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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love
Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love
by Jon Kolko
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
26 used & new from CDN$ 16.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to focus on people, celebrate emotional value, and drive optimism through lateral and divergent thinking, Nov. 11 2014
I share Jon Kolko’s high regard for companies such as Apple and Nest whose customers describe their experiences with them using adjectives such as “beautiful, “Awesome,” “drop-dead gorgeous, “amazing,” and even “revolutionary.” They are obviously what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists.” In our family, we own just about every Apple product and three of our homes have a Nest “learning thermostat.”

Kolko observes, "What makes these companies unique is that their products are the result of a [begin italics] design process {end italics], and it is this process that has led to unprecedented media fascination and consumer adoption...This engagement [by consumers] is achieved by designing products that seem as though they have a personality or even a soul. These products feel less like manufactured artifacts and more like good friends."

I discussed this subject with two of my sons and our daughter, recalling my own "good friends" in childhood: Radio Flyer wagon, Lionel train set, Schwinn American bicycle, Wilson Ball Hawk baseball glove, and a Red Rider BB gun. Our sons then cited Etch A Sketch, Rock a Stack, G.I. Joe, Tonka Trucks, Hot Wheels, SuperBall, and Star Wars action figures. As for our daughter, her "good friends" include Barbie and Ken dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, a fully-decorated doll house, and a toy iron. They and I can recall specific situations and how much we enjoyed our engagement with what proved to be classic toys. You can thus imagine how much they and I later enjoyed the three Toy Story films.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kolko’s coverage:

o What Is Design Thinking? (16-21)
o Bringing Design Thinking to Product Management (23-26)
o What Is "The Market"? (38-42)
o Shifts in attitude among customers (46-48)
o Attributes of community (53-55)
o Behavioral insights (71-111)
o Analytics for patterns of product usage (80-82)
o Product strategy (113-138)
o Product stance and design strategy (119-126)
o Design strategy (126-129)
o RUWT?!: Are You Watching This?! (130-137)
o Defining the Product (140-160)
o Organizational alignment (146-151)
o Decision product (169-176)
o Shipping (177-215)
o Operational Capabilities (178-187)
o Design process (217-218)

Kolko also inserts seven interviews of Joe Gebbia, chief product designer at Airbnb (26-34); Josh Elman, principal at Greylock Partners, a VC firm (59-70); Gary Chou, teacher of entrepreneurial design (95-111): Mark Phillip, CEO of Are You Watching This?!, a sports analytics firm 129-138), Frank Lyman, MyEdu’s chief product officer (164-176); and Alex Reinart, head of product at Foursquare (205-215). Their varied backgrounds and real-world experiences enable them to enrich the abundance of information, insights, and counsel with regard to how to use empathy to create products people love.

I commend Jon Kolko on the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that he provides within his lively and eloquent narrative. He succeeds brilliantly when introducing and then explaining a design-led product development process (based on deep, empathetic research) from idea to execution. Also, how a product-market fit establishes a community of engaged, indeed devoted consumers, and then how to gain valuable behavioral insights from interactions with people through ethnographic research. The framework for all this is rock-solid but sufficiently flexible to accommodate adjustments over time as competitive marketplace realities change.

I wholly agree with his concluding remarks: "The broad applicability of the design process makes it powerful. We are becoming product managers, and our best process for success is a process of design -- a creative process built on a platform of empathy.”

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, co-authored by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett, as well as Roger Martin's The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage and Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine, co-edited by Martin and Karen Christensen.

Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing
Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing
by Tom Doctoroff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.74
32 used & new from CDN$ 5.74

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why it's time for companies to "stand up and reclaim the conceptual high ground for marketing communications", Nov. 11 2014
Tom Doctoroff offers what he characterizes as "a four-part framework that unifies conceptual and executional essentials, demonstrating that the brands that address [forging order from chaos for both marketers and consumers] most effectively will always reign supreme, boasting the highest margins and the most loyal consumers."

His is a "simple-but-nuanced approach to grab the holy grail of marketing: harmony between the clarity of top-down positioning and the dynamism of bottom-up consumer engagement; between long-term brand equity and short-term tactical messaging; and between emotional relevance and results elicited by data-driven technology."

I have always viewed strategies as "hammers" that drive tactics ("nails)) and there is no doubt that social media such as Twitter offer all manner of possible tactics to help strengthen customer relationships. However, as Doctoroff explains, their proper benefits -- and limitations -- must be recognized and accommodated: both analog and digital channels have value if (huge IF) effectively coordinated. Moreover, marketers must not become preoccupied with the digital connectivity at the expense of nourishing what have been l"ong-term relationships between human beings [not machines] and the brands they love."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Doctoroff's coverage:

o A Brief History of Branding (Pages 12-16)
o Digital Daze (31-35)
o The Value of Strong Brands to Consumers (39-43)
o [How] Strong Brands Provide Tangible Benefits to Parent Companies (44-52)
o Unearthing Insights into Consumer Behavior: Human Truths That Unite Us (55-61)
o Cultural Truths That Set Us Apart (61-73)
o Techniques to Uncover Human and Cultural Truths (75-77)
o Insights About Emerging Markets and Business Strategy (77-86)
o Great Brand Ideas: From Conceptual Unity, Strength (94-98)
o The Unique Brand Offer: Resolving the Insight (99-107)
o Organizational Barriers to Powerful Brand Ideas (131-133)
o When to Abandon a Brand Idea (137-146)
o Engagement Ideas That Inspire Opting In" (156-158)
o From Engagement to Advocacy (162-177)
o Defining Engagement Ideas (180-182)
o Intimacy (191-193)
o The Nine Rules of Online Content (221-238)

When concluding his book, Tom Doctoroff briefly reviews what he characterizes as two "broad points." They are centrally important to the establishment of an appropriate framework required for strong brand equity and deep loyalty. I agree with him: "First, the barriers between traditional and new media are artificial. They must be deconstructed...Second, engagement is more than a digital connection between manufacturers and consumers." Why? Because loyalty "is rooted in a long-term relationship between people and brands they love. It is born as a 'brand idea' -- a two-way commitment, long-term, and dynamic -- that provides conceptual unity across an ever-changing marketplace, expressed as engagement ideas people want to spend time with. Engaging creative ideas, today or forever, are the source of high price premiums and margins."

If your organization's objective is to establish and then sustain long-term relationships of engagement, not only with its customers but with its own people, just about all the information, insights, and counsel you need are provided in this book.

The Shifts and the Shocks: How The Financial Crisis Has Changed Our Future
The Shifts and the Shocks: How The Financial Crisis Has Changed Our Future
by Martin Wolf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.33
17 used & new from CDN$ 21.12

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the financial and economic crises that hit the high-income countries after August 2007 have altered the world, Nov. 6 2014
With rare exception, the best works of non-fiction are research-driven and that is certainly true of this book as indicated by 46 pages of detailed Notes, followed by 24 pages of References. These are Martin Wolf's primary sources. I agree with him that there are valuable lessons (some of them invaluable lessons) to be learned from the economic crisis that began in 2007-2008. Wolf identifies the nature and extent of the origin of that crisis within a complex interaction between and among globalization initiatives, hugely destabilizing global imbalances, and our dangerously fragile financial system.

Why did Wolf write this book? One of the main reasons is to explain why and how "the ideal of a liberal democracy derives from the marriage of these two ideas -- freedom and citizenship. It is based on the believe that we are not only individuals with rights to choose for ourselves, subject to the law; we are also, as Aristotle puts it, 'political animals.' As such, we have both a need and a right to participate in public life. Citizenship translates the idea of individual self-worth to the political level. As citizens, we can and should do things together. Many of these things are, in turn, the foundation stones of [Isaiah] Berlin's 'positive liberty,' or individual agency, " in his classic essay, Two Concepts of Liberty (1969).

Wolf is convinced -- and I agree -- that "a market economy is both a reflection of personal liberty and a precondition for its survival." Consider this excerpt from Lord Turner's classic, After the Crisis: Ends and Means (2012): "Economic freedom on both the consumption side and the production side -- not only the right to choose what to consume but also the right to set up a new company, to work for oneself, and to compete with new ideas -- should be recognized as a desirable objective in and of itself, not because of any prosperity dividend it delivers." That is, only if people are free in their means can they be free in their ends.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Wolf's coverage:

o Why the Shocks Matter (Pages 7-12)
o The Scale of the Crisis (18-26)
o Recovery in the Big High-Income Countries (32-36)
o The Rolling Crises (45-59)
o Understanding the Crisis, and, Misunderstanding the Crisis (59-85)
o Crisis and Recovery in Emerging Economies (90-95)
o The Monetary Normalization of High-Income Economies
o Why Financial Crises Are Endemic (118-123)
o The Shift into the Global Imbalances (158-170)
o Underling Drivers of the Global Shifts (182-188)
o The Failure of Official Economics (196-199)
o Alternatives to the New Orthodoxy (203-222)
o A Labour of Sisyphus, and, The Case for Radical Reform (232-237)
o A Capital Solution (237-252)
o How to Simulate Economies (263-272)
o Global Reform (282-285)
o Living in a Bad Marriage (294-304)
o What Happened? (320-324)
o The Challenge of Radical Reform (348-353)

I am deeply grateful to Martin Wolf for the abundance of information, insights, and counsel he provides in this thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of both the lessons learned and the lessons yet to be learned from the economic crisis that began in 2007-2008. Somehow he manages to balance his no-nonsense pragmatism with an abiding faith that eventually, somehow, it will be possible to restore economies to growth, on both the growth and supply sides.

"Every effort must be made, too, to ensure that a similar crisis will not recur without eliminating those aspects of an open world economy and integrated finance that are of benefit. This will require more radicalism than most recognize. We must not only learn lessons about how the world economy went awry. We must also act upon them. If we do not, next time a big crisis arrives even our open world eco0nimy could end in the fire."

Many (if not most) of those who read this book will agree that he asks the right questions, even if they do not agree with his answers. That's a start, a good start. Let the dialog continue.

Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing In The New Game Of Work
Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing In The New Game Of Work
by Liz Wiseman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.56
35 used & new from CDN$ 16.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Quaerere Eruditionem: Always "Seek Learning", Nov. 5 2014
In her previously published books, Liz Wiseman shares her thoughts about the power of multiplication, a force that can have either positive or negative impact. For example, companies will do all they can to multiply profitable sales while also doing all they can to reduce (if not eliminate) waste. The meaning of the terms such as multiply and diminish remains the same but their significance is determined almost entirely by the given context. That is true of individuals as well as of organizations. For example, one of the keys to a successful career is diminishing ignorance by increasing knowledge. I realized long ago that one of the most serious mistakes to make at work and elsewhere is to make decisions based on what you think you know but, in fact, don't.

Why did Wiseman write Rookie Smarts? She explains: "This book is about living and working perpetually on a learning curve. It is about why we do our best work when we are new to something, striving up that steep ascent." This is especially important now when new information is vast, fast, and fleeting. Her book is also for leaders of organizations who must ensure their workforce remains vital and competitive. It is for corporate talent management, learning, and coaching professionals who must ensure the talent inside their organization is engaged and vibrant." Rookies are those who have little (if anything) to unlearn and little (if any) prior experience when assigned to a task, duty, or responsibility that is totally unfamiliar to them. Many managers need the information, insights, and counsel that Wiseman provides in this book if they know little (if anything) and have little (if any) prior experience insofar as supervising rookies is concerned.

Wiseman shares the results of a survey conducted by members of her research team. They studied almost 400 workplace scenaria, comparing and contrasting the performance "rookies" and "veterans" while completing various work assignments. As she explains, "We defined a rookie as someone who had never done that type of work and a veteran as someone who had previous experience with that type of work -- both regardless of their age." Their work yielded four surprising observations:

"First, rookies are strong performers...performing at a slightly higher level than veterans. Second, rookies have a unique success profile: They were fast to act, marshaled resources, found simple solutions, persisted along a path, and focused on solving the right problem. Third, rookies aren't always what they seem. They listen more, are more likely to ask for help, believe they have a lot more to learn, and learn faster." Finally, experience creates dangerous blind spots. Our analysis identified a number of areas where experience created blinders that narrowed the veteran's focus and kept him stuck in a rut. With experience some habits, and once we form a habit, our brain stops working."

Wiseman discusses all this in Chapter 1, Pages 25-26.

Here's my take:

1. It is much easier to learn than to unlearn. Hence the importance of hiring intelligence and character, then providing whatever training may be necessary.

2. There is great value in cross-functional training (at least in basics) so that those trained increase their understanding -- and [begin] appreciation [end] -- of what their associates are expected to do. Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has done this for years to increase "bench strength." For example, he has defensive backs become familiar with offensive plays so that they can fill in at running back or wide receiver, if needed. Also, on the offensive line, he expects everyone to be able to play guard, tackle, or center, if needed.

3. A healthy organization is a "total learning" organization. There is always something new to learn about what to do and how to do it. Therefore, knowledge may have a limited shelf life but learning skills do not. In fact, frequent use strengthens them.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Wiseman's coverage in the first four of eight chapters:

o The New Workscape (Pages 6-10)
o A Question of Experience (20-22)
o The Learned and the Learners (22-24)
o The Rookie Smart Mindset: Backpacker, Hunter-Gatherer, Firewalker, and Pioneer (27-34)
o The Right Terrain (34-38)
o The Fountain of Wishful Thinking (41-42)
o Caretakers Versus Backpackers (47-53)
o The Backpacker's Way (53-65)
o Building Rookie Smarts (65-68)
o Local Guides Versus Hunter-Gatherers (75-84)
o The Hunter-Gatherer's Way (84-92)
o Building Rookie Smarts (92-95)
o Seekers and Finders (95-96)
o Marathoners Versus Firewalkers (101-107)
o The Firewalker's Way (107-118)
o Building Rookie Smarts (118-119)

In Chapters 5-8, Wiseman discusses Pioneers, The Perpetual Rookie, Rookie Revival, and The Rookie Organization, followed by six appendices in which she provides a wealth of invaluable supplementary material about the research process, FAQs, learning experiments, learning itineraries, Rookies and perpetual Rookies, and a discussion guide that can serve as a "fire starter," including kindling and sparks to keep the conversation "blazing."

When concluding her brilliant book, Liz Wiseman observes, "Rookie smarts isn't an age or experience level; it is state of mind -- one that is available to those willing to unlearn and relearn. It is also a choice. As the world of work speeds up, we can either slow down and get left behind, or we can quicken our step and keep up. It is a choice between the dull ache of stagnation and the short-lived discomfort of unlearning what has worked for us in the past, and then relearning what we need to know now."

In this context, I am again reminded of a situation years ago, after a substantial tuition increase, Harvard's then president, Derek Bok, was besieged by irate parents who demanded an explanation. His response? "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Location is (Still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One
Location is (Still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One
Price: CDN$ 7.59

5.0 out of 5 stars The power and perils of becoming actively engaged with the GRAVITY framework, Nov. 4 2014
Many years ago while completing several assignments for American Airlines, I had the opportunity to spend some time at its training center and was intrigued by the flight simulator. Of course, the design and capabilities must be based on the real-world experiences it replicates. I recalled that visit as I began to read this book.

According to David Bell, the relationships that exist between our physical-world locations and our virtual-world behaviors can be - and usually are -- robust. "They'll be pretty stable and quite predictable. Indeed, the very idea that your experiences in the physical world shape your behavior in the virtual world may seem rather obvious after you've seen the reasons why. (Good and lasting ideas always seem intuitive once you have the means to appreciate them.)" Quite true.

Bell suggests that gravitational pull is the reason he'd be better off taking the elevator in his apartment building rather than a "shortcut" to the street by jumping from the window. Yes, that is a simple example but its implications are anything but simple. The characters played by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in the film Gravity can flow in space but not when approaching the space shuttle before the next flight. They and we live in two worlds: where we are located physically when purchasing a copy of Bell's book, and, where information as well as our thoughts and feelings about it exist. We have a physical location when using the Internet to complete the purchase but it makes no difference where and when we do so.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bell's coverage:

o The Real World and the Virtual World (Pages 3-5)
o Adventures in the Real and Virtual World (9-13)
o GRAVITY: How the Real World Influences the Virtual One (16-17)
o The Force of Location On Offline Behavior (29-36)
o Real-World Frictions, and, More Frictions: The Tyranny of Geography (51-55)
o Gravity and "Cross-Border" Trade in Goods and Information (65-72)
o Communication Among Adjacent Individuals (75-83)
o Observation Among Adjacent Individuals (84-86)
o The Mechanics of Adjacency (86-91)
o Ties That Bind: Physical Distance, Social Distance, and the Spatial Long Tail (105-117)
o Drivers and Elements of Preference Isolation (132-143)
o People Populating the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (154-161)
o Information the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (167-176)
o Product in the Real-World/Virtual World Landscape (176-183)
o A Story of Friendship and Vision -- in the Real and virtual Worlds (187-195)
o Ahead to the Future (196-197)

Readers will greatly appreciate the skillful way that Bell reconnects the most important "dots" when explaining how and why location is (still) everything. He reviews the separate but interdependent components of the GRAVITY Framework: geography, resistance, adjacency, vicinity, isolation, and topography. He reiterates three key ideas:

1. "Always keep in mind that the benefits of shopping, selling, and searching online cannot be separated from the4 locations where customers in the real world."

2. "Your virtual-world business, whether selling goods, services, or information, must quickly create a [begin italics] sufficient density [end italics] -- often by connecting and aggregating individuals from disparate locations."

3. Finally, "Remember that the [begin italics] tactics and strategies [end italics] required for gaining followers, disseminating content, or selling products online need to be customized for different locations."

Those who read this book will be well-prepared to challenge all of their previous assumptions about what the success of their business initiatives require of them, especially now when the global marketplace changes faster and with greater frequency that at any prior time that I can recall. Better yet, David Bell will help them to formulate strategies and tactics as well as a game plan to achieve and then sustain an appropriate (that's a key word) balance of doing business in two worlds. The challenge is to use the GRAVITY framework to pull some customers to a physical location, pull others to a website, and pull still others to both. How? Read and then re-read this book.

Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way
Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way
by James Merlino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.91
27 used & new from CDN$ 17.64

5.0 out of 5 stars "One of the most important things done is to define why we're here -- for patients." Toby Cosgrove, Nov. 3 2014
Note: Delos M. ("Toby") Cosgrove, M.D., is the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

If possible, this book should be read in combination with Cosgrove's book, The Cleveland Clinic Way: Lessons in Excellence from One of the World's Leading Health Care Organizations, also published by McGraw-Hill. Both books examine with consummate skill the day-to-day operations of one of the world's most renowned medical communities. James Merlino, M.D., is Chief Experience Officer and the term "experience" refers to everyone involved throughout the given enterprise. At all levels and in all areas, the healthcare providers and those who are responsible for support services are patients-driven. They do everything humanly possible to ensure that patients and their loved ones receive superior experience. As Dr. Merlino explains, his book focuses on how to think about patient experience, "how to define it, and the factors we feel are critical to enhance it. Improving patient-centeredness also impacts how we deliver safety and quality. These are important not just for patients, but for caregivers as well."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, listed also to suggest the scope of Merlino's coverage:

o Cleveland Clinic: Challenges of organizational culture (Pages 1-7, 33-34, 66-67, 98-103, 112-113, and 220-221)
o Cleveland Clinic: Challenges of patient experience (Pages 1-7, 103-108, 177-178)
o Patient First approach (13-28)
o Chief Experience Officer (29-37)
o Transparency: 35-36, 106-108, and 181-186)
o Patient experience (45-63)
o Cleveland Clinic: Defining patient experience (54-63)
o Cleveland Clinic: Organizational culture (65-80)
o Delos M. ("Toby) Cosgrove (66-67 and 712-80)
o Cleveland Clinic: Experience Project (81-96)
o Cultural alignment (92-94) and 222-227)
o Physicians (97-118)
o Patient surveys (122-125 and 178-181)
o Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (150-154)
o Service Excellence (157-175)
o Doctors and communication skills (181-186)
o Practical communication skills: Development (186-192)
o Patient involvement (197-210)
o "Getting It Done Has Defined Our Success (211-227)

In his own book about the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Cosgrove has much of value to say about eight trends that will define the future of medicine. In fact, they will probably define the future, period. He explains WHY or HOW

1. Group practices will provide better -- and cheaper -- healthcare
2. Collaborative medicine is more effective
3. Big Data will be harnessed to improve the quality of healthcare as well as lower costs
4. Cooperative practices can be the wellspring of innovation
5. Empathy is crucial to better patient outcomes
6. Wellness of both mind and body depends on healthcare, not sickcare
7. How healthcare is best provided in different settings for greater comfort and value
8. How tailor-made healthcare treats a person rather than a disease

Of course, Dr. Merlino is well aware of these and other trends, and of the challenges they are certain to pose to sustaining, indeed enriching and improving superior health care experience. Consider these remarks when he concludes the last chapter: "Our collective goal is simple: deliver the best possible experience to our patients -- or as [Pat Ryan, CEO of Press Ganey] points out, reduce patient suffering. It's the right thing to do, it's how we want to be taken care of, and it's how we want5 our families to be treated. Success will not come quickly or easily, but will be achieved with leadership, strategy, focus, and determination. We must strive to do right -- all the time. We would accept nothing less for ourselves or our families; therefore, we should offer nothing less to the people we serve."

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
by Walter Isaacson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.08
39 used & new from CDN$ 17.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For so many of those involved with collaborative, breakthrough innovations, "Bliss was in that dawn to be alive.", Nov. 3 2014
What we have in this exceptionally valuable volume, as its subtitle correctly suggests -- is a comprehensive examination of most (not all) of the most significant "hackers, geniuses, and geeks who created the Digital Revolution." Walter Isaacson begins his survey with Ada, Countess of Lovelace's publication of her "Notes" on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine in 1843 and concludes with an IBM computer's (Deep Blue's) defeat of chess Champion Gary Kasparov in 1997 and then another IBM computer's (Watson's) defeat of previous Jeopardy! champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, in 2011.

He also notes the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) breakthroughs in innovation, suggesting that "one genius, the English mathematician Alan Turing, stands out as a heroic-tragic figure, and he's about to get his due in a new movie, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which won the top award at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month and will open in theaters in November."

As he explains, "The combined talents of humans and computers, when working together in partnership and symbiosis, will definitely be more creative than any computer working alone. We live in the age of computers, but few of us know who invented them. Because most of the pioneers were part of collaborative teams working in wartime secrecy, they aren't as famous as an Edison, Bell or Morse."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me. They are also listed to suggest the scope of Isaacson's coverage in Chapters One to Five.

o Lord Byron (Pages 9-13)
o Ada, Countless of Lovelace; also, Byron's daughter (13-18)
o Charles Babbage and His Machines (18-24)
o Lady Lovelace's Notes (24-33)
o Alan Turing (40-47)
o John Vincent Atanasoff (54-62)
o John Mauchly (62-66)
o ENIAC (72-75)
o Grace Hopper (88-95)
o The Women of ENIAC (95-100)
o John von Neumann (101-105)
o Can Machines Think? (122-129)
o Bell Labs (132-136)
o The Transistor (141-145)
o Setting the World on Fire (152-154)
o Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore (157-162)

There are seven additional chapters in which Isaacson continues his and his reader's journey, culminating in IBM's Watson's defeat of Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in competition on the television program, Jeopardy! in 2011.

In the final chapter, Isaacson shares some lessons to be learned from the wealth of information, insights, and counsel he has provided:

1. "First and foremost is that creativity is a collaborative process. Innovation comes from teams more often than from the lightbulb moments."

2. People don't invent something new on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists. "Therein lies another lesson: "the digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding the ideas handed down from previous generations." Creativity can also be a cross-generational process...and usually is.

3. "Throughout history the best leadership has come from teams that combined people with complementary styles. That was the case with the founding fathers of the United States."

4. "Another key to fielding a great team is pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. [According to Thomas Edison] Vision without execution is hallucination."

5. "There are three ways to put teams together in the digital age. The first has been through government funding and coordination (e.g. Colossus, ENIAC, and ARPANET]...Private enterprise has been another way that collaborative teams were formed [e.g. Bell Labs and Xerox PARC]...Throughout history, there has also been a third way, in addition to government and private enterprises, that collaborative creativity has been organized: through peers freely sharing ideas and making contributions as part of a voluntary common endeavor" such as Wikipedia, Linux, GNU, Open Office, and Firefox.

Before concluding, Walter Isaacson suggests that the interplay between technology and the arts will, in months and years to come, "eventually result in completely new forms of expression and formats of media. This innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processes. In other words, it will come from the spiritual heirs of Ada Lovelace, creators who can flourish where the arts intersect with the sciences and who have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens them to the beauty of both."

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of his coverage but I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his latest book. With all due justice to his earlier works, notably his biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, and Steve Jobs, I think The Innovators is his greatest achievement...thus far.

Clash of the Financial Pundits: How the Media Influences Your Investment Decisions for Better or Worse
Clash of the Financial Pundits: How the Media Influences Your Investment Decisions for Better or Worse
by Joshua M. Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.14
39 used & new from CDN$ 9.43

5.0 out of 5 stars "Pundits are people, too"...for better or worse, Nov. 1 2014
Early in the narrative, Joshua Brown and Jeff Macke observe, "As in all aspects in life, there are legitimate commenters in the financial world, and there are charlatans. These are people who genuinely want to get things right, and there are those for whom deception is more profitable. In this book, we explain that it has always been thus. Throughout history, the names and situations have changed, but the conflicts have not. Everything that has already happened will happen again." They go on to point out, "This book will make you a smarter market participant and will give you a heightened level of awareness as you survey the investment landscape. It will reveal the tricks and idiosyncrasies of your favorite talking heads, in some cases humanizing them enough so that you can extract the best of what they have to offer while sidestepping the rest."

I am among those who are not actively engaged in investments. However, I was keenly interested in the information, insights, and counsel provided by Brown and Macke and the nine pundits whom they had extended conversations. More specifically, I wanted to gain -- and did gain -- a better understanding of the mindset used by "media influencers" to obtain, organize, and evaluate a veritable tsunami of financial information. The quotations inserted as head notes add seasoning to the "stew" that Brown and Macke prepare for their reader's consumption. For example: "Markets are never wrong, opinions are." (Jesse Livermore), "Our job is to find a few intelligent things to do, not to keep up with every damn thing in the world." (Charlie Munger), and "There are clear lines separating those who swear by [Joe Granville] and those who swear at him." (Louis Rukeyser).

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Brown and Macke's coverage:

o Jim Rogers (Pages 11-27)
o South Sea Bubble (30-34)
o Ben Stein 35-46)
o Using financial information (23-24, 99-100, 133-135, and 236-237)
o Karen Finerman (51-68)
o Joe Granville (69-79)
o Henry Blodget (81-100)
o Predictions (101-109)
o Icahn-Ackman fight (111-120)
o Herb Greenberg (121-138)
o James Altucher (139-154)
o Confidence (155-157)
o Barry Ritholz on investment advisors (166-168 and 178-179)
o Nikola Tesla (172-173)
o Jim Cramer (191-219)
o Accuracy of expert predictions (235-236)

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now present these brief excerpts from some of the clashing pundits:

"The only way survive a recession in the investment world is to see what's going on. Somebody once said, "Don't fight the Fed.' Or there are people who've said, 'Don't fight the tape.' You cannot fight reality, because the market is going to go straight ahead and bowl you over if you just stick with your views and fight what's happening in the world, the changes of the world. One cannot do that. I mean, if I gain 10 pounds, I can't fight. I can't try to make my suit smaller to fit me. I've got to somehow accept the reality that I've gained 10 pounds." Jim Rogers (Page 17)

"I've lots of these [powerful personalities] on Wall Street. The only I thought was particularly smart was not on Wall Street but on Farnham Street in Omaha; that was Mr. Buffett. They are not stupid, not like they're juvenile delinquents, stupid. They are great geniuses like Warren Buffett. As far as I can tell, there's only one real genius I've ever met in the world of investing, and that's Buffett, and I've met very smart people but they're not on Wall Street. People on Wall Street don't impress me as being particularly smart." Ben Stein(38-39)

"Markets are, as Michael Mauboussin notes in his boo The Success Equation, 'a complex adaptive system, being acted upon by millions of individuals who do not behave according to any predetermined set of rationales or rules. This plain and simple fact is what condemns all market timers to inevitable failure, regardless of the depth of their experience or the calibration of their indicators. And when elaborate stage shows and a rock star mentality begin to enter into the equation, you can pretty much hang up your spurs right then and there. Because that's when the ride is over." Brown and Macke (79)

"The truth is in the market. If you and I talk about the market today, you might have a strong opinion, but you don't know what the market is going to do. Neither do I, and neither does anyone on TV. People are just giving their opinions, and then something will happen; and some of the people will have expressed opinions that were right, some of them will have expressed opinions that were wrong, and it will look like some people knew what was going to happen. Nobody did." Henry Blodget (88)

"In May 2013, a research paper -- written by a pair of grad students from the Washington State University economics program -- proved what many of us already knew: he who comes off as the most sure in his opinions will attract the most attention...Knowing is not the thing -- it's acting like you know. Good enough, this is exactly what the public wants anyway. But don't be fooled. Do your research and know the good pundits from the bad. Be alert enough to the fact that the amount of confidence with which a forecast is delivered does not add to its probability of coming true, even though your brain has evolved to see it that way." Brown and Macke (155 and 157).

"I'll never forget reading in The New York Times, Ben Stein saying subprime is such a tiny percentage of the overall economy that it was meaningless. And I just wanted to say, 'Imagine if your oncologist said, `Well, we found a tumor, and it's malignant, but really, you're a 200-pond guy, It's a couple of grams, said -- I wouldn't worry about it.'" Barry Ritholz (167)

Again, I wish to express my deep appreciation of the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that is provided in this volume. I highly recommend this book to those whom Joshua Brown and Jeff Macke probably had in mind for a primary audience but also for countless others such as I who are eager to fill substantial gaps in their financial education. We are advised: "The media will call upon the voices and faces of the pundit firmament, doing its best to select the most knowledgeable experts it can, even if that means settling for the most available ones." It has been ever thus and always be so we are urged to remember one basic truth: "Pundits are people, too."

The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs (BK Business)
The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs (BK Business)
Price: CDN$ 11.28

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are not in a positive discomfort zone, get a different map and compass., Oct. 31 2014
I read and reviewed Marcia Reynolds' previous book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction (2010), and then interviewed her. She has a keen interest in interactive relationships between and among people who are struggling to cope with a world in which change is the only constant, especially now when change happens more often and faster than at any prior time that I can remember. She has an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn't, and (especially) why. Over the years, she has helped leaders in countless companies to create and then sustain a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

In her latest book, The Discomfort Zone, she shares her thoughts about how to thrive during moments of uncertainty when people are most receptive to learn. As Reynolds explains, "In order to define who we are and make sense of the world around us, our brains develop [or embrace] constructs and rules we strongly protect without much thought. This is what James O'Toole has in mind when suggesting, in Leading Change, that the strongest resistance to change tends to be cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." What to do? Reynolds: "To help people think differently, you have to disturb the automatic processing. This is best done by challenging the beliefs that caused the frames and surfacing the underlying fears, needs, and desires that are keeping the constructs in place." My other rather extensive experience which change initiatives convinced me that those lead them must take into full account a powerful but unspoken question that most people have: "What's in it for me?"

These are among the major subjects and issues that Reynolds addresses:

o What a discomfort zone is and why it can be beneficial
o The best circumstances in which to have a discomfort zone conversation
o What differentiates a discomfort zone conversation from others
o Five myths about a workplace and what in fact is true
o Keys to effective listening
o How what you hear can help to guide and inform your response
o How to use discomfort conversations to avoid or overcome communication barriers
o How to use discomfort conversations to "embrace what's next"
o How to leverage what is learned from interactions within the discomfort zone

The approach that Reynolds recommends is research-driven, one that takes into full account the realities that now exist in a global marketplace but also the basics of human nature that have remained true since an incident long ago when a serpent engaged a woman in conversation about apples in a garden. Toxic leaders create and sustain discomfort zones that depress, discourage, and demoralize those within them. Obviously, that's not what Marcia Reynolds has in mind. The leaders she most admires are those who create and then sustain a workplace environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

In fact, all organizations need leadership at all levels and in all areas throughout the given enterprise. There are almost unlimited opportunities every day for everyone to convert interactive encounters -- conversations that are uncomfortable for them as well as for others -- into breakthroughs that improve communication, cooperation, and -- especially -- collaboration.

The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business
The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business
by Steven Overman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.30
29 used & new from CDN$ 18.83

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why vales-driven free enterprise may well be the modern agent to make life safer, better, and longer for the human race, Oct. 31 2014
According to Louis Rossetto in the Foreword, "If you're pessimistic about the future, you're likely to embrace an [begin italics] après moi le déluge [end italics] attitude and focus on short-term gratification. On the other hand, if you believe the future will be better, you will step up. take responsibility, and do the long-term thinking necessary to make that better world for you and your children."

I agree with Rossetto. However, before reading and then re-reading this book, I really was not clear in my thinking about the future. More specifically, I was uncertain what stepping up, taking responsibility, and doing the long-term thinking that is necessary to make the world better for my four children and, yes, their ten children. I am grateful to Overman and to each of the pundits who share their thoughts about one or more of the major issues now emerging in the Conscience Economy. (I quote six of them later in this review.) What are the core principles and defining characteristics of conscience-driven economy? Overman suggests these.

1. Collective-Self Actualization: "My fulfillment requires our fulfillment."
2. Optimism: "We can create a better world. So we will."
3. Fairness: "Everyone has a right to a great life. Everyone."
4. Well-Bering: "We expect to be and feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit."
5. Transparency: "We crave knowing everything, so if you don't tell us, we'll find out for ourselves."
6. Authenticity: "We see right through fake, so keep it real."
7. Disruptive Irreverence: "Let's turn it all upside down."
8. Sensible Environmentalism: "If it's bad for the planet, it's not for us."
9. Global Citizenship: "We are all part of something bigger" so "Think locally, act globally."

Over the years, I have observed that, however different they may be in most respects, all healthy organizations share this in common: Everyone involved thinks and behaves in terms of first-person plural pronouns, and, they have a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Overman’s coverage:

o Something Different in the Air (Pages 3-4)
o The Ubuntu Mind-Set (4-7)
o Conscience Is Connection (11-13)
o Win-Win, and, Get Ready (13-17)
o The Great Conflux (21-33)
o The Crossroads (33-36)
o Build Your Telescope (36-38)
o Conscious Culture Benefits (43-48)
o Conscious Culture Expectations (48-54)
o Old and New Basics 69-80)
o Baked In (84-86)
o Business and Society (86-88)
o Professional Corporate Citizenship (92-95)
o The Five Cs of Matchmaking (106-114)
o The Power of Giving Up Power (130-131)
o Measuring the Immeasurable (139-142)
o Dimensions of Accountability (142-148)

You now you have in this brief commentary a representative selection from among the invaluable information, insights, and counsel that Steven Overman provides in abundance. Let’s allow him the final observations, affirming values with which I wholly agree: “Business operates in the service of human lives. Life generates infinite data. But life is not made of data. Life is made of experiences, sensations, and emotions. Of course the facts matter. But only when you put them in a meaningful context. Thus, stories are always more effective than stats…The mass movement for good is great for people. And it’s great for resources. And that’s ultimately why the Conscience Economy is great for business. Is there any other option?”

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