Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review: Good Strategy - Bad Strategy

I rather enjoyed Good Strategy Bad Strategy. It's a very back-to-basics approach to business strategy that I found a nice reminder that strategy doesn't need to be that complicated. It's very much a one-idea business book but that's OK in this case.

The author starts by outlining what he calls the kernel of any strategy:
- A diagnosis of the situation/problem/opportunity
- A guiding policy that will guide how the organization will react to obstacles/challenges
- A set of clearly defined actions to achieve the goal

While this seems simple enough, it's very useful in cutting through the BS that normally passes as 'strategy'. Additionally, I like they way he frames strategy as hypothesis that is undergoing continual testing and refinement, not something that is authored once and then cast in stone.

Several other things I liked about the book:
- Lots of good case examples. Some well known ones (Apple, Microsoft, GM...) but also some that to me were less well known (International Harvester, many others).
- One case example, Nvidia, is one I have intimate history with, having competed with them in two of my past roles. He didn't nail it all 100%, but it's pretty well summed.

Stuff I didn't like:
- There's a few places in the book where he plays monday morning quarterback, pointing out failed strategies from the recent past, saying he knew better. Would be good if he'd provided proof that he'd called it when he did, vs after the fact. (He may have, but it didn't leap out at me).

In any case, definitely recommended if you are involved with setting strategy for your organization.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review: Born to Run

Spotted this at the library in audio book form, and remembered that a couple friends had recommended it to me.

Born to Run is a story of a crazy gringo ex-prize-fighter known as Caballo Blanco (White Horse) living in the Copper Canyons in northern Mexico with the Tarahumara indians, and his plan to put on a deadly long-distance race with some of the worlds most hard-core long-distance runners.

In seeking out the recluse, the author becomes wrapped up in the plan and trains to run the race himself, as he seeks out advice from the gurus of barefoot running in an effort to deal with his own injuries.

The book introduces us to a cast of really interesting characters and the competitive world of long-distance running. It eventually culminates in the story of the race itself, by which time I was rooting for every one of the characters - a good sign he'd told the story pretty well.

The "science" the book attempts to tell about barefoot running and it's evolutionary superiority, the harm that shoes do, etc, is similar to the whole Paleo diet thing - a compelling narrative, but I'm not sure how well backed it is by science. Still, it's got me thinking about it. I may do further research on it. I don't consider this book that research, but a compelling story that at least presents one side of the argument.

Born to Run

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Here's Looking at Euclid

I fully admit to buying Here's Looking at Euclid based on the title alone. The book is a collection of short explanations of mathematical concepts and mathematical oddities, with a fair bit of history and trivia thrown in for good measure.

Written for the layperson, there's a lot in here most technical folk will already know. Still there was enough history and stuff from alternate branches of mathematics (e.g. people using origami to solve mathematical problems). that I learned some stuff and found it entertaining.

Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance - An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers