Reading list

Some of my favourite writing.


What Leaders Really Do

“Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think. Leadership isn’t mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having “charisma” or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it.

Rather, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment.”

Understanding “New Power”

“Power clearly isn’t what it used to be. We see Goliaths being toppled by Davids all around us, from the networked drivers of Uber to the crowdfunded creatives of Kickstarter. But it’s difficult to understand what power actually is in this changed world, and how to gain more of it.”

Michael Porter: What Is Strategy?

“Michael Porter argues that operational effectiveness, although necessary to superior performance, is not sufficient, because its techniques are easy to imitate. In contrast, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match.”

Big Ball of Mud

“While much attention has been focused on high-level software architectural patterns, what is, in effect, the de-facto standard software architecture is seldom discussed. This paper examines this most frequently deployed of software architectures: the BIG BALL OF MUD.  …  explore the forces that encourage the emergence of a BIG BALL OF MUD, and the undeniable effectiveness of this approach to software architecture.”

The Cluetrain Manifesto

Inspirational and visionary. A view of the social impact of the internet from 1999, before social media was invented. For all it’s faults, which are mainly that it’s too optimistic, it’s still far ahead of how many people and businesses understand the internet today.

“Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.”

Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant

Rip Rowan: “The best article I’ve ever read about architecture and the management of IT.”

Derek Sivers’ review and summary of “The Personal MBA”, by Josh Kaufman

A summary of a book that is itself a summary of an MBA course. Dynamite.

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail

Change is hard.

“Businesses hoping to survive over the long term will have to remake themselves into better competitors at least once along the way. These efforts have gone under many banners: total quality management, reengineering, rightsizing, restructuring, cultural change, and turnarounds, to name a few. In almost every case, the goal has been to cope with a new, more challenging market by changing the way business is conducted. A few of these endeavors have been very successful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale.”

Technology and the Baroque Unconscious

What does technology want, and how will it get there?

“This idea of a baroque unconscious helps clarify things about the phenomenon of technological refinement that have been bothering me for a while. In particular, it helps distinguish among three kinds of refinement in technological artifacts: refinement that is useful to the user, refinement (often exploitative) that is useful to somebody besides the user, and refinement that benefits nobody at all.

It is this last characteristic that interests me. Refinement that benefits nobody — anything that attracts the adjective overwrought — is what I attribute to the workings of the baroque unconscious. And I write this fully aware of the irony that this kind of post, might be viewed as overwrought analysis by some.

Interestingly though, viewed from this perspective, the other two kinds of apparently intentional refinement can be seen as opportunistic exploitation. They arise through manipulation of those elements of the workings of the baroque unconscious that happen to be consciously recognized.”

Books (Amazon links)

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

“The first book to deal with the problems of communicating to a skeptical, media-blitzed public, Positioning describes a revolutionary approach to creating a “position” in a prospective customer’s mind-one that reflects a company’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors.”

Compare with Porter on strategy: “the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position”

Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

Excellent and comprehensive.

Amazon reviewer: “As an experienced Product Manager who has been working for major internationally recognised brands for many years it would be easy for me to assume that I knew it all. I would be wrong. Marty knows it all. In this book he has delivered a template on, as the title says, how to create products customers love. The book is a must have for anyone who is, wants to be, or has to work with a Product Manager. The writing is clear and the online support gives the reader the tools she needs to excel in the role. I have recommended this book to my peers, the people I manage and my boss and everyone has raved about it.”

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

UX 101. Short, insightful and to the point.

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads

How to create adverts, 101. Great advice on the hard work of research, idea generation, understanding audiences and brands that goes into creative work.

“The classic (and irreverent) bestselling guide to creating great advertising Hey Whipple, Squeeze This has inspired a generation of ad students, copywriters, and young creatives to make their mark in the industry.”

Creating Powerful Brands

Creating, managing, understanding why brands are chosen by consumers, positioning, core values, service brands… a comprehensive textbook.

The Anti-Group: Destructive Forces in the Group and their Creative Potential

Incredibly helpful for identifying, understanding and working with destructive forces in groups.

“The ‘anti-group’ is a major conceptual addition to the theory and practice of group psychotherapy. It comprises the negative, disruptive elements, which threaten to undermine and even destroy the group, but when contained, have the potential to mobilise the group’s creative processes. Understanding the ‘anti-group’ gives therapists new perspectives on the nature of relationships and alternative strategies for managing destructive behaviour.”

Finite and Infinite Games

A smart and fun take on how life is open ended and generative. Pop process philosophy.

“Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life, the games we play in business and politics, in the bedroom and on the battlefied — games with winners and losers, a beginning and an end. Infinite games are more mysterious — and ultimately more rewarding. They are unscripted and unpredictable; they are the source of true freedom”

Papers (Journal links)

The Nature of the Group Matrix – Group Analysis

Hard to follow unless you’re already familiar with psychoanalytic and group analytic ideas, but an excellent collation of views and thinking around the group “matrix” – the psychosocial fabric of groups.

“I am describing here a simple perceptual illusion, which we experience in order to make ‘a whole’. We go on to react cognitively and emotionally to the illusions we create as part of our dynamic interaction with the environment. In exactly the same way we react to projections of our own psyche when we infuse the world around us with our own emotions. To project is also to breathe life into the world around us and attain a relatedness to the world we live in.”

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