Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies

Brought to you by LinkedIn and PayPal co-founder Reid Hoffman with co-author and instructor Chris Yen, Blitzscaling is a lesson in strategy, tactics, and history of what the authors describe as “blitzscaling”. Blitzscaling is not just “scaling” it is such rapid scaling of a business or endeavor that much risk is taken, many lessons are learned in the process, and that not all market situations are suitable or call for blitzscaling. Learning from recent startup unicorns like AirBnb, Alibaba, Uber, Twitter, Facebook, and others, the authors capture what it takes to blitzscale but also what are the key conditions under which a blitzscaling strategy will be key to quickly dominating a market. I recommend this book for startups, entrepreneurs, but also Industrial Engineers looking for a somewhat technical but more strategic and broad picture of the contrasts between rapid scaling and the pursuits of repeatable, stable processes. I’ve enjoyed the book thoroughly!

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)–Sixth Edition

This book is a great reference and overview of the nuts and bolts of general project management. It’s content structure is pretty dry and repetitive as it’s focus is on a systematic structure of PM, PM organizations, Processes, and tools. This book will not provide detailed templates (references abound though) as well as provides cursory overviews of key areas like scheduling modeling, Risk Management, and other areas that could use less DESCRIPTIVE content and more PRESCRIPTIVE content. I bought the Kindle Version with the accompanying Agile Practice Guide (same price on Amazon, WAY better deal than PMBOK alone), which both avoid the bad reviews about the paper version and its legibility and poor paper materials. I’d definitely recommend this as a clear reference for Industrial Engineers, Project Managers, and Continuous Improvement professionals but I’d seek elsewhere for details and templates if thats what you’re looking for.

Beyond Heroes: A Lean Management System for Healthcare

Told from the perspective of President of Thedacare, Kim Barnas, this book covers the history and tactics of the Thedacare Lean Health Systems Transformation during the early 2000’s. Now considered lore on second only to Toyota’s own cultural transformation as it developed and improved the Toyota Production System, this journey for Thedacare is a great introduction to lean basics, cultural transformation, and some simple tactical tools that are lynchpins in a culture change to a people (patient/customer/provider) centric healthcare model in which problem solving is the centerpiece of the business and continuous improvement mindsets and results are pervasive across the organization (horizontally and vertically). Having come from aerospace and manufacturing, I found this easy read a refreshing reminder of lean tactics and principles but also a very useful exploration of continuous improvement, culture transformation, and lean in a VERY different industrial sector. I recommend this book for any healthcare professional but also for anyone in continuous improvement, no matter the industry.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!

This book is a classic of marketing and is recommend often among entrepreneurs and successful CEO’s alike. This book is compact and easily distilled to your particular situation. I found it VERY helpful to understand marketing in general but also as a lesson in organizational change as well. While it might not seem useful internally to an organization, this book is fundamentally about individual and group psychology, choice theory, influence, and customer satisfaction. When viewed from those angles these 22 Laws become VERY useful to a much broader audience. I recommend this book for leaders and managers, marketers, industry and market analysts, entrepreneurs, and startups.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Author Sebastian Junger (of A Perfect Storm) lays out his personal experiences with PTSD and his efforts to overcome it but while in so doing learning a great deal about war, psychology, belonging to a group and society, and political viewpoints in our country. This book was an eye opening example of the usefulness of evolutionary psychology, transitions theory, and applied journalism to a VERY important challenge our country faces with 2 lengthy and on-going wars and many of our war fighters returning home with inadequate supports and systems to get them transitioned back into society in a healthy way. This book was informative for me and some of my own personal experiences and I have shared it as a resource for fire fighters, police officers, as well as leaders in organizations seeking to understand how individuals operate and don’t operate in a larger organization, especially during and after largescale disruptions and adversity like wars and natural disasters. I recommend this book for leaders and managers, change agents, and people interested in evolutionary psychology and how to cultivate and maintain a strong, tightly knit group or organization for an improved sense of belonging.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Steven Pinker is one of the greatest philosophical thinkers of our time. He’s written extensively in the field of ethics, environment ethics, and animal rights. This book was started before the presidential election of 2016 but accelerated to address the fomenting and destabilizing effects of nationalism, identity politics, and anti-science and anti-reason currents popping up in the US and abroad. Pinker explores an extensive lists of macro measures of “quality and quantity” of life since the Enlightenment with his central thesis being that humanity has made considerable progress across almost all measure DESPITE the “sense” that we aren’t and that we’re perpetually headed for decline. He explores these facts with extensive empirical evidence and also describe the varying hypotheses (not all his own) as to why we “feel” the sense of dread and decline. He speaks to political rhetoric coupled with increasingly massive volumes of sensationalist and offense seeking media, mixed in with our natural cognitive biases like negativity biases (many brought about as useful evolutionary adaptions but which have been coopted in our modern age through marketing and political messaging). I did a podcast with graduate student Dustyn Addington and co-host Whitney Johnson (find the podcast here) on the subject which is pretty entertaining. I recommend the book for anyone interested in history and the philosophy of science, as well as those interested in long range planning, macro economics and economic development, empirical evidence based analyses at a micro and macro level, and philosophy of history as well. This book I believe is a helpful North Start when you’re feeling adrift or overly negative/cynical/frustrated with where you “feel” things are headed. This book will lay out the empirical evidence that supports that while short term events and narratives may sway you emotions, reason will prevail with supported empirical evidence.

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor

This book is a lengthy, deep, and rich in detail. It spans 5000 years of history on this continent and explores the true breadth and interrelationships of the varied regions of Africa. I found it quite eye opening to get a deep sense of the wealth, diversity, challenges, peoples, currents of history, oppression, and growth in this ancient place. I read this in preparation for my trip to Malawi to do business training and development and found it quite helpful to understand the history at a regional as well as cultural level. This continent and it’s peoples have so much opportunity to collectively grow out of its very low level of economic development but I believe for others to help (non-African’s) they much first have a deep understanding of the varied and sordid history of the continent as an essential first step in approaching helping others there. Without the sense of history and context people will be lost in all the currents of influence and historical precedent that are still apparent there. I recommend this book to anyone interested in African history but also colonialism and the globalisation of the world during the 1600-1900’s periods in particular.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Many of us learn ABOUT Nelson Mandela and he and his compatriots efforts to overcoming apartheid in South Africa but reading this autobiography brought a depth of clarity and understanding to me that I didn’t expect. Given these are his words, most of which were written secretly during this prison years, it speaks volumes to his leadership style, his priorities, his sense of purpose, and his visionary view of the future of he and his countrymen (including whites and other ethnicities). I read this book as a historical view for Southern Africa in preparation for my trip to Malawi to do business training and development. I figured it would provide me a general region wide view of the past 50 years from his eyes and timeline of events. It did help bring a lot of context for me but was also a lesson in overcoming adversity, extreme perseverance, collaboration among friends as well as adversaries, and personal discipline through many trials and challenge. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to expand on their first person accounts of leadership and change management, as well as those seeking to add to their understanding of African and world history.

At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity

This book is considered the go to reference for Stuart Kauffmans exploration of complexity and systems theory as it applies to the origins of life and evolutionary development. He lays the foundation of a future of cross disciplinary exploration of network science and complexity theory to understand, analysis, design, and develop the myriad of complex systems we humans take part in. It’s a dense read, I’ll admit, with mathematics and diagrams to back up the framework he is putting together. I read this as a part of deeper research into complexity science and network theory and I’ve found it a valuable exploration and reference guide for applying the science to complex problems in aerospace and in my thinking about other challenges facing other industries. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the science of complexity but also evolutionary development and design principles and for engineers looking to broaden their understanding if this unfolding field.

Shantaram: A Novel

Shantram is an amazing book, vivid in its descriptions and captivating in its characters and their numerous adventures. Told from the perspective of Lin, a convict who escaped from an Australian prison, it chronicles his trials, adventures, and misadventures in the 80’s in what was then called Bombay, India, as well as several other locations. I listened to the Audible book, twice now, which is quite well produced. The narrator is obviously a voice actor with a diverse set of character voices and accents in his toolbox. This book is considered a top book for world travelers and vagabonders and for good reason. It explores many difficult subjects including extreme poverty, famine, drug use, organized crime, murder, but also many others including love, friendship, mentorship, philosophy, nationalism, and more. I recommend this book widely as a great novel and a serious page turner.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

This is the book that I say to myself “I SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN THAT!!!”. McKeown does a great job in distilling timeless principles like Pareto’s 80/20 Rule as well as newer fundamentals like Theory of Constraints, into a digestible and practicable set of principles that anyone can use in their daily and work life. This book has been out for a while and I continue to see it and the author referenced alongside other books like Checklist Manifesto, 4 Hour Work Week, and other easy reads for entrepreneurs and productivity focused people. I recommend this book for any professional seeking a set of principles by which to focus their work and lives on what’s truly essential (vs. focusing on efficiency - doing the wrong thing super well is a waste!).

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, 10th-Anniversary Edition

Small Giants is a great expose on a variety of companies, spanning several industries that represent a larger set of companies out there that, if they so desired, could grow quite large and focus on profitability as a big driver of that growth. However, these companies choose to stay “small” by many standards, focusing on excellence, customer experience, and employee satisfaction as key elements of their business models. I found it inspiring and a great contrast to much of the literature in the business world today about either startups that scaled up to multi-billion dollar companies or those companies that have survived for decades. This book is choc full of interviews, examinations, and explanations of the principles and practices at the heart of these organizations. Any entrepreneur, leader, manager, or employee seeking to expand their view of alternative organizations to work for would benefit from reading this book.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Peter Thiel is more famously known for his part as a founder at PayPal as well as his work as a Venture Capitalist at Thiel Capital but this book is a great resource and insight into his thinking not only about business but history, political science, and his thoughts on the trajectory of history. This book is a collection lectures he gave at Standford on Startups, compiled by a student of his and then collaboratively edited into the final book. This book is probably in many of the Top 10 books for startups and entrepreneurs out there and for good reason. It’s choc full of macro, strategic thinking models as well as integration of fundamental aspects of nature like Power Laws and Network theory. Additionally, he brings into play societal level patterns and paradigms to help the reader understand what true change and earth shattering products, services, and business models really are. He has a straight forward style backed up with a thorough understanding of business, systems theory, economics, political science, and much more. I recommend this book for startups, entrepreneurs, innovators, strategists and more.

Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto is fast becoming a classic and for good reason. He lays out his own journey to using checklists in the medical world to save lives and prevent errors. This book has been used widely since it’s publication and for one, in Boeing for developing training and flight manuals for pilots. I see it as the very foundation of Standard Work and design, implementing, and improving checklists in a variety of processes, not just critical to safety ones, can make or break a process and an organization. I recommend this book for all leaders, managers, continuous improvement professionals, entrepreneurs, and especially for people in the healthcare professions as one of the simplest intro’s to Lean and standard work without being overtly about those subjects.

Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

Crossing the Chasm is a fundamental business and technology classic. Timeless in its analysis and understanding of human and societal change and adoption, this book will layout out the core elements of product marketing but also change management in general. This book has proven and well researched strategies to create massive adoption curves for new products, services, and organizational change. I recommend this book for technologists, product developers, marketers, and change agents.

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life

This is one of Tim Ferriss’s classic “4-Hour” series. On it’s surface (cover) it appears its a book all about how to get to be a pretty dang good chef and a wicked short amount of time. From his own words, the “chef” part is merely the lens through which Tim is describing, distilling, and disseminating rapid learning techniques and tools. This book is long but choc full of simple tools, tactics, and strategies to learn a new subject with speed, depth, and a significant level of understanding. I recommend this book to anyone interested in continuous learning but who also has a desire to do so productively and with just the right amount of depth to be effective.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the number of options and choices you have for one single decision? What about a seemingly endless stream of choices and options? What about always feeling regret and anxiety after finally making a choice and taking action? In Paradox of Choice author Barry Schwartz explores the psychology of choice from an economic, professional, and personal perspective. Backed up by research, this book uses a model of “types of choice makers” - Satisficers and Optimizers, each having it’s positive attributes but also, when in the extreme, can result in significant psychological impairments. I’ve experienced plenty of the symptoms this book describes but I’ve also seen it play out as I raise my children. They’re overwhelmed by choice ALL THE TIME that we as parents and society impose upon them. This book was an eye opener from a personal level but also as a professional in continuous improvement, management, and engineering. Being deliberate and well thought out when presenting alternatives and choices for decision makers will much more beneficial for everyone in the long run if they are trimmed down, paced, and crafted in appropriate ways. This book will help you identify your own choice making attributes, those in others, as well as how to step back from feeling overwhelmed or overwhelming others with choice. I recommend this book extensively to parents, managers, marketers, consultants, engineers, and UW Philosophy Department professors and graduate students.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman lays out a significant body of research, application, and experimentation concerning cognitive biases, neurology, and evolutionary psychology. While the book is lengthy and can be dry at times, it is organized around specific biases, how they were identified, what the latest research suggests, and how one can work to overcome there ill effects in work and life. I love the “System 1” and “System 2” model, while he openly states is VERY imperfect, it does help the reader to differentiate the conscious, aware, slow and “thinking” brain from the unconscious, fast, and unaware parts of our brains. This book and associated research is cited extensively in many other books I’ve read across marketing, psychology, business, management, network theory, innovation, and much more. This is a centerpiece of cognitive theory and principles and I recommend this book widely to friends and colleagues.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Dr. Cialdini does a great job in describing the fundamental components of our psychology and neurology that result in characteristics that influence how we’re persuaded to take action and change our behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. His 6 Principles of Persuasion are: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, and Consensus. In each chapter on these principles, he relates research, real world examples, and his own personal experiences with being knowingly and unknowingly persuaded by these or a mixture of these tactics. I found this book VERY helpful in understanding my own psychology and susceptibility to persuasion but also what I can do to divert or at least be much more aware of when these principles are being used directly or through advertising on me. These are just fundamental human characteristics and not “bad” in and of themselves, it’s on bad when unethical or devious intents and outcomes are sought. I recommend this book for all leaders, managements, change agents, continuous improvement professionals and for those interested in psychology, cognitive biases, and marketing.

Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance

Competitive Advantage is another classic from the great Michael Porter. This book is more internal and organizational focused than Competitive Strategy and provides the reader a rigorous and well thought out method for understanding the core of your advantage as an organization. He gets down to the simple truths of competitive advantage in this work. In the age of endless business school, executive, and consulting jargon on whatever dressed up version of technology, methods or tools are claimed to be competitive advantage, Porter will dispel all the myths for you and provide you a clear and cogent understand of the structure of your organization and how it delivers value in a sustainable and effective way. I recommend this book for leaders, strategy analysts, organizational effectiveness consultants, and also continuous improvement professionals. It is actually a great accompaniment to the “Value Stream Mapping” approach that will expand on that method and tool set to an organization wide and financial model point of view.