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Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book
Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A smart and practical guide to build a sustainable connection with your readers, January 4, 2016
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This made total sense to me and at the same time made me realise the gaps I had in our platform. I'm excited at the prospect of filling the holes and really helping my readers be successful. Thanks Tim.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
by Nir Eyal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.58
87 used & new from $10.58

5.0 out of 5 stars A clear approach to habit formation, November 15, 2014
Eyal's book is beautifully written, well researched and his ideas are actionable. If you building a product which you want people to use as a habit, this is the book for you. High recommended.

Working with Stories in Your Community Or Organization: Participatory Narrative Inquiry
Working with Stories in Your Community Or Organization: Participatory Narrative Inquiry
by Cynthia Kurtz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $35.95
27 used & new from $30.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece - a practical guide to narrative inquiry, September 20, 2014
There are a lot of folk interested in stories these days. Most want to know how to tell a cracking tale. Each year more books come out offering the secret sauce on how to do it. This is NOT one of those books.

Cynthia Kurtz has produced a comprehensive guide on how to find stories, then help groups make sense of their stories and use this knowledge to inspire sustainable change. Kurtz shows us that the real power to change comes from the small, everyday stories. We just need to surface these stories, help the patterns emerge and design interventions knowing that small things can make a big difference.

This is a practitioner’s guide replete with excellent examples, step-by-step processes and templates and exercises. Kurtz has over a decade of experience starting with her ground-breaking work at IBM and then working with vast array of organisations around the world. Working with Stories is her synthesis of how to effectively get people engaged in tackling complex problems using what she has coined Participatory Narrative Inquiry.

And of course Kurtz illustrates her ideas by telling well chosen anecdotes. Her style is conversational and accessible. You really feel you’re sitting and having a cuppa with Cynthia as she fills you in on how to really do these wonderful narrative projects.

Working with Stories is a must have guide for anyone interested in helping groups change. As they say, a culture is made of the stories we tell: if you want to change a culture you need to change the stories. Working with Stories helps us do just that. Highly recommended.

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down
Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down
by John P. Kotter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.11
160 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A practical little book on getting your ideas heard, September 24, 2012
Great ideas require tremendous toil to turn them into workable solutions that change people's lives. One of the standout features of the great inventor Thomas Edison was his insistence on having his researchers work side by side with his manufacturers at the famed Menlo Park Laboratory. Take the incandescent light. Hundreds of filaments were tested before finding a solution that worked and was affordable (bamboo fibre). But he didn't stop there, he then worked on getting the idea accepted across the USA. Edison was a master of getting Buy In.

But in a way Edison had it easy. The problems he was working on had a small range of possible workable answers and after the work was done it was clear to all that a good path was taken. Today we face more complex problems with a myriad of possible trade offs and possibilities such as the biggies of climate change, sustainability and economic growth, to the smaller but also important decisions in organisations such as strategic direction, engagement and customer service.

Many challenges today have no single right answer. Rather we need to inspire a group of decision makers to buy in to an idea and head in the same direction.
John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead's book, Buy In, is a practical little volume that you can read in a jiffy. It's premise is simple: if you want an idea to be implemented you need to get buy in from the important stakeholders and the best way to do that is to expose the idea to critics and supporters alike and respond to the naysayers and nitpickers. You just need to understand and know how to respond to their attack strategies.

Some might think it's best to keep your idea hidden from those people who'll shoot it down and only get on board people who'll support it. The problem with this approach is that the dissenters will feel ostracised and work even harder to undermine the idea. White-anting from a big, powerful termite (never mind a whole colony) is mostly catastrophic.

Putting your idea out there for scrutiny has a distinct advantage of getting everyone's attention, especially if there's some controversy involved. With so much flying past us these days, attention is a valuable commodity.

Kotter and Whitehead make the good point that you need more that 50% support to get your idea implemented because during implementation you'll hit rocky patches and you need those extra supporters to push through the difficult terrain. At the same time you don't need and will rarely get 100% support. Strong critics will remain so throughout the life of the idea. You're just going to have to live with that and work with your supporters.

The majority of Buy In is focussed on the attack strategies critics will use to derail your idea. The four common strategies are:

Death by delay: Endlessly putting off or diverting discussion of your idea until all momentum is lost

Confusion: Presenting so much distracting information that confidence in your proposal dies

Fear mongering: Stirring up irrational anxieties about your idea

Character assassination: Undermining your reputation and credibility

When presenting your idea the authors suggest preparing responses for all four types of attacks and they provide descriptions of 24 attacks and 24 responses. One of my favourites, which I was subjected to just this week, is #6 "What about this, and that, and this, and that ...?"

Attack: Your proposal leaves too many questions unanswered. What about this and that, and this and that, and ...

Response: All good ideas, if they are new, raise dozens of questions that cannot be answered with certainty.

One of the main lessons for me in how they suggest you should respond is to not dissect and respond to every point in the attack. Rather use a combination of logic and emotion (in the form of stories) to respond. Keep it simple.

It's clear that the authors believe in the power of stories. Buy In is presented as a series of narratives to demonstrate what good and bad examples look and feel like. It was interesting however that they didn't explicitly discuss stories as a response approach yet talked about providing examples.

Buy In is a practical book that is simple to apply. It's definitely worth a read and I'm confident you will be able to apply what you learn from Buy In.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
by Patrick M. Lencioni
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.55
950 used & new from $0.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a business fable that doesn't make you want to vomit, September 24, 2012
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I have an aversion to business fables. The ones I've read give me the irrates. They seem to trivialise business. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life , Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions (Kotter, Our Iceberg is Melting) , Fish! and Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling all left me a little cold. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Fable by Patrick Lencioni.

Five Dysfunctions popped up on my radar a couple of years ago and ever since then a number of people suggested I should read it. It was published back in 2002 and there seems to be quite an industry that's grown around it with addional handbooks and resources available. For me, this wasn't a good sign.

Then a client lent me a copy so I started on a plane trip home from Sydney and finsihed the book in three short sittings. It's a nicely crafted story: short chapters, cliff hangers, good dialogue and believable and messy business situations.

Most of Five Dysfunctions is a business story. About a third of the book, at the end, describes the five dysfunctions model. The story is about Kathryn who joins DecionTech as their new CEO. The executive team is a bit of a mess and they don't welcome her with open arms. Kathryn starts a process of conversations and straight talking at a series offsites and team meetings and engages the Executive in understanding a simple model showing what needs to happen to turn their group into a team.

Like all good models it's nice and simple and can be drawn on a whiteboard.

Each part of the model is interlocked. It's pointless working on one part without addressing the others.

One of the real advantages of learning about the model as a story is that you hear from the characters ask and answer questions. You are a fly on the wall of an executive team and you learn through their experiences. This experiential learning is then reinforced with the didactic chapter at the end of the book.

Here's how Kathryn describes the five dysfunctions.

Absence of Trust: "Great teams do not hold back with one another." "They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal."

Fear of conflict:"If we don't trust each other, then we aren't going to engage in open, constructive, idealogical conflict. And we'll just continue to preserve a sense of artifical harmony."

Lack of commitment: "I'm talking about commitment to a plan or a decision, and getting everyone to buy into it. That's why conflict is so important." "It's as simple as this. When people don't unload their opinions and feel like theyre been listen to, they wont really get on board."

Avoidance of accountability: "Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we have signed up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer's behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort."

The last dysfunction, Inattention to Results, is all about putting the team before individual egos. This issue is handled over a number of chapters at the end of the fable but I wont go into detail and spoil the surprise.

What I really liked about this book was just how well written the story was so are immersed in the world of an executive team and see the tensions and compromises, their good itent and judgements, and how conflict arises and can play out. There're plenty of models of good and poor behaviour, and our hero, Kathryn, shows us one way progress can be made.

What struck me most was just how much time is needed for an effective team to spend together planning, discussing, arguing. The perenial push back to spending this time, however, is that tired business phrase, "we just need to get back to the real work." Well, here's the breaking news for any executive who wants their company to excel: it's your first priority to build an effective executive team so it can draw on all its talents to achieve results.

I loved this book and have been recommending it all over the place. Get a copy, read it, then pass it on to another executive who you think really needs to get their team back on track.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
by Richard Rumelt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.78
109 used & new from $7.33

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An experienced practitioners thoughtful reflections, October 31, 2011
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There are two things we often notice when helping a company craft their strategic story: 1) the strategic story process helps executives clarify what they really think the strategy should be; and 2) way too many executives can't actually tell you their company's strategy without reaching for a document. It's only since reading Richard Rumelt's new book, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, that I can see both observations are symptoms of not having a story to tell about the company's strategy.

The second point came quickly to us because we know stories are memorable and therefore if your strategy was a story then you have a better chance of remembering it. Ipso facto (I'm not 100% sure of what this means but it felt right to put it here). The first point, however, goes to the heart of Rumelt's thesis: good strategy comprises a kernel made from a diagnosis of what's happening that's causing a challenge; a guiding policy on how the company will overcome this challenge; and a coherent set of actions that will translate the strategy into reality.

Most strategies are defined as a set of aspirational goals, which Rumelt argues is a big mistake that has resulted from the template view of strategy creation: create a vision, state a purpose, set some goals, bingo, you now have a strategy. An effective strategy is all about action, about getting something done, it's concrete, plausible and doable. These attributes are much the same for stories.

So from a story perspective, the kernel consists of the story of what's happening, the story of what will be done, and then the unfolding stories that emerge from the actions. These stories then help leaders decide how they will adapt to the inherent complexity of business.This is not just Shawn's story-coloured glasses making this connection. Rumelt says himself that, "The diagnosis for the situation should replace the overwhelming complexity of reality with a simpler story, a story that calls attention to its crucial aspects. This simplified model of reality allows one to make sense of the situation and engage in further problem solving." (p. 81)

Rumelt's book is divided into three parts. Part 1, Good & Bad Strategy, describes the differences between what makes a good'ne and what makes a stinker. Part 2, Sources of Power, describes a series of approaches the strategist can adopt to improve their strategy. It includes topics such as focus, leverage, advantage and growth. This section finishes with a chapter on putting it all together that examines the graphics chip maker NVIDIA and their strategy, which incorporates many of Rumelt's sources of power. As suggested by Rumelt, I skipped to the NVIDIA chapter before reading each source of power in detail.

The last part, Thinking Like a Strategist, has three chapters which explore what is mean to reflect on how you think about strategy.

The book is very Gladwellesque in the way Rumelt tells stories. Each chapter is full of personal anecdotes, stories from history and Rumelt does a lovely job of telling stories that include analogies which he links to important strategy concepts. For example he tells the story of meeting a friend in Baja California who was a combat helicopter pilot. In some musing over a beer Richard (I bet he is know to his friends as Dick) says it would be better to be in a helicopter than a plane if the engines died because the rotors would keep turning and act like a parachute. He friend chuckled and said "only if the right actions are done within a second of losing power and, most importantly, without thinking about it." Rumelt uses this analogy to discuss how companies have intuitive capabilities gained from experience which allows them to do things other companies just can't. One type of competitive advantage. GS/BS is full of these interesting analogies.

Just a note on book architecture. I love endnotes. I'm always following those suckers to find out the original references and other tidbits hidden behind those superscripted numbers. But here's the thing: if your end notes are arranged by chapter with a new set of endnote numbers then you need to have the chapter number/name on each page of your book otherwise I have to thumb back through the chapter to the chapter title page just to work out where the hell I am. This is not just a criticism of Rumelt's book, this is most business books out there. Publishers and book designers, please note. OK, rant over.

This book is a bloody ripper. It has a really practical feel without getting dot pointy. The stories carry the book and keep it interesting and because many of the stories are personal anecdotes you develop a deep admiration for Rumelt's character and experience. Well worth getting yourself a copy.

Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities
Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities
by Etienne Wenger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.46
55 used & new from $2.37

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a handful of practical community of practice books, September 13, 2009
I'm often the technology steward for communities of practice (CoP). I create the Ning spaces and configure `em, I setup the email lists, I work out whether we should have a wiki or a blog or a discussion forum or some other combination of communication technologies. As you can see I'm quite a geek: I really do love it.

And whenever I get stuck I'll contact my friends at CPSquare: Etienne, Nancy and John. And while I know they all have a deep understanding of CoPs I tend to ask Etienne the theory questions, Nancy the technology questions and John the group dynamics questions. Together they are a formidable team. Sadly I think their new book, Digital Habitats, will give them strong cause to suggest I should RTFM: Read The Flipping Manual.

Digital Habitats (DH) has a single goal: to help the reader understand the role of technology steward in cultivating a community of practice: what is it, why you would do it, are you are cut out for it, how to do it and where to find help. But it is not a shoppers guide nor a roadmap for technology selection.

There is a lovely photo of Etienne, Nancy and John in the preface and I feel that reading DH is like have a friendly conversation with them on a sunny balcony. They provide the context, a little theory, then lots of practical tips supported by real life stories to ground it and make it memorable.

For me there are three ideas in this book I have already put into practice with great effect.

Experience shows us that all know that communities of practice are different, and sometimes poles apart. DH introduces the idea of community orientations to help us understand where the emphasis might lie and therefore what technologies make most sense.

There are 9 orientations: meetings, open-ended conversations, projects, content, access to expertise, relationships, individual participation, community participation, serving a context. With my engineering communities, for example, I've asked the members where they see their current orientation and then ask them to identify where they would like to be. A community might start off very content focussed but realise that the real benefits will come from providing access to expertise. By understanding this orientation gap the technology steward can start introducing tools to facilitate the future orientation needs.

The second idea I find useful is how my friends (I was going to say `the authors' but it didn't feel right) describe the range of activities a community might be engaged in. The axis range from informal to formal and learning from to learning with. This diagram helps me ensure I'm thinking about the full range of possibilities when helping communities members design their CoP.

DH envisages three types of readers: deep divers, attentive practitioners and just do it-ers. The just do it-ers are directed to chapter 10 which contains an action notebook. It is a series of checklists to help you think about the role of the technology steward. What I love about chapter 10 is that I can jump in and start learning about the role by doing things and then come back to the descriptions contained in the rest of the book when it is more meaningful for me. DH makes the job of finding the relevant descriptions in the other chapters easy through a multitude of cross-links from chapter 10 to the relevant book section.

There are very few practical community of practice books available (I can think of 3 others) and Etienne has already had a hand in writing one of them. So Digital Habitats is a valuable addition to this exclusive club. It's highly readable and practical and will definitely help make a difference to the quality of your technology support for your community of practice.

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