Books in January 2019, Part 2


Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds
Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, Sven Smit

After marking the book as read in Goodreads, I paused for a bit before choosing not to rate the book. It wasn’t a bad book; on the contrary, I enjoyed most of it!

The Power Curve and the supporting data were persuasive and illuminating. The book no doubt held some actionable insights for business executives. I have been a witness to some of the scenarios raised in the book, and it’s always nice to find camaraderie.

However, I decided against rating the book, because I didn’t know how to rate it. My reading of the advice in the book was mostly theoretical — yeah it all made reasonable sense, but I didn’t have the expertise nor the experience to judge the quality.

I find business strategy fun to read, and the more I read, the easier concepts become to grasp. That is probably obvious, but the acknowledgement of this has made me more patient and effective in pursuing information and knowledge that are beyond my familiar domains.

So, no stars yet.



Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees
Doug Lipp

This book is about Disney University, its conception, learned lessons about its employee training principles and strategies.

The book offered practical advice on how to apply Van France’s (Disney University’s founder) four circumstances: Support, innovate, educate, and entertain, to create a customer-centric culture.

Each of these were accompanied by accounts of how they have worked in the Disney context.

I found that the best bits of the book were these stories about the theme park, and I wished there were more of them.

The best barometer of how well and effectively this has worked is probably measured by the actual experiences of park-goers.

I have only been to Disneyland in Tokyo. On that visit to TDL, I had thought that it would be just another visit to a theme park. On the walk from the train station to the park grounds, I felt viscerally the difference in mood as I neared the park. People started putting on character headgear, and every park-goer I saw had something Disney on them.

The park was immaculate; everyone had a smile on; and the atmosphere was jolly, full of wonder, and maybe even a little magical.

I had a great time.



Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design
Kat Holmes

I had read fantastic reviews about this book online, and had nodded furiously at the Microsoft’s inclusive design principles. I was super ready to love this book.

And in spite of these ridiculous expectations, I liked the book. It read a little repetitive and dense in parts, and I think some rereading and practical application in the near future would anchor some of these ideas and concepts better.

I also found the book immensely helpful, especially the summary blurbs at the end of most chapters.

Inclusive design is more than just meeting accessibility standards. Exclusion is more ingrained and is more pervasive than I realised.

Awareness shows the way to action. The first step to inclusion is to recognise where exclusion appears. Then we can mindfully resist, and purposefully create.



The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking
Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

Ah, I remember this book, but I don’t really remember much of it. Oops.

If you want context and better examples, this is not the book for you. The models here are better illustrated elsewhere, and this reads more like an expanded index at the end of a book.



Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of NIKE
Phil Knight

I love a good memoir, and this is one.

I have not finished this book, but seeing that I’m counting down the hours till I continue reading, I’m about 500% sure that the book would be done before February rolls around.

I like NIKE. I wear my Cortez everywhere, and it was fun to read about its origins in the book. I applauded (in my mind) the good sense of Blue Ribbon Sports employees when they shot down Knight’s name suggestion of Dimension 6.

I’ve heard the origin story of the NIKE logo somewhere else, but to read about it again here gave better context around the 35-dollar fee.

I’m looking to the rest of the book!



Books in January 2019, Part 1


Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behaviour
Jonah Berger

Social influences are pervasive.

Think you’re above conformity? Think that other people are easily swayed, but, oh gosh, not you! Studies have known that that isn’t true. We are much better at and prone to mimicry — both emotionally and behaviourally — than we’d like to believe.

The book is essentially one concept for several chapters, but it is an easy and short read. And the studies are fun to read.



Tara Westover

Everyone’s all over this book. And it’s an amazing/inspiring story; Westover only set foot in a classroom at the age of 17, and she now has 2 PhDs.

I like the book, and found it an entertaining read.

However, I think what amazed me more than Westover’s tenacity is her family’s incredible luck at defying death. There were a lot of accidents in this book.

Psst, Bill Gates wrote a great review about the book, which he loved.



Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology
Suzanne O’Sullivan

I went through a phase of reading neurology books. This one, told through patient stories, is centred around epilepsy.

I was surprised to learn that there were so many kinds, and that they all manifest very differently! My understanding or exposure to it is (fortunately, I guess) through media, and so I only know about seizures, convulsions, stiffening body, eye rolls… The patient stories were fascinating — no doubt the writer chose the more unusual ones — and reading them made me fear (and fear for) my brain a little bit.

Medical advances have come a long, long way, but the brain has also been very imaginative in coming up with new mysteries.


A reminder for myself and fellow designers

This thought has been brewing in me for a while now, and while I’m not yet ready/brave to share it on social media, I thought I should try writing a bit of it down and see if it clarifies itself.

I feel that design has always been seen as a profession defined by our output. As designers, we produce tons of stuff — our output is even known as designs! We create illustrations, videos, photography, posters, books, wireframes, user flows, mock-ups, prototypes etc. People not familiar with design view these various forms of output as means to an end, as project deliverables, as marketing collaterals, as vessels for ideas and solutions. Not unimportant work; quite the contrary, because what use is an idea if it isn’t executed well?

I’d like to say, yell it from rooftops: please use designers to design more than just designs. Design thinking has done much to amplify the importance of design in innovation and business, but I’m still not sure if anyone besides designers sees design more than just output.

Design is not a checkbox, and it extends beyond merely screens, interactions, and content. Designers already do more than design mock-ups. We figure out how users get from A to B, and we strategise to make those journeys easier, or we get them to try C instead. We now run workshops and facilitate difficult conversations where no one wants to make decisions. We go out and talk to customers. We want to make people feel smarter and better about themselves, and I think those are good aspirations for any profession.

Most of us designers know that our industry has been changing. We know we are more than just our design output. We discuss and ruminate about our changing roles on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and on Medium.

It is hard to make people listen, so I think we show them instead. We have been evangelising and we’re making strides. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes our best intentions fall flat.

Let’s continue trying.

Moving forward - What’s in a job description anyway?

Being a job seeker again has made me realise several things — one of which is that job descriptions for design roles are largely the same. You read 5, and you’ve probably read 90% of them. Call a designer by any other name, but they seem to be the same rose inside. 🌹

I also get asked by recruiters (and concerned friends) a lot about what I’m looking in my next role. The first couple of times the question came up, I struggled a little, because so much of what I want to do doesn’t fall neatly into a single role or description. As a designer, I started out in visual design then moved to UX, and at the same time, I also dabbled in quite a fair bit of research and management.

When I tendered my resignation, a kind mentor came to speak with me. I told her that I wanted to specialise, and she very nicely persuaded me not to. She had come from decades of experiences in various verticals and industries, and it was this amalgamation of experiences that trained and helped her in her executive career.

I remembered coming out of that conversation, moved and a little relieved that okay, maybe it’s all right to invest more time and effort in building lateral skills.

I had been hoping that somewhere, in a job description somewhere, that there will be the explicitly stated flexibility to jump in and out of roles and functions.

But that’s silly.

I don’t need something like that to be prescribed.

So, a note to myself, a JD is just a JD.