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Books for Hooks

“Days are long but years pass by!”

I love this saying because I experience it regularly, at work, at home, and now with this blog. 2 years have already passed since I launched the Digital Consumer blog and I am very proud to have released more than 20 blogs on various number of topics, all hopefully you enjoyed and has enriched your digital knowledge and life.

For this blog, I thought to share with you a list of books that helped me along the way in my personal and professional life, and of course had a good input to the topics shared in my blogs.

I wasn’t a big reader growing up. However, with time of ease of accessibility of various genre's of books and in this digital world, I became a big consumer of books in general and audio books in particular. Yes, I originally wasn’t a fan of that form of consuming, but now audio books became the best digital source for consuming books. If you are like me, spend most of your time on the move, either in car, on a bus, or on plane. Or even all in one day, audio books are excellent as it can keep you going and keep your hands and eyes free to concentrated on the way.

It was a difficult task to choose what to share, however, I have classified the selection of books based on the 4 key characteristic areas of Digital Quotient (DQ) as mentioned in my previous blog 4 Characteristics for Talent in the Digital World”. I hope by combining the knowledge from these books and your experiences, you can enhance your Digital Quotiant and become a better digital consumer.

The selection of books are the top 3 books in every area that I felt are worth sharing as they were engaging, fun to read and the writers were able to communicate complex ideas in a simple manner. I will provide you my key takeaway for each book, my personal favorite practical idea from that book and if you are very busy and only want to read one of the books in that area, I will recommend you my favourite :)

1- Design Mindset:

I hope the following 3 books help in challenging and enhancing your mindset around creativity, design and experience.

Ed Catmull is one of the co-founders of Pixar animation, who worked closely with Steve Jobs and was key behind the success of all the creative ideas coming from Pixar. His book, Creativity inc, is full of engaging stories about movies you know, and also very concrete and practical ideas they used in Pixar to enhance creativity and openness in the culture of the company. Ed shares his ideas and focuses on the importance of candour between everyone in an organisation to help in creativity and collaboration.

Key Takeway from the book:

To reach creative culture & design mindset, you should put emphasis on the goal, progress and enablement of your employees. Processes, procedures and organisational setups should be light, flexible, and evolve quickly and they should be purely in place to enhance collaboration, communication & candour between employees rather than put in place to control quality or to avoid people to screw up or fail.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Create a “Brain Trust”: Regular meeting of key people across multiple departments that are chosen not because of their hierarchy but because of their design mindset, and can discuss and provide feedback on key projects/outputs/deliverables. A key component is that the feedback is not obligated to be acted on by the owner but everyone trusts that the feedback is in the service of a common goal of the company.

This book is quite entertaining with examples of creative thinkers across the world, from known ones to ones that are surprisingly humble but extremely creative. It is also very intertwined so you can jump between chapters seamlessly.

Rod shares creative thinking techniques and methods used by people to help everyone. I like that at end of every chapter, Rod gives you the option to jump to a chapter that interests you based on the examples used in that chapter or continue further.

Key Takeaway from the book:

Creativity & design mindset is definitely not an inheritant talent but can be acquired and consistently developed and enriched. It is the challenges and barriers that we put to ourselves in a given situation that stops our creativity rather than the situation itself.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

There is 1 idea that I really liked and use consistently: Pick a fight with yourself: put a concrete time aside to simply try to act as your “worst Enemy” and challenge an idea or suggestion you have. Don’t do it all the time as then it is a downward spiral, but set a side 10-15 min and play that role. It is enriching as you identify the key “push backs” you might encounter and how to respond to them!

This book is a type of course around creativity however Gerard is very engaging and passionate about the topic so made it quite interesting and engaging. Each lecture covers an area of creativity process with plenty of research and real life successful and unsuccessful examples. I love how Gerard has concrete and simple ideas for every creative process stage.

Key Takeaway from the book:

For design mindset and creativity to flourish, you need the individuals and the environment (physical & psychological) to work together, intensively and iteratively to reach the creative outcome that is not “once” but iterative and successful.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Forced Relationships tool. The FR tool is a very simple but powerful way in getting creative ideas and recharging the thinking to a challenge you are facing. By using an object that is not related to your challenge and ask yourself: What ideas do I get for my challenge by looking at this object? The idea from this tool is to force you, by using an object that has nothing to do with the challenge at hand, new associations and getting very novel ideas that you or others in the group never thought of.

So, if you have time for only one book, I recommend Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull, simply because of its stories, and how they relate quite closely and interestingly with movies you might have watched and adored.

2- Statistical Analysis & Data Mining:

I know data and statistics could be dry subjects, but I hope the following 3 books, which are not directly about statistics or data mining, excite you about data, insights and futurism as the writers outstandingly use data and statistical analysis to arrive to their conclusions.

OkCupid website co-founder Christian Rudder uses the wealth of data in OkCupid and other social networks like Facebook and twitter to engage with the reader through intriguing data and charts shares analysis of human behaviour and what social networks know about us. As love and attraction is a fascinating and always fun topic to read about (for me at least), combining data mining and analysis with that topic makes this book an excellent read for dataholics.

Key takeaway from the book:

In this digital age, data availability is not the challenge but the ability to combine data from various sources, especially sources of data that are not "clear", and link and translate that linkage and data into an understandable format to allow you, your company and the consumer to understand and drive actions from.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Avoid the deat by 1000 meh's: Christian's data showing imperfections or plarising qualities bring more attention (i.e. being different is better than being plain), utilize this in your brand, business or activity to catch attention by creating the polarizing impact rather than trying to please the masses.

The Capital is a very big (816 pages) but an amazingly data driven book full of interesting analysis on the historical and future changes in the concentration of income, wealth and inequality. Thomas find's that the biggest risk in the future will be the inequality of capital and wealth. Supported by decades of research and data, and very nicely visualized and explained, Thomas supports his theory and provides a proposal in how to deal with the inequality problem. If you love data, want to learn about wealth, finance and their history, this is a must read book.

Key Takeaway from the book:

From the book topic perspective, Thomas presents that if the return on capital, for long periods of history, tends to be greater than national output or growth and, through inheritance, is bound to create tremendous inequality of wealth. Therefore, Thomas suggests a progressive annual tax on capital, rather than income. He argues that this kind of tax will avoid the downward spiral of inequality while preserving competition and incentives for new wealth. From a data perspective, looking at data from the past across multiple horizons and views provide an enormous advantage in understanding the dry topic of economics, wealth and capital.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

If you have a dry topic similar to Thomas Piketty's wealth or inequality, data visualisation is a very effective communication medium to mass audience. In addition, if you have alot of graphs in your proposal or presentation, try to keep a consistent set of axis, data visualized to ensure your audience can follow the story based on the consistent visual representation. If you change it alot, you will lose your audience along the way. Finally, use local historic available data to initiate your proposal/theory but then apply it and supplement it to wider net of similar types of data. This allows you to not only see if your theory and data analysis was correct but also identifies where you might have gaps that you need to fill by looking at the data either in a different view or different sources.

Whats interesting about this book is how a neuroscientist is using data to provide insights on the brain that analyses data. With information overload, we need out brain to also follow the trend and able to be better data readers and analysers. His examples are fun and covers normal challenges in our daily lives in business or at home and his research is well done and extensive

Key Takeaway from the book:

In the age of influx of information, our strength is to know which information is noise and which information is relevant. This can be done through training our brains to read quicker, organise data better and of course declutter our days, thoughts and decisions.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Remove the "I've got mail" notification on your desktop, phone or tablet. As Daniel puts it, every pop up is like the "squirrel" shows up which distracts you on focus time that makes you productive. I tried this and it is very effective. As Daniel says, book just 3 times of the day (e.g. 8am, 1pm, 4pm) to proactively check and answer emails.

So, if you have time for only one book, I recommend Dataclysm by Christian Rudder, purely for the fun and reality he shows about humans and their emotions.

3- Critical Thinking & cognitive flexibility:

Critical thinking & cognitive flexibility can be summarized as the capability to understand change, embrace continuous change and of course trigger change by having novel, adaptive and critical thinking around status-quo. The books I chose are the ones that triggered in my mind a novel way of looking at the digital and physical world with very interesting and practical ideas that I used continously and improve one.

If you want a quick and fun summary of the book, search for Daniel Pink on Youtube and he has a really nice animated video about the summary of his key takeaways he mentions in the book. Through out the book, Daniel provides excellent examples on how previous thoughts, mindset and approaches on what motivates people have changed now and the new rewards and drivers for that motivation fall under 3 key pillars: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.

Key Takeaway from the book:

With work moving from mechanical & repetitive labour to a more complex, constantly evolving and cognitive work, assuming basic financial needs are met, people are more motivated by internal factors rather than external factors which tend to be the environment that can provide the capability to reach mastery in someones work or personal hobby/activity, a sense of autonomy & self-direction on an individual, team level or even society level and of course driving towards defining & understanding the purpose of work & life.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Quote from Daniel H. Pink: "YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE FLAWLESS EACH DAY. INSTEAD, LOOK FOR SMALL MEASURES OF IMPROVEMENT.” And this is a quite powerful quote. You don't have to look to "perfection" every day but as long as you improve today on yesterday, then you will always move forward and succeed!

As per the title of the book, Richard & Cass expands on the concept of how a simple nudge is subtle enough but also powerful enough to encourage & make it easier for people to improve their decisions in their self-interest. With amble of examples, the authors nicely highlight the thought and emotional process humans follow for decisions and how humans can easily get confused and paralyzed to make a decision. They even compare the humans and their "mythical" counterparts "Econs" who can make perfectly rational decisions and how both would react in certain situations. They of course use that comparison to support their approach that people need some type of guidance to make right decisions and this is where the "nudge" comes from.

Key Takeaway from the book:

Nudge can apply to any area of professional and personal life, and should be used by enterprises, managers and public policy responsibles to ensure at least offer well thought guidance to employees, society members or family members to make their own better decision. Of course, the final decision should always be the individual rather than the state or employer.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

The most powerful nudge is the "default": To enhance the chance of engagement with a new concept, new tool, new approach, set the "default" option that you as an expert, manager or public policy responsible believe is the best option for the audience as in this way, if they don't act, they still do the right thing by sticking to the option that is recommended. Of course, they can always change or opt out.

Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the most successful hedgefunds in the world, has put together a set of rules for work & life based on his experience and approach to allow anyone to be successful, truthful and transparent. The book has around >200 principles with examples and anecdotes that are interesting and intruiging. Most important is that the principles in the book, as interesting and close to most peoples reality, are more about how you can also create your own principles for your life, your family and your organisation.

Key Takeaway from the book:

Understanding reality with all its problems is very important but more important is to identify the problems, embrace them and face and deal with them. This will allow you to embrace reality, deal with shortcomings or problems and create a huge competitive edge for yourself and your company. With every problem you solve, you should learn a new principle and its an iterative and never ending learning curve.

Best Practical Idea from the book:

Pain + Reflection = Progress! This means, whenever you do anything (irrespective of level of Pain you have experienced in that activity (No Pain to Huge Pain)) you should always reflect on the activity, be fully open and trusting on feedback and have thoughtful disagreements/discussions on such activity and of course take it forward! With that you will always improve in the future!

So, if you have time for only one book, I recommend Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass Sustein, because of their ample of examples and entertaining way of writing!

4- Digital Emotional & Cross Cultural Engagement:

Digital Emotions and engagement is a very difficult characteristic and requires high level of skills in engaging consistently across multiple physical as well as virtual mediums, channels and across global cultures. Therefore, the books I chose hopefully provide you interesting ideas to utilize for your personal and social/work teams/groups skill improvement.

Everyone I know loves TEDTalks, from the format, the delivery and of course the topics covered. In Talk like TED, Carmine shares his analysis of 500 of the best TED talks, interviewing speakers with millions of views and research around nueroscience and the human brain in a very engaging and fun way with concrete examples from different TEDTalks. He categorizes his findings into 9 common elements that will help enhance anyones pitch in relation to be more engaging, inspiring and memorable.

Key Takeaway from the book:

Creating the right engagement from your employees, audience or family members is not a talent or an art, but rather something that requires passion, authenticity and hardwork.

Best practical idea from the book:

Stick to an 18 minute pitch. Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across without losing the cognitive engagement of the receiver, irrespective who it is. I really stick to it either to position a proposal, initiate a breakout session or even to get my daughter to change a habit, as I also have experienced how quickly after 18 minutes I lose the interest, engagement and even the moment to get my message across.

Seth Godin is a marketing guru with more than 18 books. I ready few but Tribes stuck with me as Seth makes a very clear and simple message all through his collection of inspiring stories and anecdotes in how humans are wired to unite and live in Tribes and like to engage, emotionally and cognitively especially in the digital world. He uses his examples to show how we are already part of many tribes, like work tribe, family tribe, sports tribe and how in the new digital world we have social tribes such as facebook group tribes, newsletter tribes, TEDtalks tribes and others.

Key Takeaway from the book:

Humans are wired to live in tribes and there is two key points for a group to become a tribe and thats a shared interest and a way to communicate. Seth is great in showing that in the digital world, each of us can and should be a leader and can get a tribe together for the benefit of the many rather than the self.

Best practical idea from the book:

I love the 3 simple things Seth suggests to create a tribe: Have a narrative, that tells a story of the vision/future/purpose you’re trying to build, a way to connect you as a leader the tribe and the tribe members among each other, and something to do, an activity to participate in.

I have read few books on influecning but Robert Caldini has done a great work in his research and translating the topic of influencing into clear and simple principles (6) that can be applied by anyone. Robert uses excellent examples to prove each rule and takes you on a journey to understand how all these principles of persuasion.

Key Takeaway from the book:

The book introduces six key principles of persuasion: reciprocity (we repay what another person has provided us), consistency and commitment (based on choice, interpersonal pressures forces consistency and commitment), social proof (more the people does something, the more the behavior is correct), liking (through similarity, physical attractiveness, complements & cooperation, we like people), authority (we obey authorities almost blindly), and scarcity (The scarcity of an item makes it better, more appealing and harder to let go of).

Best Practical Idea from the book:

This is difficult as each principle has a practical idea that you can apply. However, if I want to choose one, is Reciprocity is a key principle that can work in whatever business or industry. Always try to give people something for free, such as your time, your expertise, a gift or even content they can enjoy. You will be astonished in how this helps in your engagement with them.

So, if you have time for only one book, I recommend Influence by Robert Cialdini, as its concrete, relatable and full of excellent real-life examples.

I hope the above gave you few ideas on your next books to read. And I am very keen to hear, from you, if you have any books you’d recommend to me and your fellow Digital Consumer!


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