What I’m Reading

I love books. The ones I’ve read, and the ones I’d love to read.

Reading is a form of freedom. Libraries and bookstores are some of my favorite places in the world. Growing up, we had a library of 5,000 books in the house—possibility!

* I participate in the Amazon affiliate program, which offsets some of the costs of maintaining this site. You don’t pay more for the book and I get a small (and increasingly smaller) cut for referring you. 


3 Books to Make Sense of What Was, What Is, and What Could Be

BooksValue and the good are synonyms in Aristotle’s thought. You can see it play in ‘beauty.’ Beauty possesses a motive force and can be transferred to do the work of being, which is why art ‘moves us.’ Thus beauty is good. But this meaning has been lost to history.

Culture is organic.

It grows and withers and, once lost, must be grown again. However, that which remains is not broken. The energy is still there. We just have forgotten or lost the way to release it. So it’s trapped in a form and awaiting the rediscovery of the great engines of change that will transform it in non material forms of growth–and other kinds of capital.

A good argument in favor of reading history and literature: you may happen upon a rich vein. And that is why reading the classics and timeless books is so valuable. But also stirring the conversation to the topics and ideas that have the objective capacity to affect meaningful change in our lives. [keep reading]


On the Value of Reading for Writing

FerranteThe pause should not surprise you. It was time to reassemble. I’m reading In the Margins, and realizing how much harder it is to write as a woman. Most of my ideas are original. I do write from a multiplicity of egos as Virginia Woolf suggested. But I haven’t tried my hand at fiction, yet.

I wonder what would have happened if I had adopted an elusive and enigmatic persona like Elena Ferrante. Freed from a physical context that invites assumptions, I might have taken more risks early on. But back then I had 50,000 regular readers.

“Although I was a woman, I couldn’t write as a woman except by violating what I was diligently trying to learn from the male tradition.”

Balancing the compliant and the impetuous was a struggle. [keep reading]


Read Different to Think Different

DifferentIs the concept of normality limiting? As a thin concept, it doesn’t reflect the full spectrum of human potential. The burden of justifying change is on the people who question the status quo. My track record in this regard dates back to pre-kindergarten.

Here’s what I’m reading now:

1. How We Became Human by Tim Dean — social change has picked up dramatically with the disruption of continuity of culture (and class). We need more constructive questions about norms. So we can learn to push back on our unreflective sense of the world. Dean explores the intersection of biology, genetics, psychology and philosophy and how they contributed to forming a narrative morality at odds with the change in our current environment.

2. What’s Normal?: Reconciling Biology and Culture by Allan V. Horwitz [keep reading]


Philosophy as a Lens to Understand Money… and Yourself


Lens“The philosopher’s job is to be an interface between things that would not normally communicate with each other. We think about policies, strategies, business models, priorities: they are all open problems, where the philosopher has his perfect place.” Oxford University professor Luciano Floridi considers himself a digital philosopher.

Digital communication has become a much greater part of our lives. And some of the best strategists I’ve worked with did use philosophy as a lens to make sense of things. His statement also bears with my own experience. For example, when I taught advanced digital marketing and communications to master students at the Bologna Business School, I spoke about identity as a way to understand the web.

Philosophy can help you see the tension in choices. [read more]



The Difference Between Wanting to Read vs. Wanting to Have Read


ModenaI don’t know what you’ve read or what you started to read but couldn’t finish. My book recommendations may suit you in your current situation, or they may not. But I do know one thing that can help you: there’s a difference between wanting to read and wanting to have read.

If you’re someone who wants to read, you’ll find the time. You’ll follow your instinct in picking titles. And you’ll read for pleasure, out of curiosity. My reading is ‘cage free’—I give myself permission to pick from a broad variety of topics, I scan books stopping to the chapters that interest me, and I read out of order.

[keep reading]


My Best Books of the Year List

Serotonin is the antidote to dopamine

Books are a non-addictive way to stimulate curiosity. The difference between reading a book and engaging in social media is stark. That’s because the two activities engage different areas of the brain. Many studies have demonstrated that social media stimulates dopamine, which seeks short term pleasure and is addictive.

By contrast, an activity that creates long term satisfaction involves serotonin. While the first touches 5 brain receptors, the second touches 14. [keep reading]



The Right Kind of Books are Honest

Words must mean something before they can stand for it“The Conscious Leader flows effortlessly between the masculine to the feminine,” says Rúna Bouius. Jonathan Cook adds: “… and in flowing between masculine and feminine, trades in the territory between, discovering dimensions of identity that are neither and both. The flow is the thing. This is commerce.”

This exchange is an inspiring example of what online dialogue could bebuilding on ideas. You can still find this structure in some books. Those become classics. In Italo Calvino’s definition of “classics”: “those books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them.”

“Books are not meant to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry,” said Umberto Eco. “When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.” [keep reading]


Why we Need More of the Right Kind of Books

We need more of the right kind of booksI love books. The ones I’ve read, and the ones I’d love to read.

Reading is a form of freedom. Libraries and bookstores are some of my favorite places in the world. Growing up, we had a library of 5,000 books in the house—so much possibility. Right at a point in my life when I also had the time. Though there’s always time for good books.

Lately, I started reaching out to people who I think should write one. Because we seem to miss the books we could really use. Whenever I come across a substantive body of thought—usually in a blog or a podcast—I reach out to the author to inquire about books on the topic.

And often the books I find on the subject fall short. They don’t cover the theory well. Or they precipitate too quickly into tactical application. Before the thesis was fully formed. I tend to stir clear of self-help material and “how to” stuff. There’s the web for that. There are videos.

Books are for entering new worlds. [keep reading]


3 Books to Reset

Piazza Cordusio Milano[Piazza Cordusio, Milano]


Kevin Kelly has a short 3 books recommendation worth expanding upon. I haven’t read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. But lately, most of my writing for this site and the letter feels like a form of meditation. So that goes on the list.

“The book is a form of meditation, written with headlong urgency, about seeing. . . . There is an ambition about her book that I like. . . . It is the ambition to feel.” Eudora Welty, New York Times Book Review. This Eudora Welty.

We’ve gotten used to creating compartments for things. Here I put work. Here I put family. Here I put love… It’s a very masculine way of operating. Note I didn’t say male. Shiva is ‘shakti’ or power, masculine energy.

A feminine way of observing is connected, nurturing, protecting, and encouraging. Ironically, the feminine is also oriented to growth and development. It works toward the better, what heroes return to. [keep reading]


Memes, Social Chemistry, and Humor

Memes  Social Chemistry  and Humor

Some books work for some people. Read them at the right time, and they give you the insights you need. Some work for others, or in other circumstances. That’s why I write about collections on a topic or related topics.

You can find my readings archives here.

The topics I selected for this batch of reading suggestions are connected in more than one way. Originally classified as genetic material, we’ve become more familiar with memes in culture. Funny ones tend to spread faster. Value is in the ability to cause positive change. [keep reading]


The Ingredients for Making Something that Lasts

Making something that lasts
In the Sixteenth Century, Michelangelo was more than a sculptor. Like Leonardo and his beloved Dante Alighieri, he did much more than his art.

Director Andrey Konchalovskiy shows “Michelangelo working alongside the masons in a marble quarry, dangling over an abyss on ropes and designing systems for moving mammoth blocks of stone using nothing but muscle power and rudimentary machines such as pulleys.”

Three creators, centuries apart. Their works inspired entire generations. Their work is the culmination of skills, ingenuity, talent, insights and elbow grease. But it endures because it’s embedded in a vessel—a statue, a fresco, a book—and embodies all the human qualities of intellect and the energy of work. [keep reading]


A Compass and a Lifeline: 3 Readings

A compass and a lifelineI’ve always been fascinated by the mind. I remember Scientific American dedicated a full  issue of the magazine to the mind. Incidentally, my middle school finals were like a magazine, weren’t they? A collection of findings and stories about different ways to see a topic.

Looking back, as we all do to connect a few dots, it’s pretty obvious the projects were a path to self-awareness. They were also exceptional ways to meet amazing people. 

Self-awareness and ability to make new friends

are the keys to leaving the world

in a better state than you found it.

A compass and a lifeline. We could use both in our lives and work. [keep reading]


Three of the Best Books on Being Human

Brain behavior points of view“Well that’s, like, just your opinion, man!” as the The Big Lebowski would say. We see the world from our point of view. It’s the human condition. We all like to believe that our view of the world is the right one.

Being human is complicated, but all other species are taken. So we might as well do the best with what we’ve got.

Three books to connect some dots

We’re all so different. Yet, in many ways, we respond to similar stimuli. Our aspirations range from the most base to the sublime. We’re human. The oldest idea that still fascinates us is what sets people apart from other species… and from each other.

Here’s a selection of the best readings for some clues. [keep reading]


Four Books to Understand how Reality Works and How to Deal with it

Oz[image from The Wizard of Oz]

“A fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.” Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I

Not assuming is a superpower. As Ray Dalio says, “Truth—more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality—is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.” It could save your life.

But, as Orwell wrote, “To see what is in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle.”

[keep reading]


A Reading List for the Culturally Curious

Culturally curious

“Looking at life from a different perspective makes you realize that it’s not the deer that is crossing the road, rather it’s the road that is crossing the forest.” Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Muhammad Ali was an activist and philanthropist who became known in America and the world as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.

His convictions cost him at least four years of peak performance. Sports Illustrated declared the heavyweight “Sportsman of the Century” in 1999. Ali won numerous awards throughout his career. But it was his appeal that won him a large following. [keep reading]


The 3-5 Books That Sit on My Office Shelf

3-5 top booksThis came as a question to me via Jose. It’s very appropriate because companies pay me to write. That’s also (but not only) why I read a lot. The other reasons include broadening cultural horizons, which often includes disagreeing with other authors. Rarely with the classics, though. Because the classics don’t try to sell me a framework, mostly (more further down.)

3-5 books I reference often enough to keep on my office shelf. They’ve changed little over the last ten to twelve years. You’ll see many references to the thinking, research and practice of the authors in my writing as their work impacts mine.

[keep reading]


Why Read Fiction? For the Writing… but also Because “Strategy is your Words”

Fiction readingWhen you read like a writer, you can advance your own writingfirst by picking up cues from the style you like, then developing your voice. Plus, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut,” says Stephen King in On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft.

Mark Pollard says “Strategy Is Your Words.” He suggests “to keep reading fiction. Great fiction teaches you about words and writing and is riddled with psychological insight.”

This is why I continue reading fiction voraciously throughout my life. It helps me find clarity in my work. [keep reading]


Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG at Columbia Law School“The most remarkable thing is to hear Felicity Jones, who speaks the Queen’s English, sound very much like she was born and bred in Brooklyn,” said Ruth Bader Ginsburg of On the Basis of Sex, the 2018 movie also starring Armie Hammer.#

I enjoyed the story, in part imaginative (RGB had a hand in reviewing the script), on a flight to Italy. Thinking about it now, I’m jealous of the experience I had. My impression was of a steadfast, super smart woman who had found the right partner. 

If you’re more into documentaries, there’s one that came out around the same time about her life.# Ginsburg also authored a book with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams: My Own Words. [keep reading]


Clear Thinking in an Age of Confusion

Clear Thinking

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

How many times have you heard your client or manager say or imply something to this effect? We do it, too. Most of the time, you’re also looking for something without knowing exactly what it is.

All you and your client or manager are trying to do is to get a job done. Whatever fills the role with the least pain and the most gain wins.  

The two canonical examples of the Jobs to be Done thinking are: 1) drilling a hole, which focuses the question not on the product, the drill bit, but on the task of getting a hole in the wall, and 2) the milkshake as a mealbreakfast in the morning and as a child’s reward in the afternoonreferenced by Clayton Christensen in his work.

As any good qualitative researcher, anthropologist, semiotician, or ethnographer would tell you, context is critical. [keep reading]


Can You Learn to be Productive from Books?

Books_Giulia Neri[illustration via Giulia Neri]

What does being productive mean to you? The idea of productiveness traces back to 1727. It predates the Industrial Revolution when the quality of being productive of 1809, turns into “rate of output per unit” in 1899.#

Literally, productivity focuses on getting the maximum production per worker or unit of machine per minute, hour, day, or week, etc. If you’re curious about how culture fits into it, I wrote an article about why productivity is such a big deal.

But think about how you feel when you say to yourself, “that was a productive day!”  [keep reading]


Innovating: Beyond the Sex Appeal

Mental models and InnovationInnovation, like leadership, is a word that has tremendous sex appeal. But the real sexy part is what happens when it happens. For that, you still need to do the work. Use with care.

The work includes figuring out that innovating is often about behavior change. Whether you’re the company doing it or wanting to innovate, the consultants, the sponsor or partner in innovation, your behavior is also up for change.

It’s important to remember that innovation demands trade-offs. [keep reading]


Four Books to Thrive in Uncertainty

UncertaintyAll of the things you’ve read and heard about the difficulties of writing well are true. Writing is thinking. If you can’t make the words work, you don’t know yet what you think. I compare writing to meditation in that it also leads you down a path of discovery and self awareness.

Writing a book is a task that blends endurance, persistence, and creativity. The best books on a any topic are a mix of deep thinking, experience, and clear copy to minimize overwhelm.

Some books promise recipes—they’re helpful when they keep the promise achievable, [keep reading]


Eight Books to Argue Well

Eight Books to Win an Argument“Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory,” is itself a good argument, in a small space. Leonardo Da Vinci was a master at observing and documenting human behavior.

Memory is one of the five canons of rhetoric or phases of developing a persuasive speech as first codified in classical Rome. The others are invention, arrangement, style and delivery. Now you’re probably seeing why effective comedy is hard.

The truth is we’d all like to be more persuasive, to say the right thing at the right time and turn a situation in our favor. [keep reading]


Three Books with a Sense of Humor for Serious Leaders

Humor is serious businessThe closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form, says Canadian businessman and politician Stanley J. Randall. That should give anyone pause, it’s both funny and true. It’s funny because it’s true.

Being funny at work is a difficult proposition. Yet, A company is known by the people it keeps, said Will Rogers. He was an American stage and film actor, and for that reason knew a thing or two about performance.

In all seriousness, play is serious business. [keep reading]


8 Books for When you’re in the Mood to Explore Possible Futures

Possible futuresI don’t know about you, but after a day of work, some of which includes some level of worry, I’m often not in the mood for reading complex stuff. That’s why I’ve been embracing mystery novels.

But, I also believe there’s a place for smart, well-thought-out arguments about things that could impact the future. In my recent email to a growing list of subscribers who are curious about thinking and sensemaking, I shared a list of biographies.

Right now, we’re learning a lot from the lives of others… at least I’m learning a lot more about life than a grim tally of numbers. Books worth reading do that, they take you closer to someone’s way of seeing the world. [keep reading]


Ten Books to Gain Perspective

3000 scientists activePeople have asked more questions in the last few weeks than in the last ten years. They all start with what’s the future of—work, cities, travel, faith, science, education, government bodies. Every day brings in new questions, few answers.

But this is not for lack of trying. The questions are just too complex to work out individually. Networks started forming around each of these questions, scientists, academics, researchers are pooling their thinking and experience to make it more difficult for the virus to spread and improve humanity’s odds. [keep reading]


“Walk, Climb, or Fly” Gets Real on Going from Surviving to Thriving at Work

Walk climb flyWe take dozens of assessments over the course of our career.

You’ve been probably weighed and measured in multiple ways—personality traits, selling approaches, aptitudes, teaming scores, evaluations, you name it.

Lack of engagement is a symptom—the cause is fit, or as Leigh says, how we “plug in with others.” read more


“The Transparency Sale” Explains Why Unexpected Honesty Works

Transparency saleAsk any person, and they’ll tell you they avoid being sold to by anyone—even on behalf of the brands they love. We may enjoy buying things, but on our own terms. To vet products or services we rely on ratings and reviews, word of mouth, and the opinion of the people we know.

Flip the situation and now we’re the ones selling—even if it’s only an idea. How do we convince the other person or party to hear what we have to say? Are we comfortable communicating the value of our product and service knowing they’ve done their research, just like we do? read more


“Crucial Conversations” is a Guide for When the Stakes are High

Crucial conversationsWhen we meet a challenge with a response that is equal to it, we’re successful. But when the challenge is on a higher level, we cannot meet it with the same response and expect the same results. This type of challenge has changed our lives.

Conversation is the best tool we have at our disposal to make sense of what’s happening. It’s a tool we can use to collaborate, mend and nourish relationships, and find new and better solutions to our problems. Stephen Covey says, crucial conversations transform people and relationships.” read more


“The Strategy Book” Bridges the Gap Between Thinking and Taking Action

StrategyMarket pressure seems to override a desire to learn more about the problem—or focus on the right one—the context, and the players. We often don’t know enough even about our own business.

Action is how we show results, we reason. Yet, we’d still want to focus on the right actions, making good decisions, understanding competitive pressure, engaging our team, and using a proven process. read more


“The Formula” Explains the Hidden Patterns that Separate the Best Seller from the Flop


It’s easy to talk about failure from the gold medal podium. Western culture doesn’t look upon people who fail to succeed kindly. Unless you can draw a line from failing your way up the ladder to more money and bigger glory, we’re just not interested.

Yet any study of success needs to start where things are not going so well. Albert-László Barabási, a self-professed tinkerer, started with disaster. read more


“Brave New Work” is a Love Letter to Organizations and the People who Make Them Possible

Brave new workReinvention has deep roots in American culture. It’s the land of pioneers, the place of the possible. If the current conversation has turned on itself, when we pan out with our lens, we can see the undercurrent clearly“can do” is in the fabric of the many who made this the land of opportunity.

Aaron Dignan is CEO of The Ready. He and his team collaborate with businesses on their transformation journey. read more


“Cascades” is an Important Manual on How to Start and Sustain Large-Scale Change


I love mystery books, am a voracious reader of them. Greg Satell’s book reads like one in many ways. One cannot wait to find out what happens next and why it happened. People, situations, and events build up from chapter to chapter and sometimes leap off the page.

Cascadeskept my attention from introduction to summary, and I dug through the notes with relish. When I asked Greg Satell about the mystery thing, he smiled. “Unlocking true insight is very, very hard. I think you need to show the struggle that leads to the insight.” [read more]


“Savvy” is a Practical Handbook to Navigate the Post-Truth World


Mini book read. New email subscribers will receive it as part of the weekly digest.

Social media was supposed to change the world—it did, but likely not in the direction we imagined. Every day we’re wading through fake news, lying leaders, and ghosting. Who to believe? What is real? How can we tell?

    Shiv Singh and Rohini Luthra, Ph.D. have taken a deep look at why we don’t trust anymore and we fall for alternative facts. Human nature makes us desperate to belong, we want to be right. But then social pressure means we bow to authority.

    Because technology has made us mighty… [read more]


Books as Personal Media. Most Interesting Titles for Reading

Write your own ending

Every season has its books. Winter seems to have come early in the Northeast this year, which means curling up with a good book. I love learning through reading. Reading is the most intimate conversation we have with an author. So in this sense, books are the highest form of personal media.

    This reading list is based on personal interest, not pitches from publicists. It includes a variety of works with upcoming release dates, and also some older and worthy titles. [read more]


Getting Back to Basics with a Reading List

Develop and communicate value

More of our time should go to understand value. Special attention to why things are working / not working. Nobody catches you when you fail and/or fall, and that’s when we need support the most.

    The missing piece is usually how we communicate for ongoing learning while doing. Authors / speakers tell stories, mentors show ideas, and coaches (or facilitators) ask questions. In modern business, we often need a mix of all three, based on the situation. [read more]


Books Worth Reading

The value of reading books

There are many reason why you should read more in long form formats. It’s an enjoyable past time that stimulates the imagination — I’m a huge fan of mystery novels, so many talented authors in that genre.

From gaining access to new ideas and the experience of other people to improving understanding and connecting to existing knowledge, when we set aside time to learn and reflect, we gain in mental flexibility and ability to communicate. [read more]


A Reading List for the Holidays

Here’s a current list to give you ideas to get smarter during the holiday season, start the new year with creativity and imagination on your team, and with a dose of evidence-based optimism.

[read more]


A Midsummer Reading List

Biblioteca delfini interno dallaltoWe can find more reading lists than time to read. And many of those lists include the same books. Unlike my experience growing up  among the 5,000 books in my house were so many books I hardly ever hear talked about, timeless classics across domains from theater to politics, science and art.

My father’s library was my antilibrary. Often, when we talk about reading a classic book in some cases we are doing it for the first time, but we say we’re re-reading. Italo Calvino wrote some thoughts as to why read the classics rather than what other people have written about them. [read more] 


Susan Cain’s Reading List for People who Draw Energy from Discussing Ideas

Susain Cain on best ideas

One book stands out and that is Gandhi: An Autobiography in which one of the world’s great transformative leaders explains how his shy and quiet nature helped him lead a nation.

More interesting titles for introverts… [read more]


Six Things to Get Right to Become Influencers

InfluencerbookBefore we can change entire organizations, we need to affect how people behave at individual level. In Influencer, a team of authors — Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler — say there are three keys to influence:

  1. Focus and measure — to influence we need to be crystal clear on the results we’re trying to achieve and zealous in measuring them. Having clear and compelling goals, communicating about results frequently, and making measurement an integral part of change effort to go a long way to drive behavior.

[read more]


Are Men’s and Women’s Brain Different?

Brain RulesIn Brain Rules John Medina says since females carry two X chromosomes, they have double the necessary amount. Thus the embryo simply ignores one of them, a tactic that continues to work to this day. It’s not a systematic cut of one set—the embryo picks and chooses from the pool provided by both parents. Hence why sisters may be so different from each other.

    Males however need all of their 1,500 genes (which come from their mother) to survive, plus the SRY genes. X genes govern how we think—a large percentage of them are involved in the creation of the protein that builds the brain. “Researchers call the X chromosome the cognitive hot spot,” says Medina. Genes are mediators of cell functions and collections of these cells form brain structures. {read more]


Universal Principles of Influence

PresuasionSocial psychologist Robert Cialdini has written a pre-quel his national bestseller. In Pre-Suasion, he shines a light on how effective persuasion can happen moments before we deliver a message—we prepare the ground by making sure our audience will be receptive.

    Cialdini calls the anchors or primers we use openers because they have the dual function of starting the process and clear the way for the persuasive part. A frequently asked question businesses typically ask is whether we should map certain principles to certain stages of the commercial relationships. {read more]


What Books Would you Recommend to Someone Who Wants to Improve their Effectiveness in Conversation?

Christmas readingPeople who work with me often ask me what I’m reading. So I flipped it around and asked members of the Conversation as a Tool tribe on Facebook what books they are reading. Most of them fall into the category of something I would recommend to someone who wants to increase their effectiveness in conversation.

Some of them were surprisingsome fiction and some technical stuff. I bought four books I did not even know existed. Here’s the list if you’re thinking about getting a jump start on planning for a successful 2017, or are just looking for different things to read during the Christmas holidays. [more]


Fall Reading List

Fall Reading ListIn addition to being a digest of topics and themes ranging from business, to behavioral science, technology, and ways to practice learning Learning Habit includes some thoughts on what I’m reading along with a curated list of some of the best conversations from around the web.

[read more]


Why we Should Never Bargain Over Positions in Negotiations

Getting-to-yesThe ability to negotiate well is no just the domain of diplomats, it’s a skill we should develop and practice to navigate better many situations in everyday life.

We think we are good negotiators, all it takes is having a position and arguing for it. A classic example is the haggling that goes on in open markets all around the world during the holidays. The conversation about the provenance and value of an item goes back and forth until either one of the two parties relents, or they achieve no agreement… and the nice museum we wanted to visit is now closed. [read more]


A Valuable Insight on Learning, from an Emperor

Memoirs of Hadrian bookThe procedures for gaining knowledge about others and our selves are difficult, they require both self-awareness and a high degree of detachment. Like emperor Hadrian, we tend to replace evidence-based reflection with habits. We fit the opinions and judgements of others on our frame as best we can and make do.

From Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. 

“Like everyone else, I have had at my disposal only three means of evaluating human existence: the study of self, which is the most difficult and most dangerous method, but also the most fruitful; the observation of our fellowmen, who usually arrange to hide their secrets from us, or to make us believe that they have secrets where none exists; and books, with the particular errors in perspective to which they inevitably give rise.

[read more]


How Enemies Make Better Allies than Frenemies

Adam-Grant-cover-OriginalsThere are all kinds of ways we can make changes to our jobs and lives to make them more meaningful and motivating, and still make us more effective. Intuitively, we know that going with our flow, using our strengths to work on things we are suited for is the best way to make an impact.

But we often have a hard time figuring out where to start claiming that freedom.

The first step in developing originality is to recognize the leading role our environment plays in finding good ideas, along with facilitating healthy dynamics as we explore new domains while navigating getting the task at hand done. This means we should pay attention to the kind of situations, context, and people we welcome in our lives. [read more]


How Good Ideas are Born, Get Done

Where good ideas come from book coverWe all like to think our ideas are good, and many likely are. When we stay with an idea long enough, over time, we may find a way to get it done. Adoption, or success is the validation that the idea was good.

Steven Johnson writes about big ideas and in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation he tells the fascinating stories of great ideas and great thinkers across disciplines. Setting the tone with Darwin’s Paradox in the introduction, Johnson traces the origins of ideas along with their development. He says, “to understand where good ideas came from, we have to put them in context.”

[read more]


How Carnegie’s Metamorphosis Signaled the Rise of a New Culture

QuietQuite a few years after a skinny, nonathletic, and insecure high school student from Harmony Church — a small town about a hundred miles from Kansas City in Missouri — impressed by the value of public speaking, goes on to hold a sold out class in New York City several years later.

The trigger was a visiting Chautauqua speaker based in New York.

[read more]


All Happy Companies are Different

Zero-to-one-bookIn Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, a book based on his program for entrepreneurs at Stanford, Peter Thiel devotes a chapter to the idea that happy companies are all different from each other based on his premise that each moment in business happens only once — one Facebook, one Microsoft, one Apple, and so on.

Difference is much more than a positioning statement; it draws from behavioral cues, business practices or how we do what we do, our relationships, and the experience of doing business with us, which contributes to our reputation. Thiel says it’s the answer to the business version of his contrarian question, “what valuable company is nobody building?” [read more]


Knowledge Work and the Metric Black Hole

Deep WorkOne of the books on my reading list for 2016 was a choice because of its focus on something that is extremely rare and thus much more valuable when achieved — mastering the art of learning complicated things quickly, and operating at a high skill level.

Reading Deep Work: the Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport contributes to becoming more aware of the value of creating uninterrupted stretches of time on which to focus on one question, task, or problem and develop the skills to transform the potential into tangible results people value.

[read more]


Five Books for 2016

CrossingTheChasmReading on a variety of topics helps us expand our thinking while it contributes to our ability to discover patterns across different disciplines. Exercising the mind is not the same as doing mental gymnastics. It’s more about learning to create and manage energy through frequency, intensity, and duration of work. 

On my reading list this holiday season is a short list of five books.

[read more]


21 Books Worth Reading

LibraryI share what I’m reading as resources for making sense of things, making do with what is at hand, and examples of making it we can learn from.

Why different disciplines?

This method of learning is based on the liberal arts subjects of study in schools and apprenticeship studios of the first millennium after Christ in the West.

Its classification originated directly from the works of the rhetorician Martian Capella who, in the fifth century, determined there were seven bodies of knowledge people should learn. Capella separated them into three literary and four scientific studies: [read more]


How to Get Lucky: 13 Techniques for Discovering and Taking Advantage of Life’s Good Breaks

How to get luckyWhat if we could find a way to make better decisions despite our inability to think probabilistically?

In How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks, Max Gunther says we can arrange to improve our outcomes by upgrading our chances. In other words, we can learn how to improve the quality of our luck.

Luck (noun): Events that influence our lives but are not of our making.

We deny the role of luck because: [read more]


Why Simple Rules Produce Better Decisions

Simple RulesAs our world has become more complex, so have our attempts to manage it by trying to predict ahead of time every possible scenario. Little by little, we have gotten into the habit of upping the ante on complexity with more complexity.

The habit is felt more strongly inside organizations where regulations and procedures can keep building on top of each other unchecked to unmanageable proportions. The tax code is a good example of this.

Instead of trying to cover all bases, say Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt in Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, we should use a small set of simple rules [read more]


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Scott-adams-book-coverWe know Scott Adams from his popular comic strip Dilbert, which follows the experiences of a cubicle-bound engineer working for an unreasonable boss at a nameless company. The recent collection Go Add Value Someplace Else is a classic, and like previous ones is based on Adams’ own experience working in corporate America.

As he says in a book that has the kind of story of my life as subtitle, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams has failed at a lot of things — from investments to inventions to computer programming. But he managed to turn his failure at office work into a giant success. [read more]


Sir Ken Robinson on the Relationship Between Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation

Out of our mindsThe premise of his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative is that our world is the product of the ideas, beliefs and values of human imagination and culture that have shaped it over centuries. It has been created out of our minds as much as from the natural environment. The human mind is profoundly and uniquely creative, but too many people have no sense of their true talents.

 His mission is “to transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence.”

Imagination is the source of our creativity, but imagination and creativity are not the same. Imagination is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses. [read more]


The Trouble with “Good Enough”

TriggersTo get what we want, we often do need to commit to changing our behavior. Renown leadership and business thinker, author, and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith dedicates a chapter to the trouble with “good enough” in Triggers. He says:

Good enough isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many areas of life, chasing perfection is a fool’s errand, or at least a poor use of our time. We don’t need to spend hours taste-testing every mustard on the gourmet shelf to find the absolute best; a good enough brand will suffice for our sandwich.

For most things we suspend our hypercritical faculties and find satisfaction with the merely good. [read more]


Finding a Valid Hypothesis for “What is the Meaning of Life?”

Happiness hypothesisA philosopher, statesman, and dramatist, and tutor and then adviser to the emperor Nero, Seneca wrote it as part of the 124 Epistles in c. 65 AD. Their legacy and influence stood the test of time. That is because, as award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt says in The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom:

The ancient philosophers were often good psychologists […] but when modern philosophy began to devote itself to the study of logic and rationality, it gradually lost interest in psychology and lost touch with the passionate, contextualized nature of human life. [read more]


Four Things You can do to Sort Luck from Skill and Avoid Mistakes in Determining Outcomes

Think TwiceLearning to sort luck from skill will not only help you make better bets, it will also help you analyze you work and that of your team from a fresh perspective.

In Think Twice, Michael J. Mauboussin says:

we have difficulty sorting skill and luck in lots of fields, including business and investing. As a result, we make a host of predictable and natural mistakes [read more]


Is “Knowing” Obsolete? And Other Powerful Questions

A more beautiful questionSince asking A More Beautiful Question is the heart of discovery in science, philosophy, medicine — and a powerful way to renew our shelf-life, says Warren Berger, we should become more aware of the power of inquiry and learn to ask the right questions.

According to Dan Rothstein, co-founder of the Right Question Institute, questions not only open up thinking — they also can direct and focus it:

“People think of questioning as simple, but when done right, it’s a very sophisticated, high-level form of thinking.”

[read more]


Surprise: How Embracing the Unpredictable and Engineering the Unexpected Leads to a Richer Life

Surprise coverIn Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger say that while most of us when faced with choices pick control and predictability, research shows that our best memories are full of surprise.

Our aversion for surprise stems from the ambiguity of the present and the unpredictability of the future:

“We see at lest two reasonable reasons that surprise aversion has always been a part of the human condition and is particularly rampant today: emotional intensification and vulnerability.

[…] Unlike other emotions, surprise has no valence: it is inherently neither good nor bad. In this sense, surprise isn’t an emotion so much as it is an emotional intensifier.”

[read more]


3 Books on Business Culture for your Summer Reading List

Work RulesUnder the Hood: Fire up and Fine-tune Your Employee Culture, Stan Slap explains the difference between understanding your employees and understanding your employee culture.

Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Laszlo Bock, an inside look at Google’s People Operations practices.

The Power of Thanks: How Social Recognition Empowers Employees and Creates a Best Place to Work Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine say social recognition also helps to create engaged workers.

[read more]


Play is More than Just Fun

Play coverStuart Brown says play is more than just fun. In Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul he says:

“[…] work that is devoid of play is either boring or a grind. We can get pretty far through sheer willpower, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t make time for play. Having a fierce dedication to grinding out the work is often not enough. Without some sense of fun or play, people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.

[read more]


How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity

Yes AndIn Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration The Second City Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton say that:

We are at our happiest and most successful when we are working as improvisers. When we are fiercely following the elements of improvisation, we generate ideas both quickly and efficiently; we’re more engaged with out coworkers; our interactions with clients become richer or more long-standing; we weather rough storms with more aplomb, and we don’t work burdened by fear of failure.

[read more]


Brian Grazer and the Secret to a Bigger Life

A curious mindIn A Curious Mind, written with Charles Fishman, Grazer reveals how he got started meeting with people from diverse backgrounds to have open-ended conversations about their lives and work. Early in his career, he learned that to broaden his horizons, he needed to escape the Hollywood bubble:

“I have to feed my curiosity,” he says, “or I’ll end up in a bubble here in Hollywood, isolated from what’s going on in the rest of the world. I use curiosity to pop the bubble and keep complacency at bay. And storytelling gives me the ability to tell everyone what I’ve learned.”

[read more]


The Importance of Learning to Make Trade-offs for Performance

Power of full engagementAs Jim Loher and Tony Schwartz say in The Power of Full Engagement, a book I read a dozen years ago, managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. The book’s central thesis is that to be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned.

To make smart trade-offs we should start by defining our purpose, then distilling our truth, so we can identify the gap between the two. For example:

Purpose “How should I spend my energy in a way that is consistent with my deepest values?”

Truth How am I spending my energy now?

Action bridge the gap between the two

[read more]


Build Better Habits, Starting with Willpower

Willpower instinctIf you are interested in understanding self control better, I recommend The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal. Willpower has become the thing that distinguishes us from each other, says McGonigal (emphasis mine):

“People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers. They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer.

[read more]


Smart People Should build Things

Smart People Should Build ThingsSmart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America by Andrew Yang, VFA founder and CEO. Yang’s definition of “building things”:

we mean forming and helping companies and organizations that are innovating and creating value.

Starting with outlining the problem in the introduction, the book follows a logical outline. [read more]


Richer Experiences Reduce the Role of Luck

Making Users AwesomeContext to marketers by and large means where audiences will see their message, or for more advanced companies how they will experience the service.

Instead, context means how is this making my life better as in “how is the use of this product or service going to help me gain new skills that I can use meaningfully?” to them/us.

The key is in the results:

Competing on out-caring the competition is fragile unless caring means caring about user results.

Says Kathy Sierra in her new book Badass: Making Users Awesome published by O’Reilly media. The book includes simple techniques you can use to start experimenting with providing ways to help your customers become better at their context, what they want to do. [read more]


How to Design a Conversation of Impact

Moments of Impact CoverI’ve long maintained that conversation is a tool — and a strategic one at that. Christ Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon agree. They authored a simple and straightforward manual for creating Moments of Impact.

The book includes a 60-page starter kit that will help you design strategic conversations that accelerate change.

When defining your purpose, say the authors, you should pick one and then communicate it. [Read more]


My Summer Reading List

In the long tradition of sharing books that changed my life, and making book recommendations, here is what I am currently reading (at least in the first part of summer).

CreativityIncCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Pixar’s Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Because this is not just about pulling off a strong streak of hit animation films thanks to curiosity and innovation. It is also a story of stamina, leadership, and experimentation. 

Twenty years, thirty Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and eleven Grammy Awards with more than fourteen movies like Ratatouille, WALL-E, the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc. under its belt, Catmull describes what it takes to sustain a culture of disciplined creativity during setbacks and success. [read more]


Scaling up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less

Scaling up ExcellenceRobert Sutton and Huggy Rao took seven years to research and documents the practices that help organizations, teams, and leaders spread constructive beliefs and actions.

The result is a book due out February 4. In Scaling up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less, Sutton and Rao take us on a journey to understand the trade-offs companies make as they grow. Things like:

  • spreading mindset, not just footprint
  • how scaling requires subtraction, not just addition
  • slowing down to scale faster
  • how sometimes snowballs are better than no balls [read more]


12 Books that Changed My Life

Hermann_Hesse_-_Siddhartha_(book_cover)Writing a book is hard work. Writing a book that teaches something different and that has the potential to rewire how we think and behave… those are keepers.

Some of the 12 books I carried with me from Italy, others I picked up along the way:

 1. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I own two copies, one in German and one in English, a gift from a friend at a very intense time. [read more]


Decisive, Nice, and Hidden in Plain Sight

Decisive-book-coverBeing decisive, nice, and blending with the fabric of a place to see through experience are my spring reading picks. I like to select books and materials that help push my thinking further.

Despite the increase in volume and similarity of titles, especially on business and marketing, I find there is still so much more to figure out, learn, and teach/share. The topics where I am often left wanting sharper thinking, research, and pragmatic advice are still fairly rare to come upon.

I selected three for the spring edition based upon familiarity with the topics and the authors’ body of work.

[read more]


To Sell is Human: the Surprising Truth About Moving Others

ToSellisHumanI just finished reading the galley copy of To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, and am already recommending it. The book addresses a universal need — that of understanding the art and science of selling. Pink reminds us we’re all in sales, and explains what it means in the new context created by savvy buyers.

[Read more]


Conversation Agent 2012 Recommended Reading List

People often ask me for book recommendations and it’s been a while since I published a review. 

This time, it’s nine books — an eclectic collection of new and evergreen titles mostly about creativity, social behavior, and willpower.

The-Intention-Economy1. The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc  Searls

The book’s premise is based upon the belief that the `free’ customers are more valuable than captive ones. 

Relationships between customers and vendors will be voluntary and genuine, with loyalty anchored in mutual respect and concern, rather than coercion.

[read more]


Reinvent How You Make a Living with $100

100-StartupAbout all you need is love for something and a $100 in your pocket, says Chris Guillebeau, and you can make a living.

In The $100 Startup, Guillebeau provides extensive examples of businesses started by people all over the world, in all kinds of fields.

If you’re looking for inspiration and practical advice on how to get started in a microbusiness that fits your lifestyle, you will find plenty here.

[read more]


The Power of Habit

Power of HabitLate last November, I received a box containing a book and a small can of Febreze.

The book didn’t stink, no.

Quite the opposite actually, it stood out for its clarity of purpose demonstrating how human intelligence is connected to habits and what we can do to make changes in the way we work, and live.

Febreze was there because of a landmark case study about how P&G figured out how to promote their new compound and product that would spread and sell.

It involved understanding how to insert a new habit into people’s existing routines. [read more]


How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth

41Mj-RkmrCL._SL500_AA300_When I met Stan Phelps for coffee a little over a year ago, I learned for the first time there was a term lagniappe that meant a small gift given to a customers by a merchant at the time of purchase.

It cannot be faked of forced, for it to work it must feel real.

[read more]



Resistance and the War of Art

War-of-art-gif1-243x387When my friend Chris gave me a copy of Steve Pressfield’s non fiction book, The War of Art (Amazon affiliate link) in the kindle version (publishers, take note, please) as a gift, I put off reading it.

I told myself that I was saving it for my upcoming trip to WOMMA in Las Vegas.

Of course, part of me knew that I was only buying time.

I’m quite good at finding all kinds of things to do right before I sit down to write. Especially when my goal is to work on something really important. [read more]


Two Books on Content Strategy You Should Own

ContentStrategyfortheWebWhat is this content strategy everyone talks about?

Note the emphasis on the term strategy. I’ve written extensively about content marketing and strategy mapping your content to the buyer’s cycle, producing content for business-to-business (B2B) companies and brands, and even provided a fun way to visualize your content to check if it has story value.

Strategy is the framework you use to plan, create, distribute, and manage the content you create.

[read more]


The Lean Startup

TheLeanStartupThere is no question that many an app or software tool popping up from nowhere today may be gone tomorrow.

Which is why I was intrigued by the concept of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Amazon affiliate link). An entrepreneur himself, Ries is now working in consulting capacity with many new product development units in large organizations.

What he offers them, and his book readers, is the result of his experience founding three companies, which he boiled down into an iterative process organizations can use under extreme uncertainty – when they’re trying to build something new.

[read more]


3 Books I’m Reading Now

DigitalFutureCover I became intrigued with the work of Genevieve Bell from reading some interviews when I was researching the post on the role of the participant-observer in organizations. Admittedly, the book she co-wrote with scientist Paul Dourish and published by MIT, is pretty geeky.

However, besides it providing a much needed and fascinating history and chronology of the movements behind the technology that is shaping our world… [read more]


Everything is Obvious (once you know the answer)

Everything-is-obvious-cover Painted in 1519 by Leonardo da Vinci and valued at $700MM, more than any painting ever sold, the Mona Lisa gained world attention for something that happened in 1911.

Almost four centuries is not nearly fast enough in a day and age when each quarter matters.

What happened to make it famous? Was there a tipping point? After all, Leonardo da Vinci was a change agent.

As it turns out, there was. [read more]


How Content Rules

Content-Rules_3D_web_med She stood next to the podium and started reading from Gustav and the Goldfish, a book written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss in 1950 as part of his long-running series of children stories for redbook. We all sat there in rapt attention — the bigger the fish got, the more we leaned forward in anticipation.

Ann Handley is more than a writer and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs: She’s a storyteller.

As someone who has more than a decade under her belt spent creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals [read more]


Should You Be an Entrepreneur?

Book_page Every other week an agency or a brand copies Conversation Agent.

If I were to make an educated guess, I’d say it’s because they are hoping to ride on the coat tails of the work that went into building equity in the name as associated with a new way of talking the walk, and marketing that makes business sense.

This is without question the most competitive time ever in the market. [read more]


We First

We first
We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations.”

[Clay Shirky]

When Simon Mainwaring and I met to talk about his upcoming book and company at SxSW this past March, I instantly saw the potential — truly connecting brands and people doesn’t just make good business sense; it can change the world.

Why would the public sector get involved with building a better future? [read more]


Game Frame of Mind

GameFrame-BookCoverIf only there was a way to structure experiences so that they are compelling, keeping people engaged and in flow. And I’m not talking about jumping onto piles of sand, even though your day may feel that way too often. You can do that, feel more engaged, with game mechanics.

In Game Frame (Amazon affiliate link), Aaron Dignan describes how to create ways to be engaged at work by producing peak learning conditions and accelerating achievement. Games are a powerful way to influence and change behavior in any setting. [read more]


Killing Giants is a Way of Doing (and a Book)

Killing Giants Everyone loves a good David vs. Goliath story.

I shared mine just a few posts ago. The punch line is that we didn’t just talk about vision and core values — we lived them. We won every single time, because our focus was on developing relationships, partnering with businesses, not ripping kidneys out.

There is a time and place for being aggressive where it counts — being rigorous and excelling in service delivery and counsel. As Stephen Denny writes in Killing Giants (Amazon affiliate link), we are squarely and permanently in the doing-more-with-less era.

Things have changed. There is no going back. [read more]


The Big Thirst in a Water World

TheBigThirst The book was released yesterday, although I think I have seen it in a store before the release date. I knew Charles Fishman would write this book. His excellent Fast Company message in a bottle was well received a couple of years back. 

As he writes in response to a comment to his ChangeThis manifesto: We pay too little for water.

What we pay doesn’t cover the cost of the water — of finding it and acquiring it in the first place, of treating it and delivering it, of disposing of it. And we don’t pay the cost of protecting the environment that provides the water in the first place.

[read more]


Cognitive Surplus in Business

Cognitive-surplus Cognitive surplus is not simply trillions of hours of free time spread across two billion connected individuals, writes Clay Shirky in his seminal book about creativity and generosity in a connected age.

Rather, it is how connections help us create opportunity for each other.

And I’m going to hit pause here because I’d like you to think about something. When was the last time you felt you had the mental space to ponder something at least a little before plowing through at work?

Have you been in any meeting that rewarded exploration and listening over assertive “here’s what we do” talk?

Cognitive surplus starts accruing when there is enough time and space to actually think. [read more]


The Hyper-Social Organization in a Book

Hyper-social In The Hyper-Social Organization (Amazon affiliate link), Human 1.0 founder Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran, Deloitte Director for Product Innovation, write about putting people back into business and getting to know and work with its communities or tribes.

In strategy, there are always some pillars that underpin how a business and organization can find its motivation to move from where it is to where it needs to be, which then the people in the business translate into execution. [read more]


Are You Ready to Succeed?

Are You Ready to Succeed Perhaps the best way to explain the difference between success through personal mastery and what the current misunderstanding about success tells you is by reading together part of a review of Srikumar S. Rao’s course and book Are You Ready to Succeed? (Amazon affiliate link).

From Brandon Peele’s review, which in my view reflects where so many get stuck, even today: [read more]


3 Books on Leadership, a Vision of Life as Play, and Acting on What Matters

Leadership The lenses you use to view your business will determine how it will grow. Leadership, vision, and acting on what matters are indispensable components of the mix for that growth to become a long term promise and value instead of short term gratification, as tempting as that may be.

As you reflect on your results of this past year and prepare for what’s next for your business development, I thought of connecting the dots on a couple of resources that continue to serve me well.

read more


Driving Social Change: The Dragonfly Effect

The-dragonfly-effect-quick-effective-and-powerful-ways-to-us Of all the books you will find in the bookstore about social media, The Dragonfly Effect [Amazon affiliate link] by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith is the most approachable and useful to the person who’s not spending half their day in social networks and wants to understand the potential of connecting technology and personal life to impact social change.

Read more


Switch: Take Two 

Switch-book Although I have a list of books I have reread in different moments or stages of my life, I have not reviewed a book twice… until now.

After reading and using Duarte’s Resonate, I felt it would be useful for us to cross reference what we learned last week with Switch (Amazon affiliate link) by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, which I already reviewed here.

The subtitle of the book will tell you why: it’s about how to change things when change is hard.

While Duarte’s book teaches you how to think about developing the visual story and organizing its flow to support the hero’s journey, Switch helps you drill down on how to craft your message [read more]


Why Visual Stories Resonate

Resonate_BookCover Do you know your audience’s resonant frequency?

Every time you present to a group  whether that be your colleagues, management team, the CEO, company investors, your customers, or conference attendees  you have an opportunity to connect.

However, transmission is only the tip of the iceberg.

[read more]


The World Has Changed. People Are Empowered

6a00d8341c03bb53ef01348779459f970c One of the most common questions I get when I facilitate conversations at events is: how do I convince my manager and IT group to work with me? What can I say that will help me win them over to support my initiative?

The risk component of the “what if” has stilted many an innovation inside organizations. And not just in my experience. It is well known that smart marketers enroll agencies and analysts in support of those kinds of initiatives.

[read more]


Set Your Own Rules

Ubt-bookYou really don’t have to sign up to do what others think one should do to succeed. In fact, most of the time that’s a sure path to disappointment, because they are setting the pace, and you cannot possibly know or have what they have under the hood.

It’s much more fun changing the game. 

My friend Chris Guillebeau did the honors this week by celebrating the fourth anniversary of this blog. He graciously agreed even though he is about to come to a city near you for the launch of his first book The Art of Non Conformity (Amazon affiliate link). Buy it and read it, it will change your life. [read more]


Why Revenge is so Important to Us

The-upside-of-irrationalityThat got me as well.

Right before why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?

Good questions both, why?

As a strategist, I’m paid to ask why a lot. And like Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, I ground that question into research data and observation of reality. You got it, this is a book review. Instead of covering the whole book, as I usually do, I will take one slice of this book and apply it to social media.

Are you with me?

The book is The Upside of Irrationality (Amazon affiliate link), which I purchased in my recent trip… [read more]


Time to Rework: Book Review

Fried-rework Organizations are in need of a reboot.

Many of the old hierarchies and rules are holding them back — way in the past — when it comes to adapting to the new market realities. The disconnect between a stubbornly siloed internal culture clashes with the networked approach that the external conversation demands.

Culture defines a lot of things in organizations. How problems are tackled, priorities, rewards, and thus behaviors.

[read more]


Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small: microMARKETING

Micrromarketing The media tides have turned. And many marketers still make the mistake of seeing the raising numbers of those getting on Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs and lifestreams as one big market for their big idea. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this new media reality — what Greg Verdino calls the era of microcontent and microcultures in his new book microMARKETING (Amazon affiliate link) — the biggest marketing opportunities lie not in the one big thing, but in lots and lots of small things.

[read more]


Social Media Metrics

Socialmediametrics In thinking about metrics, it seems to me that the difficulty is not so much in measuring — there’s plenty you can measure online. So much, in fact, that the conversation needs to be about what to measure, and why. Why is especially important.

Measurement has become more important for marketers in recent years, especially with the increased fragmentation of media.

With digital media, once you know your objective and goals, your strategy can have measurement built right into it from the get go.

How do you optimize the myriad ways you could execute a program?

In his book about Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment (Amazon affiliate link), Jim Sterne talks about… read more


Ten Books that Stand the Test of Time

There are two kinds of books I hold onto:

  1. those with a personal and special dedication from the author
  2. those where I wrote furiously in the margins

Writing a book is hard work. Writing a book that teaches you something different, that literally rewires your operating system through the ideas/actions of the authors. Ideas and actions that are now built into you in the way you think and behave [thank you, Peter]… those are keepers.

I thought it would be fun to share ten books that jumped out at me from my bookshelf as standing the test of time still as useful today as when they were published. These books taught me something different in a way that rewired the way I operate in business. read more


The Power of Pull

PowerofPull Have you ever wanted something so much that you spent all your waking hours working towards it and your dreams uncovering new avenues to pursue it? I’ve always been very interested in achieving our potential as individuals and as businesses.

Up until quite recently, this was done mostly with organizations that could forecast needs and then design the most efficient systems to ensure that the right people and resources are available at the right time and place using carefully scripted and standardized processes. In other words, through push.

[read more]



Switch-book Dan Heath and Chip Heath do it again. They unpack the complex set of systems that conspire to undermine lasting change efforts and make us aware of a few levers we can use to move the needle in our favor. In Switch, they identify three components to understanding change and use metaphors to illustrate a framework you can affect.

[read more]


Learn to Build a Referral Engine

The Referral EngineBy far the scariest and most unpredictable part of being on your own is to have enough leads in the pipeline to sustain your business. Preferably not all at the same time so you have to say no to some and send them elsewhere.

It was a more difficult undertaking before digital media. As human beings, we don’t scale so well. And many go out on their own to do more of the kind of work they love doing: design, communications, etc. sales being a necessary aspect.

[read more]


Flip the Funnel On Customer Acquisition

Flip the funnel And save your business.

Many organizations have become really good at streamlining customer support and service processes. Yet, as co-managing editor of Consumerist.com Ben Popken reminds us in the foreword to Flip the Funnel processing is not solving.

Putting in place a good customer retention strategy is a good business move. It’s also a smart branding move.

[read more]


Book Review: The New, New Rules of Marketing and PR

New-rules-of-marketing-and-prEven before we had our conversation here, David Meerman Scott has held a special place on my bookshelf. His practical advice and no nonsense approach will help you break the rules — and drive buzz, product feedback, sales and more.

The second, expanded, edition of the book starts strong with Robert Scoble’s own story about Microsoft, and grows richer with tips and case studies from Meerman Scott’s own experience.

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No Limit for Better

Drive I agree with Dan Pink, there is no limit for better. How do you get there? In his latest book, Drive, Pink suggests you do that by taking an approach that has three elements to it:

1.) Autonomy – or the desire to direct our own lives

2.) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters

3.) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service larger than ourselves

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3 Social Media Marketing Books for the Holidays

Now that we’re basking in the quiet moments of the holidays, I’ve had a chance to do a deeper dive on some of the books I’ve been wanting to read and share with you.

WebAnalytics2.0 Web Analytics 2.0

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is actionable from page one to the very last page. If you buy it and use it (please use it) in combination with Web Analystics one Hour a Day, which I bought about a year ago, it will get you a long way to understanding and measuring actionable metrics.

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Escape from Cubicle Nation

Escape from Cubicle Nation_ This is a case of a book emerging from a successful blog, and a topic that has interested me intensely for a number of years – ever since Dan Pink published Free Agent Nation.

I bought Escape from Cubicle Nation after meeting Pam Slim virtually on Twitter and getting to know her through her blog, as well as through a personal introduction from a friend.

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More Agent, a Little Less Conversation

ALittleLessConversation I wanted to introduce you to this gem from Tom Asacker, who’s been an inspiration through his work and in the comments to this blog recently. It’s called A Little Less Conversation – connecting with customers in a noisy world. It’s written as a conversation between Tom and a business executive after an event.

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Why I Bought Meatball Sundae

Meatball-sundae Aside from the fact that I am a long time reader of Seth Godin – evidence here, here, and here. Why talk about this book now, you may ask? While it published last year and some of the examples may be considered old by those of us who move at the speed of the Internet, let’s face it – it’s not old because it’s still too few who are doing it.Meatball Sundae is one of the books… read more

How The Numerati See Workers, Shoppers, Voters, Bloggers, Patients and Lovers

TheNumeratiAnd why this book kicked the discussion on privacy and the future of data into high gear. Is a technological dashboard becoming a sort of “control panel of our lives”? Stephen Baker, a veteran writer of BusinessWeek – we first met when he linked to one of my posts, The Illusionist – delivers the fruit of his research into this emerging (but not new) class of what he calls math intelligentsia – The Numerati

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Are You Too Accessible?

The Age of Speed I just got the paperback in the mail from Debbie Aroff at Random House and I’m already a big fan. The Age of Speed by Vince Poscente is filled with twists and turns and is a fast read. It’s about learning to thrive in a more-faster-now culture. Think about this, we want things faster, but we don’t necessarily want to do things faster. According to Poscente, speed is the new change.

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Here Comes Everybody

Here_Comes_Everybody I just finished reading Clay Shirky’s amazingly useful book. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing was accurate in describing the content – the book makes sense of the way that groups are using the Internet.

To me it goes beyond that to tell the stories of individuals who have made a difference thanks to the ability to use social media tools and networks to connect with like-minded people.

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How to Read the Groundswell and Increase Your Business Success Threefold

Groundswell Want to increase your business success threefold? Tap into Groundswell. According to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff a groundswell is:

A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

Social technologies are enabling tools, so forget technology for a moment and ask yourself “Why do I want to be participating in the groundswell?” “What are my customers ready for?” and “What are my objectives?More


25 Reasons Why You Need to Have a Whack on the Side of the Head

A Whack on the SIde of the Head Many things go out of fashion to be replaced by others. One day they are business imperatives, the next day they are gone and forgotten. Amidst the buzzwords, awards, and puzzling fads we have seen develop and fizzle, one trend stands tall as valuable – the ability to create.

How valuable? Think innovation, think learning, Creative Think. All of those are the currency of modern times, what we call the conceptual age. Roger von Oech is one of my favorite creative thinkers – an amazing writer, storyteller, conversation facilitator, and cultured journeyman. Read more


Personality Not Included: Go Get Yours!

Personlity_not_included This is one of those books that works almost like a blog post. It’s cross-referenced and you can skip to the parts you are interested in, because everything is organized so you can pull content. We will see more books come off the press with formats that borrow from social media – and not a moment too soon!

I have it from reliable sources, that although personality is not included, you can go and get yours. Rohit Bhargava was among the group at Blogger Social 2008 a couple of weeks back, and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of picking his brain on book writing and how he’s launching his new book with a full social media conversation. Read more


Career Advice from a Comic Book? Meet Johnny Bunko

Johnny_bunko I just received my copy of Dan Pink‘s new book (thank you, Dan), The Adventures of Johnny Bunko – The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, and I am already writing about it. Dan and I corresponded about manga at the time he went to Japan months ago. The impact of a comic book that teaches lessons applicable to business did not hit me until now that I have the book in my hands.

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Hardest Thing to Manage: Our Own Ego

The Art of the Start Chance has it that my next book in the queue is The Art of the Start. In the book, Kawasaki focuses on what’s real and addresses the frequently avoided questions (FAQs). This has everything to do with managing our ego. What is it that we should work on and do today, this moment, that can make a difference? The hardest thing of all to starting anything is the starting point itself, where the ego does battle with itself and finds many ways to avoid the hard questions. For a taste you may also read the Change This book manifesto. Read more


The Big Switch

The_big_switch_cover_2 It’s very tempting to think that change will happen quickly. That’s probably because we seldom notice all the things that shift in small and sometimes hidden ways to conspire for the change that will take place.

As well, predictions are always long while time seems short. Yet, change happens and when it does in substantial ways, our lives are swept along with it as entire industries seem to disappear overnight.

[…] Utility computing, the main concept behind the book by Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch, is a flavor of the same idea. Read more.


My Take on “Join the Conversation”

Jtc_book I’ll say it up front for clarity-sake, I liked Jaffe‘s book, especially the case studies and the section on partnerships. I bought the book last year before my vacation so I could have the time to read and digest it. I also liked Jaffe’s writing style — easy and (dare I say?) conversational.

Rather than doing a chapter by chapter review, which many have already done or are in the process of doing, I will build on its premise and touch on a couple of highlights.

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Connection Kata: 5+1+1 Business Books I Gave Away in 2007

Every year I invest in the publishing industry by buying in bulk. There are books that are great to read, even better to share. Many of the books I share are new or newer releases, some are just classics for me. The criteria I use to determine what I give away are:

  1. I read it and learned something unique that no other book taught me;
  2. It contains potentially a life changing methodology or way of thinking;
  3. It speaks to trends in a way that is researched and requires some leap in attitude;
  4. It provides a great synthesis of insights and stimulates action;
  5. It’s a new window into the journey of life and mind expanding.

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Using Foresight to Provoke Strategy and Innovation

Get There Early Every year, The Institute for the Future puts out a map of the future. To create it, they consider several trends through stories.

The Map for 2007 and representing the next ten years, as extracted from the brilliant book Get There Early by Bob Johansen, talks about: personal empowerment, grass roots economics, smart networking, polarizing extremes, health insecurity.

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Acts of Kindness: Make the Impossible Possible

Make_the_impossible_possible[…] A few days ago I received an email from Meredith McGinnis at Doubleday, Random House. Her email was the best pitch I have received from anyone to date. She started by referencing my post on Three Cups of Tea that made her decide to reach out and tell me about a book titled Make the Impossible Possible. A book by Bill Strickland with Vince Rause. What Meredith described in her email touched me because I had felt it in Bill’s presence, hearing his story many years earlier.

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Now is Gone – How Companies Can do New Media

Now_is_gone While building a new media effort needs to follow the same rules of relevance and effectiveness that marketing follows, you also need to understand that new media has forever changed the rules of marketing.

This is part of the advice Geoff Livingston gives executives and entrepreneurs in his upcoming book Now is Gone.

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The Cluetrain Manifesto

The_cluetrain_manifesto_2 “The cluetrain stopped there four times a day for ten years and no one ever took delivery.” [Doc Searls about an acquaintance at a company that was free-falling out of the Fortune 500, The Cluetrain Manifesto, Apr. 1999]

Is this you? Is this your company?

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Economics 101: Who Gets What and Why?

The_undercover_economist According to Tim Harford this is what economics is about. In his book titled The Undercover Economist, Harford provides the inside scoop on how the puzzles of everyday life are part of a system, what we call “economies”, that endeavors to understand people – individuals, partners, competitions and members of societal organizations alike.

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The Age of Conversation

The_age_of_conversation_badge Today is the official release date of The Age of Conversation, an eBook co-authored by 103 authors from 10 nations. The permanent link and page to this group project on this site is here.

Preliminary press: AdAge and Social Computing Magazine.

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The New Kind of Business Hero

Gust_2 “This new kind of business hero… must learn to operate without the might of the hierarchy behind them. The crutch of authority must be thrown away and replaced by their own ability to make relationships, use influence, and work with others to achieve results.” [Rosabeth Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn to Dance]

I just finished reading the advance copy of GUST, The Tale Wind of Office Politics by Timothy L. Johnson. Tim blogs at Carpe Factum and was one of the very first people to welcome me to the blogosphere. Read more


2 Weeks to a Breakthrough

Two Weeks to a Breakthrough Today I had the good fortune of spending a lot of time with Lisa Haneberg and I can tell you that everything they say about her is true: she is energetic, passionate and motivated to help you succeed. If you do your daily practice, you are Two Weeks to a Breakthrough, too.

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Message Mishaps and Words That Work

WordsthatworkThese are no mashups. Here we’re talking about mishaps. When what you say does not achieve the desired results, nor it reaches your intended audience — that’s when your messages fall flat. In Words that Work, Frank Luntz talks about the importance of preventing message mistakes. Language is in constant flux, so the words you choose need to work in the context of your audience.

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The Narrative Fallacy

The_black_swan_2I’ve been reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I caution you this is a highly enjoyable reading and not for the faint of heart. It will require more of you than the casual ten point business book.

Taleb approaches the impact of the highly improbable through multiple literary, philosophic and narrative references. I worked for years in risk management. The topic fascinates me.

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Made in USA: Brand America

Rebuilding_brand_america How is brand America perceived abroad? Back in December I did a post that built upon the opinions of Italian author Beppe Severgnini. Mike Wagner at Own Your Brand! left a comment about mistakes:

The European view of mistakes is always interesting to me. It seems to me a disconnect from their appreciation of design. Their lack of creativity and risk tolerance seems to limit their new business development. They play it safe. How you can be creative in an activity without risking mistakes.” Read more


How Do You Go From Start to Success?

ThedipYou pass by strategic quitting.

“Almost everything worth doing in life is controlled by the Dip.” [Seth Godin]

The kinds of decisions you make as you start something will determine whether you will be successful or not. Starting is easy; it’s knowing how to pull through the rough times that will bring you success. You’ve heard it before: someone who becomes famous all of a sudden, except it was several years in the making. It is not easy to identify a course of action, and to know the difference between what to pursue and what to let go. Read more

The Results Are In

Thebigmoogif_6Remarkable wins — The Big Moo. Even though this is a book written by a renowned group of modern thinkers and practitioners and led by Seth Godin, not everyone knows Seth, not everyone wants to risk sending something unusual that people may not be ready to receive, etc.

And this part included a message on giving back to three deserving charities by virtue of accepting the book.

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Tuesday With Mavericks

LeftboxbuyToday is the official release date of Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win. Bill and Polly will be in center city Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon — Tuesday — with a few local mavericks. This is one of the few times our fair city has been on the front lines of a conversation on business innovation and the design of work.

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When It’s Time to Decide

Go_point_230“The Go Point takes you inside the heart and head of people at their go point. And from their experience and that of our own we will build a decision-making template, the principles and tools for being decisive at times when it really counts:  Using small steps to make hard decisions, building a network of counselors and oracles for testing ideas, keeping options open until they must be closed.”

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