Archive for June, 2010

Team of Rivals. The political genius of Abraham Lincoln

Signature of Abraham Lincoln.
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Team of Rivals. The political genius of Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kearns Goodwin. 2005. ISBN 9780743270755.  754 pp 9 point type of absolute wonderful insights into the man, the times and the context.  It follows Lincoln from being the very outside choice of the brand new Republican party through to his assignation as the Civil War is being won.  He built his Cabinet of the very people who most strongly ran against him for the job! As you are drawn back to those times you see how ‘messy’ democracy is.  I  was most interested in the roots of the Democratic Party in the South as the pro-slavery party. Not til Clinton were the democrats truly brought to the Liberal centre.   The Republicans started out as the Liberal, pro reform party.  How things have changed.  what has not changed is the awarding of lucrative posts,  contracts, political rewards, personal lobbying and so on. It is quite amusing to hear the liberal “goody goodies” complaining about corruption on a grand scale in Asia and the Middle East, when the Union itself was as full of the same things.  This is a book for leaders, politicians, history buffs and those interested in why Americans do what they do.  Thanks to David Moulton for lending it to me.

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Different. Escaping the competitive herd. Youngme Moon.

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Different. Escaping the competitive herd. Youngme Moon. 2010 ISBN 9780307460851. Sub sub head , Succeeding in a world where conformity reigns but exceptions rule.   This author has really nailed todays marketplace.  In her words, “ Differentiation is a way of thinking. It’s a mindset. Its a commitment  …It is not a tactic. It’s not a flashy advertising campaign; it’s not a sparkling new feature set ”

I enjoyed her indentification of types of brands:

  • Todays vast all the same stuff, Minstrel marekting – the pursuit of maximally agreeable ( from Grant McCracken
  • Breakaway brands , like Swatch or AIBO
  • Reverse -positioned brands like Google
  • Hostile brands like Red Bull or Marmite

Her identification of aggressive competition and endless market data forces companies to become more and more alike as they pile more and more features ti create more

  • Hyatt-like hotels
  • Boring airlines
  • A plethora of choices for a TV

So that working like crazy to beat the competition does exactly the opposite – making the product mediocre and more like the competition.

If you are responsible for a product of any kind or want to become a more aware consumer, this is wonderful book for you. It starts differently, from the uneven cut pages,  and avant garde layout. Yet the content over delivers, with an easy insightful read, that will grip and hold your attention.  This is the 2010 marketing book so far.

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Get Unstuck and Get Going… on the stuff that matters. Michael Bungay Stanier

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Get Unstuck and Get Going… on the stuff that matters.  Michael Bungay Stanier. 2009. ISBN 9780978440718. This is a very inventive book, from its intriguing three flip panel design to its content. It is creative and though provoking and causes you to challenge your assumptions to do your great thing.  I also found it to be playful, very suitable for execs who want a restart to their thinking. Today’s busy execs will appreciate the concise and pocket style format. I would suggest this is a good cottage book when you have some thinking time.

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Snap Selling. Speed up sales and win new business with today’s frazzled customers. Jill Konrath

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Snap Selling. Speed up sales and win new business with today’s frazzled customers. Jill Konrath. 2010 ISBN 978159184330.  Okay, along with Sales Dirty Secret, this new book by Jill Konrath (Selling to Big Companies) is my top sales book for 2010.  Jill has assimilated the best practices of current practitioner including Sharon Drew Morgen‘s ground breaking insights into what happens when interested and “hot”  clients “disappear” for long periods of time.  Jill’s book has been flagged by more postit notes  more than any book I read this year.  Immediately useful to any working sales person, it is a book that gives you, the sales pro,  a lifetime of application advice. Her discussions as to how frazzled customers are today is bang on.  Lesson learned she advocates that you will need at least 10 contact attempts over six to eight weeks to be noticed. No worry about being a pest since the targets are so busy, they will not notice the frequency of your attempts amongst the fire hose of incoming requests.  Early on she states,  ”if you are not helping a customer with a high priority item, nothing is going to happen. How does your offering add value to their business? “.   |Also she states that consultative/solution selling, which I consider to be level four (90s style), is well past its time. You will not have the time in front of clients early on the be “consultative” . Jill is the first current writer to begin to address what I consider level five (Gen five) selling , where the seller needs an integrated sales and marketing effort in order to get noticed, because today’s sales cycle involves so many more skills.  If you think that your sales team needs to “get back to basics” , in order to increase sales, that indicates faulty reasoning on your parts. In our engagements, marketing is takes over  ”the basics” freeing the sales team to address today’s harder issues.  Well written, well organized, concise with great examples and suggestion sI recommend every sales person and sales manager read this book this year, well before they miss their quotas.

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Winning Body Language. Control the conversation, command attention, & convey the right message without saying a word. Mark Bowden

Banquet Keynoter Mark Bowden
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Winning Body Language. Control the conversation, command attention, & convey the right message without saying a word. Mark Bowden 2010. ISBN 9780071700573.  We spend a lot of time on writing the best content.  Yet, the author states, in communication the audience is paying attention in the following split; 7% the words, 38% the voice and 55% the body language.  Makes one think?  Now I know why I did not believe that CEO saying that everything is just fine, when his body betrayed him.  Bowden is an expert at on body language, having a strong background in performance and theatre. His anecdotes on projects he has taken on are fascinating. The core of the book is bang on the topic , finding a wide range of applicability. As we do many webinars, I found  his tips on those,  very useful, as he tells you exactly how to fight the talking head style.   I always wondered why Steven Coveys presentations were so “truthful”.  I also appreciated the comment on getting away from behind a lectern etc – as removing a barrier. Lots here, a good read and it is clearly written

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Accelerating Out of the Great Recession. How to win in a slow-growth economy. David Rhodes & Daniel Stelter.

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Accelerating Out of the Great Recession. How to win in a slow-growth economy. David Rhodes & Daniel Stelter. 2010 ISBN 9780071718141. This is a very important book. The two authors are from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). I am a fan of BCGs research and this book does not disappoint. They look at the Great Depression, Japans lost decades and the 70s NA bust, to take lessons from companies that grew despite the slow growth economies.  Since at Rocket Builders we hope the best, but plan for the worst these lessons are gold.   They make a good argument that we are in for many years of slow growth and they had not factored in the recent sovereign debt problems as well as Canadians extremely high levels of indebtedness.   Just a few of the dozens of notes I made from this book:

  • Companies will faced increased market competition as their markets shrink
  • Governments will become more extreme in their interventions and protectionism (As well as increase role in  business ownership)
  • Consumption patterns will change (retrenching, payment of debt takes priority over consumption
  • Massive triggering of the deleveraging process in the business and private sector
  • Increased private savings with reduced consumer consumption drops interest rates, reducing  exports and imports
  • Resource inventories will rise, prices will stay low for long periods
  • Attention will be paid to building internal markets vs export markets if possible (this will not help China enough).
  • Industry restructuring will accelerate, as the weak business models fail more quickly,  M&A will increase for the strong.
  • Governments will be forced into massive debt levels to finance infrastructure ala FDRs New Deal
  • Deflation is a real threat to those in heavy debt as their asset values drop
  • Taxes must rise, but govt services will come under attack ( reduced public pensions, wages, employment rolls)
  • Health care and energy costs will be scrutinized and attacked relentlessly
  • Countries reliant on exports to drive their  economic/employment growth will suffer from increased internal strife as job losses mount
  • Anti immigration feelings in First World will rise internally as job losses stay high, impacting the Third World even more.
  • Todays teenagers could become more conservative,  better savers, but suffer longer terms of unemployment than their parents, this may reduce their interest in entrepreneurship.

The book goes on to show areas where the authors believes there are opportunities for growth, as well as ways that companies who did well in previous downturns did well. But I will leave them for you when you read this book.

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Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton. Rebecca Shambaugh

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Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton. Rebecca Shambaugh. 2010 ISBN 9780071664172. If you have not read much about Hillary Clinton’s life this book will give you some  idea of how she got to where she is today. It is mostly full of the author’s take on leadership and life habits. These are good ideas, and she uses Clinton’s attributes as a springboard for how one could apply it to one’s life.  A short book, easy to read and fairly well written. I may have been looking for something else, but the book left me a bit underwhelmed.  Perhaps it is due to my impression of the Clinton era lacking a good legacy, and an opportunity clearly wasted.

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Rework. Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

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Rework. Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. 2010 ISBN 9780307463746. These are the two  chaps of 37 signals who started  Basecamp and a host of other tools.  They were also early advocates of Ruby on Rails.  A breathless book that runs through the gamut of pragmatic business advice. You will find your self agreeing with them much more than disagreeing. Their comments on software design ( It should be simple, practical, easy to use but often is not) resonated today as I was running through Microsoft Office 2010. sigh, I can see why Open Office is attractive – Microsoft changed the paradigm yet again, breaking all of Don Norman’s rules.  37Signals say marketing is not a department which is bang on since it is something every one in your company is doing 24/7. For example:

  • Every time you answer the phone its marketing
  • Every time you send an email its marketing
  • Every time someone uses your product, its marketing
  • Every word you write on your website is marketing
  • If you build software, every error message is marketing
  • If you are in the restaurant business. the after-dinner mint is marketing
  • If you are in the retail business, the checkout counter is marketing
  • If you are in the service business, your invoice is marketing

Marketing is the sum total of everything you do.

Buy it read it and pass it on to someone you like. Its short but right on. Website www.37signals.com/rework

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