Blog Archives

The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business (Ryan Tate)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This was a quick and fun read, though, like many other business novels, I’m not sure how much of what I learned is applicable to real life/my business as opposed to just interesting trivia/anecdotes. Tate interviewed and researched not just the history of 20% time, but shares with us the process by which some 20% projects have transformed a company’s mission/history/etc (e.g. how a Google engineer invented Gmail, which then required AdSense to fund it, etc). I found it to be enjoyable and interesting, though again, I’m not terribly certain how well it fulfills my “I’ve learned something new from this nonfiction book” requirement.
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Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job (Elizabeth F. Fideler)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Though it was an interesting concept — interviewing and delving into one of the faster growing segments of the US workforce — this ultimately felt more like a book pitch than a fully fleshed out work. While many of the women are inspirational for a variety of reasons (many are leaders in their field, are working because they’re supporting their mother, or just feel like they still have something to contribute), everything starts to blur a little together by the 10th or so interview, and though there are occasionally interesting charts and graphs, I’m not sure what I really learned by reading the book that I couldn’t have deduced from the back cover and maybe a quick glance at the graphics.

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Great by Choice (Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is an interesting look into some companies that have thrived throughout the sometimes chaotic economic ups and downs of recent years. Similar to what he has done in his past works, Collins (working with Hansen here) researched a variety of companies and then chose the ones that significantly outperformed their peers despite similar circumstances and starting points. The book focuses on the set of companies that succeeded despite uncertain environmental influences and conditions.  If you’ve read other works by Collins, it has a similar feel and ring — with a lot of well told/interesting anecdotes followed by seemingly boiled down, bare bones advice and to-dos. It’s an interesting read, though a little repetitive compared to Collins’s past works.
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First, Break All the Rules (Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Written by two consultants for the Gallup Organization, this is an interesting synopsis of what the authors learned while interviewing and researching a variety of managers and supervisors (I think they said 80,000 interviews in all).  A wide variety of interviews and stories are presented and summarized here — from basketball coaches to hotel workers to restaurant managers, there is great breadth in terms of the levels of leadership and also (you would think) the types of skills required to hold these various positions.  Ultimately, their conclusions were (perhaps necessarily) a little over-reaching and broad, i.e.: great managers focus on talent rather than skill (without clearly delineating between the two), try to encourage their workers’ strengths rather than create/grow new strengths, etc. Still, it was a more in-depth dive than many other business books, and had some interesting anecdotes without really being a detailed how-to-guide.
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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t (Jim Collins)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A well-written synopsis of 11 “great” companies and some of their similar characteristics, this is a fun, quick read that is great in terms of party trivia and information… but it’s tougher to judge if you’re looking for more of a business how-to.  Partially, it has aged poorly — many of the companies selected have since had meltdowns of epic proportions (for example: Fannie Mae, Circuit City), and the “how to” part of the book feels generalized and far more subjective than the methodology/selection criteria would have you believe. Still, you’ll learn quite a few fun facts about how some of these business started and/or converted to become the giants they are today.
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