Summary of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Although it was originally released in 2011, as of July 2014 Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was still listed in the top ten business bestsellers on The New York Times bestseller list. Kahneman was a Nobel Prize winner in economics and in his hit business book somewhat summarizes the important research he did throughout his career.

The first section of the book describes two different ways in which the human brain forms thoughts. System one is a fast, automatic, subconscious, and highly emotional type of thought. System two is a slow, calculating, conscious, and infrequent type of thought. Kahneman explains the differing outcomes from these two types of thought and how they can generate different outputs even with the same input. System two would be critical thinking, philosophic thought, and other deliberate types of thought. System one would be the constant thoughts that flood your brain every day in the course of just existing normally. In some cases, the impressions that system one generates lead to system two thought.

Next, the book deals with inherent biases in human thinking. He talks about the ways in which we can be unknowingly manipulated by our surroundings. He discusses the flaws in the ways that system one and system two interact and in how system one and two pass information back and forth.

One example of this is in the way that people think about statistics. For instance, we tend to exaggerate the consistency and coherence of our observations, so we draw conclusions that we think are solid, but are in fact not statistically sound. That means that incorrect system one processes lead to incorrect system two conclusions.

Kahneman’s provocative book makes us think about thinking, and the results are enlightening. He shows us, with ample evidence based on years of thorough research that, no matter what common sense dictates, we may not be as rational as we think. Although he doesn’t go into too much detail about the political and business implications of this, there clearly are implications that any astute reader can draw – if only you think about it.

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Summary of the Book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

This book is written by none other than Ed Catmull, the co-founder (along with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar animation studios—an academy award winning studio.

Creativity, Inc. is an insightful book about how creativity and business should merge together and become one.
This has been described as being one of the most well-written books about management and business, ever. It was a New York Times bestseller and was named to be one of the best books of 2014 by The Huffington Post, Financial Times, and lots more. For this reason, I decided that I absolutely had to include it in this list.

This particular book is for business people that want to lead their employees to some amazing, never before achieved height. It is a guide for anyone that aims to be unique, to be original and different.
When you read this, you get a peek into the world of meetings, postmortems, and sessions in which brainstorms which spark ideas for some of the most famous films in history were created.

This book will show you how you can learn about creative culture, and it also sums up the ideas that the author—Ed Catmull—believes make us able to do the best we possibly can. This is something that every businessperson or aspiring businessperson needs to be enlightened about.

Catmull reveals all of the secret techniques and ideas of Pixar that make it such a successful business, and so admirable. When he was young Ed Catmull dreamt that he would, one day, creates the first computer-animated film ever.

When he was a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, he allowed that dream to keep growing, and, in fact, nurtured it. Later on, he created a partnership with someone that eventually led to the founding of Pixar along with its co-founders.

Nine years later, he first computer animated movie was released. Catmull’s dream was now a reality, and the animation was changed forever.

The main reason that movie was so successful—as were the many movies that followed it—was because of the amazing, different environment that Catmull created at his workplace, based on a way of thinking that differs from the norm and allows creativity to flourish.

One of these ideas was “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or come up with something better”.

Over several decades, Catmull has come up with some groundbreaking ideas to allow your creativity to work to its full potential and break down every barrier that prevents it from doing so. This book contains all of those ideas, making it an absolutely amazing read that will change the way you think and allow you to marry your business to your creativity and get the best of both worlds.

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Summary of The Art of War

You might not think you have any reason to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War unless you’re, well, planning to wage a war. The Art of War is about so much more than its title would imply, though. It’s about strategies and tactics in general – life strategies, business strategies, legal strategies, and more. The text, written by a high-ranking military general, is hundreds of years old, but it wasn’t translated into English until the 20th century. Since then, it’s become popular as a source of strong advice for interactions of all types.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters, each of which outlines a fundamental aspect of strategy. The first chapter deals with laying plans. It explores the five factors and seven elements that determine the outcome of engagements and explains how to assess and compare this points to make winning calculations. The second chapter details waging war – and winning engagement decisively. In the third chapter, The Art of War deals with strategic attack, discussing the five factors that are necessary for success in any war: attack, strategy, alliances, army, and cities.

The fourth chapter deals with tactics and directing. It discusses the importance of defending strategic positions without accidentally creating opportunities for the enemy. The fifth chapter talks about the forces necessary for wining – specifically, the use of creativity to build momentum. The next chapter addresses weaknesses and strengths and talks about how you can find your enemy’s weaknesses and use them to your own benefit.

Chapter seven talk about maneuvering and about how to win in forced confrontations. Chapter eight deals with variation and how to handle unexpected circumstances successfully. The topic of chapter nine is movement. While focusing considerably on how to evaluate the intentions of others, this chapter deals with how to address the different situations that arise while moving through new and enemy territory. Chapter ten deals with terrain and the six types of ground positions and field positions that an army could encounter. Chapter eleven explains the nine common stages in a campaign and how to navigate them successfully.

Chapter twelve deals with incendiary attacks and the use of fire. Although that may sound like a topic that is pretty specific to battle and can have no other applications, it actually does. The section discusses the use of the environment as a weapon, the five targets for attack, and the appropriate responses to different types of attack. The topic of the last chapter is intelligence and espionage, which includes an explanation of the five types of intelligence sources and how to manage them.

In sum, there are some sections of The Art of War that are indeed very specific to war – but the book has remained an enduring classic for centuries because of its applicability to life in general.

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Book Summary of Good to Great by Jim Collins

There are some things in life that can never be avoided at any circumstances. For instance, have you ever heard of any person or organization that opposes gravity? If the answer is yes, are you aware of the characteristics that these organizations have that enables them to upgrade themselves from good to great? This book by Jim Collins has moved an extra mile to research on these companies which are doing extremely well financially. It takes in to consideration both the all the goods and the cash the company has. All the general stock that have monetary value is highly considered in finding out how the company has set its strategies to move from good to great.

This book also brings out the comparison between the companies that have tried to improve their standards yet they still maintain their position of being good. It was discovered that these companies that moved from good to great are now engaging themselves in more serious business activities and are much ahead of these companies that have remained in a good state. This analysis was undertaken for a period of not less than five years and the result have been proven right by different organizations.

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Book Summary of Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Unless you’re a fasionista, Sophia Amoruso is a less-known name than the preceding four executives. Nonetheless, her flair for business and the unexpected success of her online business, Nasty Gal, make her just as much an Amazona as Huffington, Sandberg, Nooyi, or Mayer.

Born in 1984 to a Greek-American family, Sophia Amoruso had no business education when she became a fashion titan. At the age of 22, the adventurous entrepreneur began the venture that would become Nasty Gal in 2006 in the basement of her aunt’s home. At the time, she had not only no business education, but no college degree at all. She worked as a security guard checking IDs at an art school. Success may have seemed unlikely given her complete lack of experience and initial disdain for capitalism. However, what began as a small eBay store morphed into an online clothing empire overnight and so between 2008 and 2011, sales increased by 10,160 percent and by 2012 the company was reporting annual revenues in excess of $100 million. In seven years, Nasty Gal went from a self-funded enterprise housed in a basement to a business backed by $49 million in venture capital and housed in a 500,000-square-foot distribution center.

What’s Amoruso’s advice to other up-and-coming would-be entrepreneurs? Her philosophy upends expectations of women; Amoruso says women should be bossy. In fact, she’s written a book all about it. The book, titled #GIRLBOSS, was released in the spring of 2014 to largely positive review. The New York Times called her “the Cinderella of tech,” while Forbes referred to her a “fashion’s newest phenom.” Although the book has also drawn criticism in some quarters, perhaps that’s inevitable when a woman becomes so successful so young.
So what does a “girlboss” entail in Amoruso’s mind? To put it in her words, “A #GIRLBOSS is someone who’s in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #GIRLBOSS, you take control and accept responsibility. You’re a fighter – you know when to throw punches and when to roll with them. Sometimes you break the rules, sometimes you follow them, but always on your own terms. You know where you’re going, but can’t do it without having some fun along the way. You value honesty over perfection. You ask questions. You take life seriously, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to take over the world, and change it in the process. You’re a badass.”

In a theme not so different from Sandberg’s advice about leaning in – but stated much more brashly – Amoruso tells women not to hold back when she writes, “Abandon anything about your life and habits that might be holding you back. Learn to create your own opportunities. Know that there is no finish line; fortune favors action. Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had time to dream up. And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.”

As the Washington Post described her philosophy, “It’s the Lean In for misfits.” And that’s about accurate. While Lean In faced some criticism for its implicitly elitist tenets, Amoruso’s business wisdom is able to speak to a different demographic. The takeaway message is simple: be bossy. Be bossy, ask for what you want, experiment, create your own space, and don’t play by the rules. But most of all, be bossy.

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Book Summary of The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

The main aim of starting any company is to have your money (in the form of investment) grow. For you to achieve this, you need to have a good leadership structure that will help you realize your dreams. Your leadership structure should be very effective and all the people in the organization, including the employees and all the company stakeholders should be willing to abide by all the leadership strategies that govern the company. This is because the leadership of the company follows the laws found in the company’s constitution.

According to the research carried out by Clayton M Christensen, this is not always the case. Some companies fail to move to higher levels yet they have these good governance structures. This book now comes with the new great rules that should be set in your organization to ensure that there is good progress of the organization. These set of rules are there to cover most of the problems an organization faces which hinders it from moving ahead. It provides a very wonderful guide that will enable you improve on the performance of your company and let it be ranked at the top among other companies.

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Book summary of Think Like a Freak

If you like reading business books, you may reading the sensation that was Freakonomics. Written by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics was a melding of pop culture and economics that shed light on economics for millions of people who weren’t really that into economics. It was informative, but not that applicable to your daily life unless you happened to be a sumo wrestler. (Sumo wrestling was one of the examples explored in the first chapter of the book.)

Now, though, Levitt and Dubner have teamed up again for a book with some solid, direct application to daily life. Their new book, Think Like a Freak, teaches readers how to think more productively, creatively, and rationally. The authors dub that sort of thinking “thinking like a Freak.”

The book revisits some of the topics in the Freakonomics, most notably one of the particularly controversial discussions in which the authors explored a connection between legalized abortion and a fall in violent crime. In this case, though, that discussion is brought up largely to point out the controversy it caused – it’s a topic that makes many people squeamish. To think like a Freak, though, you need to learn to think without any restrictions and thus you need to learn not to avoid topics just because they make you or the people around you uncomfortable.

Here are some of the steps that the authors present for thinking like a Freak:

Be humble.

Many problems are harder than you think, and if you go in thinking that it’s too easy, you probably won’t put in the necessary effort in order to come up with a really good solution. You’ll run into problems if you assume everything is easier than it is; if you assume everything is harder than it is, the worst that can happen if you’ll do it too well.

Consider incentives.

Incentives basically rule the world. They are the foundation for economics and understanding incentives can go a long way toward helping you succeed in business and in life.

Admit what you don’t know.

It is difficult to learn what you don’t know if you cannot admit that you don’t know it.

Know that being right is usually not enough.

Presenting somebody with data to prove your point is not necessarily enough – you need to learn how to be persuasive. Being persuasive is more important than being right oftentimes.

Quit.

Sometimes you need to know when to quit. If something just isn’t working out, you need to know when to throw in the towel in order to start on the next thing, the thing that will work out.

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Book Summary of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

We are all creatures of habit; this is a good thing. So asserts Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Duhigg says that our lives are run by a cycle of repeated triggers (or cues) and rewards. These cycles can never be truly eliminated but the good news is that undesirable, self-defeating habits can simply be replaced with more beneficial ones. In his book, Duhigg explains how. Whether your goal is to lose weight and develop healthier eating habits, make more and spend less money, or build a more successful business, the key to success is to harness the power of habit and make it work for you.

Duhigg starts by explaining exactly what comprises a habit and makes it so powerful in our everyday lives. A habit is a pattern instigated by a trigger or cue – something that motivates one to take an action. Once that action is taken, some sort of reward is received. The actual action(s) needed to get that reward is the routine. This repeated cycle of trigger, routine, and reward forms a habit.

He then shares the story of Pepsodent toothpaste and Claude C. Hopkins, the man who succeeded in making it a household name. In the early 1900s, the average American did not regularly brush their teeth. After a bit of research, Hopkins, an advertising executive, identified something in dental textbooks called mucin plaque, a harmless film that covers the teeth. He called this “the film”. In his marketing campaign, he drew attention to the film and then prescribed the “cure” – a quick brushing with Pepsodent toothpaste, which contained citric acid and mint oil to prevent the paste from degrading on store shelves. These ingredients had an unanticipated side effect – they caused a pleasurable tingling sensation in the mouths of people as they brushed their teeth. This “reward” created the pattern, or routine, of brushing teeth with Pepsodent and soon the manufacturers found themselves unable to produce the stuff fast enough to satisfy demand. An interesting side note, and the reason some habits are so difficult to break is that neurologists have found that this “Trigger-Routine-Reward” cycle actually causes fundamental pattern changes within the brain, creating neurological craving.

Using these principles, positive beneficial habits can be substituted for negative self-defeating ones. First, identify the cue – the element triggering the negative behavior. Next, realize the routine – the behavior itself. Then, find a more beneficent reward to redirect the routine, thus creating and reinforcing a new habit.

The important things to remember to effectively absorb the concepts detailed in “The Power of Habit” are:

Habits are a natural part of a person’s psychological makeup. They are neither inherently good nor bad. Whether your goal is personal (e.g., eat a healthier diet) or business-oriented (e.g., double your sales output), the routines in your life are a choice and can therefore be consciously managed.

A habit is a result of a “Trigger-Routine-Reward” cycle. Identify the trigger, alter the reward, and you can easily change that routine.

Habits cause fundamental changes in brainwave patterns, reinforcing repetitive behaviors and creating cravings. Awareness of these cravings allows one to make better choices.

By understanding Charles Duhigg’s ideas about the nature of habits and how to utilize them to institute changes in your life you empower yourself to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Embrace the change.

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Book Summary of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap

It’s not just a million-dollar question, it’s a multi-million dollar question: why do some businesses just survive while others thrive? If you’re looking for the answer to this question, look no further than Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by Jim Collins.

Although the book was originally published in 2001, it is still deeply relevant today. After its release it quickly went on to become a bestseller and it is still viewed as a modern business classic. In Good to Great, Collins seeks to identify the factors that allow some companies to stand out from the crowd and make the transition from good to great. Here are some of the primary conclusions that Collins draws:

Leadership.

Collins identifies five levels of leadership ability and describes the traits of each. Those who he classifies as level 5 leaders – the best leaders – have both intense determination and profound humility. The importance of good leadership is not surprising, but Collins offers a detailed description of the traits of good leadership that is quite helpful.

Deal with who first.

Collins explains that it is of paramount importance that you secure the right leadership team before you begin addressing an overarching strategy. That is, you need to hire talented individuals who can produce quality work and have level five leadership skills before you begin attempting to lead your team in producing quality work.

Confront the facts.

No matter how difficult the facts are, Collins emphasizes the importance of being able to face those difficult facts with honesty and integrity. He details a four-step process for ensuring that your company remains aware of emerging trends and also of its own weaknesses.

Be a hedgehog.

In other words, learn to do one thing really, really well. When hedgehogs are attacked, they curl up into a spiky, little ball – and that is a surprisingly successful strategy. Most predators aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get into that spiky ball – so the hedgehog is really, really good at that one thing. Collins explains that companies should learn to really excel in one specific thing.

Have a culture of discipline.

Collins found that discipline was one of the important characteristics that distinguished good companies from great companies. Discipline doesn’t mean that you should discipline your workers more harshly; it simply means that you should take care to hire deeply determined workers with an abiding sense of inner discipline. Disciplined workers will be better at the singled-minded hedgehog work concept.

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Book Summary of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Despite its incredibly long title, Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses has been a very successful and popular book since its release in 2011. The Lean Startup is a great book to have if you are going to launch or have recently launched a startup. Of course, in either case, you should be reading way more than just this – but this is undoubtedly a great place to start. It’s tested and true advice, and years of positive reviews seem to indicate that it really works. Aside from the utility of the advice itself, Lean Startup is great simply for its ability to clarify issues.

One thing that is great about the book is that it doesn’t focus only on brick-and-mortar businesses. Many business books do just that, but Ries explores the needs and conditions of startups in a variety of situations, including a number of non-traditional business scenarios. One of the most popular sections of the book is the case studies. Using the case studies as examples, Ries shows how you can learn valuable lessons for running a startup. Running a successful startup, he explains, is a teachable process: “Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”

The book balances technical information with anecdotal evidence – and the author has a lot of useful anecdotal evidence to draw on. Ries came up with the idea for Lean Startup as a result of his own experience as the founder and advisor of various startups. His first startup failed due to a lack of understanding about its target customers. Next, he worked as an engineer at another startup that failed. Finally, in 2004 he co-founded IMVU, a 3D social network – and that startup succeeded.

The Lean Startup actually spawned a lean startup movement, which focuses on allocating resources as efficiently as possible. Some well-known companies like Dropbox, Intuit, and Grockit employ lean startup philosophy. That means that not only is the book tried and true – it was a New York Times #2 bestseller at one point – but also the philosophy undergirding it is tried and true.

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