Read: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This is a review of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

I’ll be honest, this has been sitting in my reading pile for months now. I saw it referenced in an article by Tim Ferris when he was talking about ‘Tribe of Mentors’.  I thought it sounded interesting and bought it on impulse. When it arrived, I thought it looked a little ‘light’ on practicalities for me and held back.

War of ArtAfter a couple of focused business books recently, I decided to give this a try this weekend – and finished it in two sittings.  It is a beautifully precise book, with an economy of language – but it is also engrossing and enjoyable.

The War of Art describes the internal obstacles that inhibit success, collecting them together in a tangible, palpable collective which Pressfield describes as ‘resistance’.  It’s an unseen, malevolent force that blocks so many people from achieving their true potential.

By identifying ‘resistance’, the author also helps shape the attitude and form that the reader needs to adopt, in order to go to battle. By assuming the position of a ‘professional’, he sets you up for the fight.

Fortunately, the professional is not alone in this war with resistance, in the third part of the book we read about the supportive forces we can summon to overcome our adversary.

The book is written as a set of ideas, short paragraphs or vignettes that give an incredible insight into the human psyche.  At turns, the book is practical and helpful and then turns more romantic – summoning muses and angels to help the struggling reader.

The War of Art doesn’t just apply to artists and creators, but to anyone who feels resistance to anything. Resistance to moving on from the past, resistance to healing issues, resistance to moving onwards and upwards in any field.  By defining the challenge and providing inspiration for the battle this book offers an eye=opening approach to the next steps.

I highly recommend The War of Art to anyone who is looking for insight into human psychology and motivation.

 

Read – Working Out Loud : For a Better Career and Life

This is a review of Working Out Loud : For a Better Career and Life by John Stepper.

I’ve been interested in the concept of Working Out Loud for some time, having heard it mentioned across various blogs and twitter feeds. It aligns closely with having a Growth Mindset (which Stepper references). In order to have a Growth Mindset, we need to disavow the fear that stops us Working Out Loud. By fostering generosity and strong connections with one another, we can build a more collaborative approach to work.

Working Out LoudWorking Out Loud is a useful and well-written guidebook for anyone who wants to improve their personal brand by making their work and themselves visible.

Following the programme laid out by Stepper, its easy to see how you can ‘Build Better Relationships’ which can enhance your career and life in general.

The author starts with three key questions:

1. What am I trying to accomplish?
2. Who can help me with that goal?
3. How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationship?

By answering these questions, the reader can establish a sense of purpose, which the remainder of the book helps support.

There are five elements to Working Out Loud:

  • Purposeful Discovery
  • Relationships
  • Generosity
  • Visible Work
  • Growth Mindset

The book guides the reader through each of these principles with some background to the benefits, and some practical guidance to establish the right course. Towards the end of the book, Stepper talks at length about ‘Working Out Loud’ circles, which are a way of bringing the learnings from the book to life, by connecting with other readers who share your goals.

I really enjoyed the pace and the structure of this book which combined some high level concepts with some actionable processes to get started. At the end of each chapter there were clearly documented takeaways, alongside some ‘do this now’ sections which ranged from a few minutes. These steps were a key to getting started, and generating momentum rather than just reading a dry text book.

I’d highly recommend Working Out Loud to anyone that was embarking on a programme of personal branding, or wants to build stronger relationships in their career. By following the guidelines in the book, I could easily see a movement of people demonstrating real personal growth.

Read : Hooked – How to build habit-forming products

This is a review of Hooked – How to build habit-forming products by Nir Eyal which details the techniques and science behind how companies create products that people cannot put down.

Hooked - Nir EyalRecently I read spent time reading about the macro view of the business I am involved in, reading Platform Revolution (my review here).

For my next read, I wanted to zoom into the ‘value unit’, the individual nugget that fuels the network effect, and understand what makes some products world-beating.

Eyal explains how products are addictive, with a simple four-step model:

  • Trigger -What internal trigger is the product addressing or what external trigger gets the user to the product?
  • Action – What is the simplest behaviour in anticipation of reward?
  • Reward – Is the reward fulfilling, yet leaves the user wanting more?
  • Investment – What ‘bit of work’ is done to increase the likelihood of returning?

For each stage of the model, there is an explanation of the science behind with some real-world examples of how these are implemented in products we all know.

The great news is that the science is simply explained, and not too academic – and at the end of the chapters there is a list of key takeaways coupled with some practical actions you can take to help the design of your product.

Later in the book, there is a chapter that deals with the ethical concerns of building an addictive product and an excellent case study of how to apply the theory in a real-world situation.

Hooked is concise enough that it can be read in a couple of days, but comprehensive enough that you can walk away with a clear understanding of how products become addictive, and how you can design products that people cannot put down.

I’d highly recommend Hooked to anyone that is looking to increase customer engagement with their product.

If you want a short intro to the content of the book – this video is a great primer:

Read – Platform Revolution

This is a review of Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy–and How to Make Them Work for You
by Alstyne, Parker and Choudary

There is no doubt that a seismic shift is taking place in business models, with virtually no area of commerce being left untouched.  In seemingly unrelated areas, businesses are shifting from pipeline to platform models, and this study explains why and how.

There is a good balance in this book, between the economic theory of how platforms work to anecdotes from a wide range of experience.  As the authors describe the journey that Uber, Amazon, Alibaba and many more have taken to become the dominating companies in their field.

Platform Revolution provides an excellent primer to what makes a good platform and how great companies create and harness the network effects that help them grow at astonishing speeds.

The shift to platform models has created a new breed of companies that derive value from resources they neither own or create. The most successful of these companies will provide some sort of curation or quality control to harness the power of the network effects they utilise.

Each chapter focuses on different aspects of what makes a successful platform business, and explains each on in clear and concise terms, with examples and rationales to support.

Towards the end of the book, the authors take a future looking lens and describe where the greatest opportunities for disruption by platform businesses are.  With startups in almost all of these areas, it’s clear that the behemoths of the future will be exploiting some of these.

From a personal perspective, I’ve been involved in creating customer experiences in a number of platform-based businesses, and this book gave some good insight into how customers engaging with this new model need to be supported and serviced.

If you are involved or engaged in any platform related business, or startup, then I’d highly recommend Platform Revolution as essential reading for you and your team.