Review: Non Obvious, how to predict trends and win the future by Rohit Bhargava

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading over the last few weeks, but this book fell into my pile as a ‘prize’ at a recent event and quick flick through had me immediately hooked.

Non Obvious 2018 is the latest instalment in an annual report of ‘trends’ that are researched and curated by Bhargava. What originally started out as an online-only report, has made the leap to a book and comes wrapped in some interesting extra chapters.

The book opens with a good explanation of what trends are, and how the author goes about researching, gathering and then curating the ideas for each year. It might seem counter-intuitive to provide a guide to writing your trend book, but the examples and process look fun and anyone can collate their opinions into a book. As someone who struggles to label ideas and projects, I especially liked the methodology that is used to name the trends, and the haystack method of collating information is easily transferrable to other fields of information.

The body of the book is the 2018 report, where Bhargava brings together 15 trends, each with supporting evidence. The 2018 report contains some excellent concepts, from ‘Truthing’ – the idea that people will search out truth based on personal connection through to ‘Manipulated Outrage’ – a perpetual stream of noise that is designed to incite rage.

Each of the trends is well described, with a short and the detailed summary and some good examples. At the end of the trend, there is a ‘why this matters’ section and some ways that you can use this trend to your advantage in business or in your product.

The book is backed up with some online resources, which can help find the articles cited in the examples and some exercises that can help with brainstorming your trends.

At the end of the book, there is a Trend Action Guide, a set of ‘go-do’ actions that can help you continue your thinking about the trends, as well as a comprehensive analysis of the trends identified in the previous books, which I thought was a transparent way of assessing accuracy.

Overall, I really enjoyed Non Obvious, the trends identified were both interesting and provocative. I found myself translating some of these trends into my day job and thinking whether there were opportunities for me leverage some of the thinking into the Customer Experience work I am doing.

The book is written in a very readable style, almost like a magazine or blog with short, snappy chapters containing sensible, relatable examples. I found it a great book for the commute where I might have to stop and start, and it was easy to plough through it at a good pace.

I’d highly recommend Non Obvious to anyone who likes to think about the big picture of the trends that are affecting all of us on a daily basis. The ideas and provocations included feel both accurate and interesting.

Read: 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson

This is a review of 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to chaos, a book written by Jordan Peterson. You can read my other 2018 book reviews here.

It’s fair to say that Jordan Peterson is enjoying a ‘moment’, from academic to YouTube ‘person of interest’, there has been no escaping the coverage.

I bought 12 Rules for Life before my trip to New Zealand, and read it during the long flights, and in my hotel in Auckland.

As the title suggests, the book is divided into 12 chapters, each one titled with one of the rules that Peterson has devised. Largely speaking these are matters of ethics, and the author uses science, religion, philosophy and literature to make his case for each of the rules.

The origin of the book, is a set of questions that Peterson was asked on Quora. In turning those questions into the 12 Rules, Peterson has presented an essay supporting each of the ideas.

The 12 rules are as follows:

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  • Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you
  • Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  • Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  • Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  • Be precise in your speech
  • Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  • Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

The overarching principle of the book is that every person has a basic instinct for ethics and should be able to find a meaning for each of these rules. The essays present a number of comparisons or examples.

For example, in the first chapter; “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”. Petersen gives a number of examples of social hierarchies, including the behaviour of lobsters as allegories for how people can (and should) accept the responsibility of their own lives. The lobster example is funny, and written well – although quite lengthy.

Overall, I found the book enjoyable. The ‘rules’ are largely common sense, and I suspect that the examples could have been stripped back to very short essays if the author was inclined. There is a fair amount of ‘grandstanding’ in the examples and language used – and some may find the depth of the examples a bit off putting.

In summary, 12 Rules is a self-help book for our age – the rules and the examples are sometimes old fashioned, but the underlying principles are sound.

Read: Be Amazing or Go Home by Shep Hyken

This is a review of Be Amazing or Go Home, a book written by Shep Hyken. You can read my other 2018 book reviews here.

A busy few weeks have slowed down my reading habit for 2018, but my Kindle on the morning commute has allowed me to enjoy Be Amazing or Go Home by Shep Hyken.

The core of Be Amazing or Go Home revolves around conversations that Shep had with two of his employees. One was a high performer. The other had previously been a great performer, but for some reason, standards had dipped and Shep was addressing this in a 1:1.  Ultimately, the statement was made; ‘be amazing or go home’.

The outcome was that the employee did end up leaving, but with the blessing and support of Hyken, but the conversations that led to this decision generate some good discussion.

What is amazing?

Hyken often talks about and defines amazing as:

Predictable consistent above-average performance.

So with this baseline, the book outlines the idea of delivering service at a standard higher the competition every day. It’s not about a grand gesture or an unsustainable programme but the incremental gains that get to a powerful position over time.

I fully subscribe to the idea of 0.1% better every day, you may well be able to deliver big step changes but sustained growth and improvement come from gains every day.

Seven Habits

Be Amazing or Go HomeHyken then goes on to describe the Seven Habits of amazement, which are some great competencies that can be adopted by Service professions and passed on by Leaders.

There are some excellent ideas in this list (which I’m not going to spoil) and everyone will have their own favourite that resonates well for them, either as an area of strength, or an opportunity for them or their team.

My personal favourite is that ‘amazing people want feedback’, a skill that I have had to focus on to improve, and one I see in the best employees I’ve had.

Shep talks about this skill through the lens of the employee conversations he had, giving examples of employees that were hungry for feedback and contrasting that with an employee that was resistant.

The comparison is made really clear, and there are takeaways from each of the seven habits of amazement which are relevant and transferable.

For my own personal development, I am trying to ensure that I am open to feedback whenever I can find opportunities. Asking for feedback and really listening and taking value from it is a muscle that constantly needs exercising, this chapter in Be Amazing or Go Home was a great reminder of how important that is.

Overall

Shep Hyken puts together the ‘seven habits of amazing’ in a relatable and understandable way. Whilst there is nothing groundbreaking in here, there is a great set of examples and analogies which can be used to remind yourself AND coach onwards to team members as part of their development.

Be Amazing or Go Home is an excellent short read that can help develop Customer Service muscles. I would highly recommend it to anyone as a strong addition to your Customer Service bookshelf.

Read: Here is Real Magic by Nate Staniforth

This is a review of Here is Real Magic: A Magicians Search for Wonder in the Modern World by Nate Staniforth. You can read my other 2018 book reviews here.

There is a gap in time, between the final flourish of an illusion or trick and the point at which my mind kicks in where I still have a flash of childlike awe. Immediately after that I automatically try and decipher what I have seen, looking for a trap door or camera angle that would give the secret away.

In ‘Here is Real Magic’, Nate Staniforth dwells on this moment, describing and enjoying it in all its glory – despite being the guy who knows the answer to ‘how did they do that?’  He walks us through his journey, from the usual stopping point of the toy magic set at home, through to seeing David Copperfield in his hometown, and onwards to earning a living on the circuit.

Somewhere along the way, the author loses his wonder and begins a search that will take him to India to meet snake-charmers and illusionists from slums that are more than a round-trip airfare from his home in Iowa.

We encounter cobras, and mystics – along with mystical moments and ancient Indian twists on modern illusions.  Staniforth describes his journey across India in meticulous detail, which left me to wonder about the contrasts in a vast country.

I loved Here is Real Magic, a short read of about 300 pages in a simple conversational style that left me with no question about how the search for wonder went, and where we should seek to find it:

I think you have to grow up twice. The first time happens automatically. Everyone passes from childhood to adulthood, and this transition is marked as much by the moment when the weight of the world overshadows the wonder of the world as it is by the passage of years.  Usually, you don’t get to choose when it happens. But if this triumph of weight over wonder marks the first passage into adulthood, the second is a rediscovery of that wonder despite sickness, evil, fear, sadness, suffering – despite everything.  And this second passage doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a choice, no an inevitability. It’s something you have to deliberately go out to find, and value, and protect. And you can’t just do it once and keep it forever. You have to keep looking.

I raced through this book, enjoying every minute.  There is as much sage advice and wisdom in this book and magic, as there is in any management self-help book.  I highly recommend Here is Real Magic.

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: