Not much of early success with the chosen vocation can catalyse our internal mind to attempt alternatives to keep ourselves afloat. Social obligations can force us to forego our dreams. And many more! He had a fair share of all these asking to turn away from writing.

His own life was filled with personal challenges. An early and pre mature death of his wife was a disheartening event, but which also produced some classic works. His travails to take a job eventually strengthening his resolve to be a writer. His hands at trying his own media (quarterly newsletter along with friends) giving him options to move away from his vocation. How did he manage to stay true to his inherent interest? Is it this strong resolve that made the forces of nature bring important people his way. Were his discoverer in UK, Mr Greene and his other contacts that resulted in him becoming published all a result of this strong resolve to be a writer?

Lots of things to learn from the life of this interesting and loved author. Persistence to keep doing what you ought to do without regards to acknowledgement, keeping a single goal in life, giving up all other opportunities for the sake of the singular goal, learning to ignore social pressure and stick to the path chosen, and being true to one’s calling are all important lessons to learn from the autobiography of this writer. Above all, it is important to learn that one has to discover one’s calling early in life (however early as possible) and have the courage to stick to it. I loved his ideas of coming up with a lifestyle (and associated upside costs of Rs 20 per month) so as to align with his chosen vocation. It is important to adjust lifestyle to make sure we don’t compromise on our vocation – but most of us succumb to the reverse. Think about it!

I came away inspired and at times with tears welling up in my eyes as I read the book. It has strengthened my resolve to live my life for the bigger purpose for which life has given me certain talents and do it as much as possible, irrespective of the results. What a lovely way to live life this way?

Think about it!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,479 other followers