I am carrying a ‘blue umbrella’ with me this monsoon. Someone passed a comment on it. It made me remember this book. So, I picked it up again. This little gem got delivered by Amazon earlier this week and I ended up reading it that very night. I felt I was reading it for the first time. This little girl, her brother, the cows, the hillside, and everything almost visually coming to life in front of my eyes. I was literally seeing the story unfold in front of my eyes. It shows the power of simple writing. It shows the emotions of village folk. It displays village life and values.
As I was telling a professor of mine during lunch the next day, ‘The most difficult word I saw in that book was – petulant’. Isn’t that amazing?
I love Ruskin Bond’s writing. His books are for children. But I have come to believe that his books are for the child within every one of us. Hence I will continue to regularly pick up his titles, especially these little stories for children and read them over and over again. I am extremely hopeful that this will impact my writing too.
At times during the reading, I was consciously slowing myself down, keeping the book on my chest and looking into my white ceiling visualising what some character would be doing or feeling then. I enjoyed every bit of it, as I have always in the past with Bond’s books.
So, if you are looking for some really high quality writing, pick this book up. If you have young children, expose them to Ruskin’s writing as early as you can. While I go finding the next title to read, pick up ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and,
Its an unusual book. Its a page turner. Its an experience.
It is not a dramatised version of a science fiction novel, but a matter-of-fact story of a real happening. ‘Y Combinator’ was the world’s first accelerator. Though Paul Graham does not refer to it as an accelerator, the phenomenon has really caught on.
This book is more like an ethnographic account of what makes ‘Y Combinator’ a celebrated place in the valley. The author gained access to spend time through one cohort and write a detailed account. The story gives us an idea of how a startup is selected, what they go through and how they prepare themselves for growth. While acceleration seems to only speed up the process of testing and going to market, there is no assurance of success or a sure-success pill.
I enjoyed reading the book. It seemed more fiction than non-fiction. There are interesting anecdotes and experiences that startups, ecosystem stakeholders and policy makers can learn from. Though Silicon Valley itself has enormous lessons for building entrepreneurship ecosystems, places like ‘Y Combinator’ provide equally compelling models of creating ecosystems for catalysing entrepreneurship.
I read the book because of my interest in the phenomenon of accelerators. But startup founders, policy makers, entrepreneurship ecosystem support stakeholders – all equally have interesting take aways from the book. If not anything else, it is a well written story of what happens in the world of startups.
Book Title: Don’t Buy this Book Now! The Art of Procrastination
Author: John Perry
On a lazy Sunday afternoon, with an entire case to be edited before night, I was reading this book. The very fact that I was not at my table editing the case, but browsing the racks (with guilt) of my library is reason enough to have stumbled onto this little gem.
The well-made, hardbound, nicely created book is a quick read. One can finish the book in an hour or two. Once you finish the book, you will first and foremost be guilt-free from ‘procrastination’. You will also come away learning a few tools to fool yourself into a more productive day. Every time I read a book by a philosopher, I wonder about the equipment called ‘the mind’ sitting inside each of us. Whoever said – ‘the enemy is within’, was totally right.
It is no surprise that the author of this little book won the Ig Nobel Prize. Thanks to this book, I learned about these awards and their quirkiness too. I don’t want to share anything about the content of this book for two reasons: (i) book is too short and (ii) the crux of it is so simple, yet so profound.
Why would I want my entrepreneur folk (students/colleagues/clients) to read this book? Answer: Because without their own knowledge they keep procrastinating their most important tasks. While they remain busy, they get frustrated that their key tasks remain pending. This book will provide some unconventional tips to get focus back on what matters. This suits entrepreneurs best.
I am fan of Prof. Martin’s writings. Though I have read and reviewed his earlier book on strategy, this one eluded my consumption since sometime. During a recent discussion with one of my entrepreneur clients in the design space, I casually asked her to refer something to read on her subject. She told me since I was from the business strategy arena, I may like to see the work of one Roger Martin. I smiled and issued the book as soon as I came back to my base.
It is no surprise that ‘design thinking’ is taking the business world by storm. The examples quoted in the book showcases the benefit of using this approach to strategy making. While some aspects of it are intuitive and some may be using it too, Prof Martin has made it structured and repeatably usable.
Being an academic myself I enjoyed the philosophical underpinnings of design thinking. I was introduced to a philosopher I had only heard in the past – Charles Pierce. I actually consumed the book like how a child eats ‘ice cream’ – ate slowly so as to not get done with it; and felt bad when it actually got done.
But the nice part of a good book is the number of triggers it provides for furthering its thoughts. It also leads you to more reading. This book did both.
Thanks Prof Martin for providing an inspirational read on ‘design thinking’ and leading me to read more on this subject. I am so convinced that this approach to thinking will guide me in my scholarly life as well as in helping the thousands of entrepreneurs and students I interact with everyday.
Book Title: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently
Author(s): Heidi Grant Halvorson
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:
Get specific goals
Seize the moment to act on your goals
Know exactly how far you have left to go
Be a realistic optimist
Focus on getting better rather than being good
Build your willpower muscle
Don’t tempt fate
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.
Book Title: Strategy Rules – Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs
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:
Look forward, reason back
Make big bets without betting your company
Build ecosystems and platforms – not just products
Exploit leverage and power – play judo and sumo
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.
Book Title: Brick by Red Brick – Ravi Matthai and the making of IIM Ahmedabad
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?