Review: Barry Schwartz – Why We Work (S)

Why We Work
Barry Schwartz

“An eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace. Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz proves that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent… How did we get to this tangled place? How do we change the way we work? With great insight and wisdom, Schwartz shows us how to take our first steps toward understanding, and empowering us all to find great work.”

This was the book I was trying to get, when I ended up getting The Paradox of Choice as this one wasn’t there. I put this one on reserve and hence read it next. Unfortunately, it’s still not that great. It was better than The Paradox of Choice, but not great. It’s also a lot smaller then The Paradox of Choice which is good as at least it got to the point a lot quicker. But it still didn’t have much in it or much of a point.

The sub-stories in each chapter are ok, but basically only relate back to the point of “people don’t work just for money”. This is ok, but really I was expecting more interesting stories but instead these were just flat. I was also expecting additional ideas, solutions and actionable items that can be taken away from the book, to provide a meaningful workplace. But it seemed to just rant about “people don’t work just for money” for the whole book.

The action items were only very briefly touched on in the last chapter which is only 5 pages and is basically a conclusion. Thus it’s only a 2-3 stars from me.

Review: David J. Schwartz – The Magic of Thinking Big (S)

The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz

“The Magic of Thinking Big gives you useful methods, not empty promises. Dr. Schwartz presents a carefully designed program for getting the most out of your job, your marriage and family life, and your community. He proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction, but you do need to learn and understand the habit of thinking and behaving in ways that will get you there.”

Despite being first published in 1959, it’s not bad! Most of the book’s ideas are still relevant today. Obviously with older books such as this, you can tell that is is older from the style of writing and examples being used. However the principles and overall message is still the same. I think it would have been really good for it’s time. It has aged a little but not as much as you would think.

I read this book on and off and took quite a while to read it. I felt like you needed to be in the mood for it. Most of the “magic secrets of success” are things such as believing you can succeed, setting yourself up, managing your environment etc. For me tp enjoy and take it in, I needed to take breaks in between these chapters and not read a lot of it at once.

The author’s writing style was good and draws on his personal experience for short stories and examples. For a self help book which I don’t normally like, it is pretty good. I would recommend it for anyone who likes self help books, or needs to think more positive or stop procrastinating. I wouldn’t read it again; overall it was average. 3 stars from me.

Review: David Vise – The Google Story (S)

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Time
David A Vise

The Google Story is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable organizations of our time. Every day over sixty-four million people use Google in more than one hundred languages, running billions of searches for information on everything and anything. Through the creative use of cutting-edge technology and a series of groundbreaking business ideas, Google’s thirty-five year old founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have in ten years taken Google from being just another internet start-up to a company with a market value of over US$80 billion. Based on scrupulous research and extraordinary access to the inner workings of Google, this book takes you inside the creation and growth of a company that has become so familiar its name is used as a verb around the world.”

2 stars? I mean, I finished it, so it’s more than 1 star right? But really I skimmed for the last while, so it  should be 1 star. I honestly don’t think it had anything good in it. I was expecting some insights, including ups and downs of the journey along the way. Yes it was a journey I guess, but it was written by someone else and it had no insights at all. It was like the author had found a bunch of people that knew The Google Guys and interviewed them, and then mashed it together. He didn’t have any knowledge or access to Google Inc….

Even more terribly, because they were all raging fans of The Google Guys already, they gushed over them or ideas. There were no “hard” moments in the journey of the business or even anyone that disliked The Google Guys. There is always controversy and hard decisions to be made, but none of these were mentioned at all. It was very one sided towards the things that were being done well.

Even the good parts of business that the author advised The Google Guys were doing right, were glossed over and had no depth or insight. It was just like “now they made $x profit or share price” with no detail of how that happened. It also went into the origins or backstory a lot more than needed. We seemed to spend a lot of the book there, languishing in the past of a business that is actually relatively futuristic.

The back of the book clearly tells us that the book was not created, authorised or endorsed by Google, Inc – and you can see why. I only picked it up thinking that everyone should know a little about Google and some stories to tell, but after I finished I don’t think I have any, and as a book it didn’t do it for me. I have had more insights into Google from other books who have done short 1 chapter or so case studies on Google, such as Simplify, then this whole book just on Google was. I really didn’t get anything out of it at all and I do NOT recommend it to anyone.

Review: Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (S)

Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey

“One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of presidents and CEOs, educators and parents—in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations across the world. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Stephen Covey’s cherished classic commemorates his timeless wisdom, and encourages us to live a life of great and enduring purpose.”

This book was pretty much as I expected. It’s thick, large, and long, which is good for stopping and starting and sinking into. I liked some parts of it, I think more of the good parts were at the start than the end – this is different from most of the business books I read.

Overall it was fairly good. The downside was its length because you never know when a good bit might come up. So you could be reading a patch of average or just felt like this part could be edited out and condensed and then suddenly be hit with something insightful. A lot of the book at the start dragged out, including the Introduction before even getting to habit one.

The 7 Habits are as follows:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

The 7 habits aren’t particularly new or anything different. But the author does have some different perspectives, points and tips under each one. I found some of these hidden gems and stories under each. But overall the habits are nothing new.

I would recommend it for anyone who is in sales or a leadership role. However the principles could be applied to anyone’s personal life who wants to foster continual learning. I wouldn’t re-read it again but it was good. 4 stars.

Review: Emma Isaacs – The New Hustle (S)

The New Hustle
Don’t work harder, just work better
Emma Isaacs

“What if we’ve been served a big, fat lie about what it takes to be successful at work? Pro-hustlers will tell you living in a work-more, sleep-less world is how we get ahead. But on the back of the pandemic, entrepreneur and Business Chicks founder Emma Isaacs believes the hustle is now dead. Moreover, traditional ways of working – long commutes, unproductive meetings and outdated systems of bureaucracy – actually don’t work at all.”

I liked the ideas behind this book, but I don’t think I liked how it’s structured or how it’s written. I completely agree that a lot of people “hustle” and work for work’s sake when it really should be looking at your output and what’s working best for you. I also liked that it’s new and relevant to life in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things I didn’t like about it: ‘the stories’ or examples were very short and not in any detail. It seemed to gloss over and be wishy washy and fluffy. Out of the stories that were there, most of them were about the author and not in a vulnerable way but in a way that’s talking herself up and comes across as bragging. What a reader really wants are stories where the author has made mistakes, or from a range of different businesses as examples.

A lot of the ‘rules’ seemed obvious and common sense to me, eg “learn how to say no”, “stand for something”, “stop making excuses”. It’s like the author is trying to empower and motivate you but with no facts and just in a cheerleading way. It also felt like the author was all for girl power, women rights etc, one of the ‘rules’ being “normalise pregnancy” and mentioned throughout. Although I don’t disagree with the principles here, I just don’t feel the need to mention it. I personally haven’t seen this issue in the workplace and never even thought of it as an issue.

Overall you can stop and start it as it doesn’t have much continuity throughout. It’s also a nice easy light read. In saying that though, I don’t think you’ll get much out of it. I’m not exactly sure who its target audience is. Perhaps women who work and have a ‘busy’ (full) life and need to take a step back, or women who need to feel a little more motivated for changes. I recommend Permission to Screw Up instead of this book. 2.5-3 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 31 August 2021 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Richard Koch & Greg Lockwood- Simplify (S)

Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed
Richard Koch & Greg Lockwood

“Are you ready to become the next market leader? Investor and successful entrepreneur Richard Koch and venture capitalist Greg Lockwood have spent years researching what makes successful companies—such as IKEA, Apple, Uber, and Airbnb—achieve game-changing who status. The answer is simple: They Simplify. Take Your Business from Startup to Game Changer. Start simplifying today.”

This book talks you through two different ways of simplifying your business in terms of your businesses market share and target customers. The two ways are either price or proposition simplifying. I liked the authors’ methods and reasoning, as well as how they explained the two simplifying techniques. They gave in depth examples of 12 businesses which they continued to refer to throughout the book. At some points I wanted to hear an example of another business not the same 12, but at other times it was good to have consistency.

It was great to read an in-depth case study about each business. I always enjoy those parts of the real examples (although I also like allegories – eg. Death by Meeting). However the final chapters in this book seemed quite repetitive. The position that was largely presented was that the authors preferred price simplifying even though their examples were balanced of 6 businesses of each type. Perhaps I just wanted to hear more about the proposition simplifying. Also a lot of the examples or even explanations were on products, where I would have liked to have more service businesses. That being said, a lot of business books are geared more to products in general, so perhaps I set my expectations too high.

I recommend it for anyone in business. At any stage in business you should know what market you are focusing on – this will give you a pertinent reminder to keep it simple. I don’t feel any need to read it again, partly because the authors covered everything well. So 4 out of 5 stars for me.

Review: Daniel Coyle – The Culture Code (S)

The Culture Code
The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
Daniel Coyle

“Where does great culture come from? How do you build and sustain it in your group, or strengthen a culture that needs fixing? … Culture is not something you are–it’s something you do. The Culture Code puts the power in your hands. No matter the size of your group or your goal, this book can teach you the principles of cultural chemistry that transform individuals into teams that can accomplish amazing things together.

This book is jam packed with stories from a variety of different businesses and groups. They all work differently yet overall are sharing the same underlying messages. The stories left me giggling at times or wondering more, and were very interesting.

Most of what I learnt from this book wasn’t anything new. But the examples, stories and how it’s told was amazing. The overall messages will be remembered as they are linked through the stories. Each of the 3 main chapter/authors points has a section of “ideas for action” as takeaways for you to apply the knowledge you’ve just learnt. It gives you actionable questions and ways to apply it. Unfortunately, as do a lot of similar books, the actionable items are more so in person and can’t be used in a virtual or work from home environment.

It was still good regardless and basically just for the interesting stories I loved it. [Rose’s note: I can definitely attest to the fact this this was a great book – Suzi giggled her way through the book, and stopped reading multiple times in order to make the reading experience last longer.] 4 stars.

Review: Jan Cavelle – Scale for Success (S)

Scale for Success: Expert Insights into Growing Your Business
Jan Cavelle

“All it takes to start a business is a great idea and initial funding. But when it comes to growing and scaling a business – turning it into an enduring success – it becomes much more difficult to manage and sustain the various elements that are involved. You need to set out a clear plan, sustain funding, optimise marketing opportunities and develop an effective team. There are many opportunities to fail but, with Scale for Success, readers will gain valuable insights and practical advice from a global array of entrepreneurs and business leaders who have paved the way to their own versions of commercial success.”

This is a review by Suzanne, who specialises in reading and reviewing business books. I can tell you that she really enjoyed this book! She was either reading it because it was so good, or trying not to read it because she didn’t want it to end!

This book is a lot of short stories and lessons from entrepreneurs and CEOs sharing their experiences with scaling a business. I really enjoyed it! The book follows in a logical order with different sections on different topics. Each chapter has one or two stories from different entrepreneurs regarding that topic and providing advice. I love hearing the engaging stories from different business experts. The book still flows well overall as it’s all written from the same author, and not a collaboration of authors.

There are key take away tips, inspiration and advice from each entrepreneur. There is also their own personal definition of success which I found interesting. In similar style books with lots of stories there is normally some I’m uninterested in. However with this book, I loved all the stories and struggled to put the book down.

This book is aimed for businesses that have already started, mainly those that are larger and looking at growing further. It includes raising venture capital and other funding but isn’t only on these points. I think it was great to see not just scaling up, but how to exit and move on from a business as well. There are not many business books discussing how to exit. I don’t think I learnt any particular pieces of advice to implement right now, but it was a great enjoyable read and I do recommend it, even if you are not scaling up.

Bloomsbury | 2nd July 2021 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Patrick Lencioni – The Ideal Team Player (S)

The Ideal Team Player
How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues
Patrick Lencioni

“Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.”

My beloved author strikes again! Although it sounds similar to Lencioni’s other novel, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, the two books are substantially different. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team talks about the qualities needed for a team to work together. It focuses on how to lift other team members productivity by how to interact as a team.

In contrast, The Ideal Team Player discusses how to improve team work by focusing on the individual person. This is includes hiring team members with these 3 virtues. How to look out for the virtues within a person. And how to support your current team members to improve these virtues if it’s not their strong suit.

Like Lencioni’s other novels, this one also has the fable as the main part, followed by a recap of the theory learnt. The fable gives you examples of people falling into specific categories which you can use to match against your current team members. The theory section then also gives you more self assessment tools as well.

Overall it is a great read with lot of value. I would recommend it to anyone who is hiring team members, even if it’s just your first. 5 stars, I would read again.

Review: Patrick Lencioni – The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (S)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni

“Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.”

I love this author to start with and couldn’t wait to read it! It lived up to expectations and was a great read. It’s a similar style to the author’s other novels. That is to say, most of the book is a fable and then it had the theory at the end. The fable makes it relatable to the reader. As the reader you can picture the characters in the fable and have likely been in the same situations as them. You get caught up and invested in the characters, also wanting them to succeed.

The fable is structured in a way of very short little chapters. This is great if you need to put it down and you can still remember where you are up to (I did not want to put it down though).

I love that the author didn’t try and put too many theories into the book. As per the title there are only 5 dysfunctions of a team. Really that’s all you need to discuss so it isn’t over complicated, and it is possible to fully explore each. In the theory section at the end, the author gives practical examples of how to test of each of the dysfunctions. This includes examples of a good or bad team and a team questionnaire so you have something to take away and are able to evaluate your own team.

Overall, I would read it again. I recommend this book for anyone that is in a team. The book goes through it with the executive team of a large organisation, however is can be applied to a small business team of 5 or so as well.