Book Reveiw: How Not to Be Wrong

The author, Jordan Ellenberg has written an intense and interesting book: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. Do you think you’ll ever stop using mathematics? Below is an excerpt.

When am I Going to Use This?How Not to Be Wrong

The lessons of mathematics are simple ones and there are no numbers in them: that there is structure in the world; that we can hope to understand some of it and not just gape at what our senses present to us; that our intuition is stronger with a formal exoskeleton than without one. And that mathematical certainty is one thing, the softer convictions we find attached to us in everyday life another, and we should keep track of the difference if we can.

Every time you observe that more of a good thing is not always better; or you remember that improbable things happen a lot, given enough chances, and resist the lure of the Baltimore stockbroker; or you make a decision based not just on the most likely future, but on the cloud of all possible futures, with attention to which ones are likely and which ones are not; or you let go of the idea that the beliefs of groups should be subject to the same rules as beliefs of individuals; or, simply, you find that cognitive sweet spot where you can let your intuition run wild on the network of tracks formal reasoning makes for it; without writing down an equation or drawing a graph, you are doing mathematics, the extension of common sense by other means. When are you going to use it? You’ve been using mathematics since you were born and you’ll probably never stop. Use it well.

 

Book Review: The Race Underground

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most is an excellent book. I can’t imagine how much lumber and steel when into building these two subways. Below is an excerpt about Manhattan.

The Race UndergroundThe Race Underground

FOR AN ISLAND THAT STRETCHED only seven miles long, Manhattan presented an unusual array of engineering nightmares. The softer rock had a grainy texture, almost like sugar, and was known as dolomitic marble. It was mostly at the island’s northern end. The more solid, challenging rock, Manhattan schist, was dangerous to bore into because it could fracture more easily and collapse on workers. It was at the southern portion. The island’s widest point stretches only about two miles, from river to river, near 125th Street, but just north of that it narrows quickly like a soda bottle. And though it appears flat to pedestrians, most of the city’s terrain is actually quite rolling and rocky, especially between Twenty-Third Street and the northern tip of Central Park. North of 110th Street the island has a steep rise in elevation that tops out at 268 feet above sea level, Manhattan’s peak, in Inwood near Fort Washington Avenue and 185th Street. In this northern portion, there were two hurdles for major digging. The bedrock of Manhattan has two major cracks, or fault lines, one at 125th Street and the other further north near what is now Fort Tryon Park, that have existed for millions of years. Although gravel, sand, and silt deposits have mostly filled them in, the faults weaken the structure of the bedrock hundreds of feet beneath the sea.

S+B: How Old Industries Become Young Again

The Building Supply /Lumber industry is an old industry. Which is dematuring. What are you doing to make our industry young again? Are you aware of your changing customer’s habits? What technology are you using to be more effective and cost efficient? Do you know what your competition is doing? Below is an excerpt from strategy+business: How Old Industries Become Young Again.

 

How Old Industries Become Young AgainWordle: dematurity

Five indicators reveal when your sector is about to be transformed by dematurity.

Leading in Dematurity

One of the few certainties in business today is that dematurity is coming to your industry, and soon. Responding effectively requires that you throw out old assumptions about how value is built and sustained in your markets. You need to ask questions about your industry that others believe have already been fully, inexorably, answered: What makes for efficient scale? Who is the competition? Who are the customers? What do customers want? Who owns what? Where is the risk?

If asking these questions and pursuing untraditional answers seems like an unlikely path to success, consider this fact: More than 80 percent of the self-made billionaires who are profiled in my upcoming book, The Billionaire Effect, made their billions in mature industries that they reinvigorated by tackling one or many of the factors identified above. They either introduced a product attuned to new consumer habits, changed the technologies of production, adopted ideas from another industry, adapted to new regulation, changed the distribution system, or made some combination of those moves. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, challenged the internal combustion engine’s dominance in the auto industry by developing a customer-friendly electric car. Farallon Capital Management founder Tom Steyer worked laterally: He created an investment vehicle for university endowments and changed how those customers defined profitable investing. Alibaba founder Jack Ma created one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world by taking advantage of production and distribution changes inherent in the Web to provide platform and infrastructure services to thousands of small businesses.

Although dematurity is inevitable, your business can be the one that benefits most. Half the task is recognizing the facets of impending change early enough to prepare. The five indicators in this article provide you with a starting point, a way to begin honing your judgment and identifying the real threats to your industry. The other half of the task is to respond in a way that makes you stronger: by assembling and integrating the capabilities you’ll need in this new, rejuvenated marketplace. The right capabilities will probably be a combination of what you already do well and what you must learn to do from scratch. If you can set your company up to sense and respond to dematurity ahead of time, then you’ll be one of the first to catch the big wave of small changes—before everyone else in your industry gets on board. … Read More

 

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace — Book Reveiw

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval is a good interesting book. I like the way he intertwines the social aspects and history of office spaces. He uses novels from different time periods to give you the social background. Below is an excerpt about “knowledge workers.”

“Knowledge Workers”Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace

Like McGregor, Drucker was a figure who inadvertently harmonized the impulses of the nascent counterculture with the outwardly stuffy world of business, Though hardly countercultural himself, Drucker’sconcepts would prove useful to people in later years who wanted to make the office hospitable to the wilder world outside it. Over the course of the 1960s, Drucker came to expound one of the notions that’ would make him famous: the idea that a swelling group of workers was becoming central to the economy. They were middle-class employees who would never identify themselves with the “proletariat,” nor, in fact, with management. They were technical and professional workers who controlled what Drucker believed was becoming the most important resource of all: knowledge. Calling them “knowledge workers” — a term he coined in 1962 at the same time as, but independently of, another social theorist, Fritz Machlup – Drucker saw them as occupying a historic role in the making of a responsible society,

In Drucker’s view, what was changing about work was the increasing need to apply knowledge to work. Knowledge as such, in the intellectual sense, was different. The mathematical formulas and theorems that existed in books were a form of knowledge useful to intellectual history, but mathematics as applied to, say, a space program was “knowledge work.” So, too, did advertising and marketing and various other new professions require the mental labor of workers, applying what they knew from various disciplines to the techniques of mass persuasion. It was one thing to be an expert in Freud or Newton in a university; another to use the insights of Freud to sell a toothbrush or to use Newton to build a ballistic missile capable of striking the Soviet Union.

Knowledge work itself came from a historic shift, one that Drucker, like so many, traced to Frederick Taylor. But his vision of the history was marked by a curious and useful elision. In Drucker’s account, Taylor came upon a working world characterized by rote, nearly mindless, activity. It wasn’t planned so much as willed: the workers simply worked harder rather than “smarter.” Until Taylor, that is: “Taylor, for the first time in history, looked at work itself as deserving the attention of an educated man.” Drucker’s subsequent description of the insensate labor of unskilled men in factories draws almost entirely from Taylor’s portrait of them–and accordingly condescends to their abilities to plan and organize work. In actual fact, it wasn’t so. Before Taylor, work was already organized by teams of factory workers, who in large part had control over how they worked. The knowledge they applied to work was largely “tacit” in nature, agreed upon among the workers themselves and developed through a silent or coded language, rather than “explicit” (to borrow a famous definition from the sociologist Michael Polanyi). What Taylor sought in particular– indeed, what constituted his signal obsession– was to extract this tacit knowledge from the workers and install it in another set of people, the “industrial engineers.” Drucker called them “the prototype of all modern ‘knowledge workers’ “– a plausible assumption but one that excised the tremendous amount of knowledge that already existed in the work process. (Taylor lamented that after being taught “the one best way,” workers had a stubborn tendency to return to their own ways of working.) It was a useful fiction, and a common one, that helped to uphold a new class of technicians and professionals as the masters of an ever more progressive society, dependent on the application of knowledge to work. For the knowledge worker, Drucker held, was not simply a freelance professional but rather “the successor to the employee of yesterday, the manual worker, skilled or unskilled.”

TMN: Perk Up Your Productivity

Below is blog post from Time Management Ninja. How do you perk up your productivity when it doesn’t want to get going?

Perk Up Your Productivity

Some days, getting your productivity jump started can be a challenge.

Maybe your energy level is down. Or perhaps, you are just overwhelmed with what you should be doing right now.

You need something to boost your motivation and quick.

“To perk up your productivity, get yourself in motion and the momentum will follow. ”

Here some tips to get your productivity going when it doesn’t want to cooperate.

21 Ways to Perk up Your Productivity:

  1. Get enough sleep – Your body can’t function at its peak without enough rest. Each of us needs a different amount of sleep, make sure you listen to your body clock.
  2. Grab some caffeine – Kick it up with some coffee or Red Bull. A little caffeine can go a long way.
  3. Get an early morning workout – Working out first thing in the morning can pump up your energy level all day long.
  4. Check something off your list – Crossing off a completed item on your list just feels good. That’s why we add things to our list that we have already completed… just to cross them off! Get your momentum going with some early completed todos.
  5. Talk about something you are passionate about – Nothing gets your mind going like talking about a topic you are passionate about. It doesn’t matter the topic as long as it gets you excited and your brain working.
  6. Write in your success journal – Write a few positive things in your journal from the previous day. Writing about success drives the desire for more success.
  7. Breathe deeply – Get some oxygen to your brain by breathing deeply 10 times. This is a conscious exercise and is more difficult than it sounds. Most people get distracted before reaching 10 deep breaths.
  8. Build some momentum – Once your productivity is in motion, it will continue build. What tasks can you complete now to build your productivity momentum?
  9. Make a plan – Feeling overwhelmed by how much you need to do? Take a few minutes to formulate your plan of attack. Groom your todo list and prioritize your work.
  10. Listen to your favorite music – Always keep your favorite music with you. (This is not difficult with your smartphone and services like Spotify). When you need a boost, pull out those headphones and listen to your favorite power song.
  11. Take a break – You can concentrate and focus on the same work for only so long. Make sure you take a break to reset and recharge before diving back in to the task at hand.
  12. Get up and go for a walk – Instead of sitting in your chair for hours on end, get your body up and moving. A short walk, whether around the building or down the hall, can get your body moving again.
  13. Positive attitude – When your attitude is low, so is your energy. Choose a positive attitude and the productivity will follow. Even the worst of tasks can be improved with a shift in attitude.
  14. Read a motivational quote or passage – When you need a pick up, read your favorite motivational quotes or writings. I keep mine in Evernote so that they are always handy.
  15. Talk to someone who motivates you – Have a quick conversation with someone who always lifts your mood. Steer clear of the negative ones, and have a quick chat with someone who always has a good attitude.
  16. Send a quick text to a loved one – Tell someone you are thinking of them. Your message will lift both of your energy levels.
  17. Do your hobby – Everyone needs a hobby. Spend a few minutes on yours. Let your passion for your hobby drive productivity in all areas on your life.
  18. Finish a task to done – Many things started and none done doesn’t build your energy, rather it makes you feel like you are floundering. Make sure you complete tasks all the way to done in order to build your confidence level.
  19. Get ahead of a deadline – Driving ahead of a deadline gets your energy going. It puts you in control, and will motivate you to stay ahead of your work.
  20. Do something from the back burner – What has been on your list for a long time? Get that old task off your list so you can concentrate on moving forward.
  21. Get some more caffeine – …just don’t overdo it.

Perk Up Your Productivity

When you need a boost, try one or more of these quick tips to perk up your productivity.

Sometimes, all it takes is a simple action to get your productivity back in motion.

Question: How do you perk up your productivity when it doesn’t want to get going?

 

Teach Someone a Lesson — Agile Selling

Teaching is a very important skill needed to advance your career. Do you offer a teaching lesson every week? Below is an excerpt from Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World by Jill Konrath.

Teach Someone a Lesson

Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today's Ever-Changing Sales World

Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World

Maybe it’s time you teach someone a lesson. Hey-I’m not talking about being vindictive or seeking revenge! There may be some people who elicit that feeling in you, but we’re not going to go there. Instead, we’re going to focus on a super simple but highly effective strategy with big payback for you: teaching others in order to solidify your own knowledge.

The first time I ever trained someone else was early in my first year of sales. My boss, Diane, instructed me to go on a sales can with Alice, a trainee who had uncovered a really good sales opportunity while prospecting. As a newbie, it was highly unlikely that she’d close the deal without assistance. Diane asked me to show Alice what to do and to make sure we got the business.

Aargh! I was not ready for that. I was still fairly new myself, plus I didn’t know much about the other vendors. But clearly coming in second was not an option. For the next two days, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about the other two competitors. I studied how they stacked up against us. I talked to experienced reps to find out about pricing. Finally, planned out how I’d engage the prospect in a conversation that made us the obvious choice.

Before we went to the meeting, I reviewed everything with Alice. I outlined competitive strengths and weaknesses. I overviewed our plan for the meeting. I answered her questions to the best of my knowledge. With that prep, Alice and I went to the prospect’s office. Two hours later, we walked out with a signed contract. I was never so relieved in my whole life.

Here’s what closed that deal: I took a crash course in two competitors and became an overnight expert. In order to teach Alice, I had to really think through my meeting strategy step-by-step. Then I had to figure out how to explain to her what I was going to do in the meeting and why. Because I wanted to look good in front of Alice, my boss, and the prospect, I actually leapfrogged in my own sales development.

It seems strange to recommend teaching others while you’re still learning yourself. After all, we so quickly defer to the experts. However, the upside can be huge. As the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote nearly two thousand years ago, “By teaching, we learn.”

Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant: The New Science of Smart writes about a program at the University of Pennsylvania in which students are responsible for teaching a specific subject to a computerized character. She writes, ”As they prepare to teach, they organize their knowledge, improving their own understanding and recall.” Doing this helps them find gaps in their own learning too, and they’re more motivated to master the material.

That’s exactly what happened to me. Teaching really challenged me to learn quickly. I felt really good about it. Alice learned. I got better. Consequently, we got the order that day.

After Alice, I had a string of trainees at Xerox. Each one increased my skill level. I became a conscious competent about what I was doing. In other words, I knew what worked, but it wasn’t second nature to me yet. Doing it right required me to pay close attention to all the steps involved. By teaching, I accelerated my learning significantly.

To this day, I teach so I can learn. You might want to give it a try. Think about what you really want to (or need to) learn about in more depth right now. What is it? Who could you teach it to? It doesn’t have to be people in your own company. Get creative. But most of all start teaching so you learn faster.

 

Good Producers and Good Managers — Creativity, Inc.

In the book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, he talks about how to communicate to people on different levels. Below is an excerpt about Katherine Sarafian on how she manages her directs.

 

Good producers–and good managers–don’t dictate from on high. They reach out, they listen, they wrangle, coax, Creativity, Inc.and cajole. And their mental models of their jobs reflect that. Katherine Sarafian another Pixar producer, credits the clinical psychologist (Dr.) Taibi Kahler with giving her a helpful way of visualizing her role. “One of Kahler’s big teachings is about meeting people where they are, Katherine says, referring to what Kahler calls the Process Communication Model, which compares being a manager to taking the elevator from floor to floor in a big building. “It makes sense to look at every personality as a condominium,” Katherine says. “People live on different floors and enjoy different views.” Those on the upper floors may sit out on their balconies; those on the ground floor may lounge on their patios. Regardless, to communicate effectively with them all, you must meet them where they live. “The most talented members of Pixar’s workforce-whether they’re directors, producers, production staff, artists, whatever — are able to take the elevator to whatever floor and meet each person based on what they need in the moment and how they like to communicate. One person may need to spew and vent for twenty minutes about why something doesn’t look right before we can move in and focus on the details. Another person may be all about, ‘I can’t make these deadlines unless you give me this particular thing that I need.’ I always think of my job as moving between floors, up and down, all day long.”

When she’s not imagining herself in an elevator, Katherine pretends she’s a shepherd guiding a flock of sheep. Like Lindsey, she spends some time assessing the situation, figuring out the best way to guide her flock. “I’m going to lose a few sheep over the hill, and I have to go collect them,” she says. “I’m going to have to run to the front at times, and I’m going to have to stay back at times. And somewhere in the middle of the flock, there is going to be a bunch of stuff going on that I can’t even see. And while I’m looking for the sheep that are lost, something else is going to happen that I’m not aiming my attention at. Also, I’m not entirely sure where we’re going. Over the hill? Back to the barn? Eventually, I know we will get there, but it can be very, very slow. You know, a car crosses the road, and the sheep are all in the way. I’m looking at my watch going, ‘Oh, my God, sheep, move already!’ But the sheep are going to move how they move, and we can try to control them as best we can, but what we really want to do is pay attention to the general direction they’re heading and try to steer a little bit.”

Notice how each of these models contains so many of the themes we’ve talked about so far: the need to keep fear in its place, the need for balance, the need to make decisions (but also to admit fallibility), and the need to feel that progress is being made. What’s important, I think, as you construct the mental model that works best for you, is to be thoughtful about the problems it is helping you to solve.

I’ve always been intrigued, for example, by the way that many people use the analogy of a train to describe their companies. Massive and powerful, the train moves inexorably down the tracks, over mountains and across vast plains, through the densest fog and darkest night. When things go wrong, we talk of getting “derailed” and of experiencing a “train wreck.” And I’ve heard people refer to Pixar’s production group as a finely tuned locomotive that they would lovethe chance to drive. What interests me is the number of people who believe that they have the ability to drive the train and who think that this is the power position-that driving the train is the way to shape their companies’ futures. The truth is, it’s not. Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.