The reading challenge in 2016

It's that time of the year, folks! As we usher into the (hopefully) better 2017, many of us (myself included) start making lists and plans. I did learn he heard way how to make realistic plans and make them happen. I'm still improving, but I'm pretty proud of what I've achieved.

There is definitely one plan I'm going to great lengths to keep it: reading as much as possible. I've set an ambitious goal for the year, to read 50 books. I didn't achieve this goal, but I'm not too unhappy. There is a trick: in a certain way, I've achieved this goal. This year I had to finish my Ph.D. paper so there was plenty of reading involved, but I didn't want to include much of it in the list below. 

If you are looking for inspiration for what to read in the next free days or set your reading list for 2017, find below the list of books I've read with some personal comments. Some of them are re-reads, as I was looking for some particular job inspiration. I didn't make notes for all, so feel free to ask me any questions in a comment. 

Most of the books I've read in 2016. The rests are eBooks or audio books

Oliver Sacks - On the move, Awakenings
Oliver Sacks is one of my favorite authors in the world. I've discovered first his New York Times articles and then the books. This year I've read his biography (On the move) and Awakenings. A little bit of background for Oliver Sacks - he was a world-renowned neurologist, an amazing author, a motorcycle enthusiast, weightlifter. This biography depicts his adult life: research, travel, writing, personal life, family background. I recommend you to read first Uncle Tungsten, a truly revealing writing depicting his childhood, his childhood battles, and science. 

"Awakenings" is the book that inspired the eponymous movie. It tackles the period when Oliver Sacks joined the Bronx Home for Incurables (currently Bronx's Beth Abraham hospital) and made research about the patients who were infected with the sleep-sickness after WWI (known as encephalitis lethargica virus). The persons who contracted this virus have been able to lead a normal life for years, before manifesting symptoms similar to the Parkinson disease.

Alain de Botton - Essays in love 

Another favorite author. I've been reading all the books I've found written by him, a long list is waiting, though. I enjoyed this writing from the first phrase: The longing for a destiny is nowhere stronger than in our romantic life. The book, the first Alain de Botton wrote, is a part fiction and part philosophical reflection on falling in love. A man falls in love with a lady he met on a flight. From this encounter, the reader can follow the narrator's feelings, inner traits, entering the relationship, and the sequence of events that follows.

Another quote I've enjoyed: We are all more intelligent than we are capable and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.

As marketer, I truly value Seth Godin's books and articles. We Are All Weird is a first read, but All marketers are liars is a re-read. The first is a manifesto that touted the future of business and marketing as catering to the “weird". It depicts the people who live and thrive outside of the norm, outside of the masses. The second is more of blog-ish written book. I do remember I made plenty of noted when I've read it the first time, but now I've only taken some inspiration for my work. (if you are a young communicator/marketer this should be on your reading list)

One quote from We are all weird: Amplified creation, marketing efficiency and the support of tribes, then, are pushing toward one outcome: we’re getting weirder. Mass is withering. The only things pushing against this trend are the factory mindset and the cultural bias toward compliance.

Viktor - Mayer-Schonberger, Kenneth Cukier - Big Data - A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

A re-read (also part of my Ph.D. reading lists). Definitely a must-read for every person working in the digital, marketing, tech and not only. 

This one is right on my all time favorite reads. I've admired profoundly Jaqueline's Novogratz work during my years of working in the non-governmental sector. This book, part autobiography, part real-life example of how to have an impact in the international community, is an inspiration for me. Definitely a thought-provoking reading and a must-read for everyone in the nonprofit world (and not only).

This was both part of my Ph.D. reading list and my work reading list. I've found plenty of inspiration for improving my vision and skills in what concerns the small bites of information I can pay attention. The book is part anthropological look of the author, part examples of improving business. For those looking for a more scientific/textbook approach, they will find more of an observation book. Lindstrom is on the road for 300 days/year and is terrific at discovering and unveiling the tiniest details that will make a difference in the end.

David Allen - Making it all work 

Anthony Bourdain - Kitchen confidential 

David Rothkopf - Superclass 

Elizabeth Gilbert - The signature of all things 

Not going on my recommendation list. It's an interesting book, but sometimes a bit too long and losing your attention. 

This is a re-read. I've prepared a seminar for my Leadership students including work of Gladwell. I've read all his books so far, and I would definitely recommend them for Aha moments, creativity boost and lateral thinking improvements.

Michael Paterniti - The telling room 

What did you read in 2016 and made to your favorite books/authors list? Share with me in the comments.

Routine vs. Creativity: 3 practices for your product team

Originally posted here.  

You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them. Ken Robinson
The ability to create something new, to get a new business started, break boundaries with bold ideas or redefine the existing standards are among the perks of being a creative professional. Connecting the dots is no easy endeavor. The outstanding creative ideas many times:
  • spring from small ideas
  • require constant practice – creativity is just like a muscle, it needs constant training to obtain better results
  • are inspired from other industries, from other ideas, or even from small talks near the coffee machine

Creativity has become an appanage of many public speeches and a prerequisite of each professional hat. In practice, companies do forget important things: the investment in creativity is usually minimal; unfortunately nowadays, everything is focused more on productivity, rather than creativity.
Here comes the role of the manager: she can create and foster an environment that helps the teams becoming more creative, more eager to develop skills in this direction.
To easier enhance your creativity, here are three techniques you can start with:

The 6 Thinking Hats

Coined by Eduard de Bono, the 6 thinking hats techniques is a process, enabling the creative thinking. The technique involves “wearing” a different colored hat: black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. By trying the hats, the team can explore more situations and redirect the flow of ideas.
Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 14.39.36
The 6 thinking hats, Eduard de Bono

Green Light/Red Light thinking

On one hand, Green Light (or think Captain Kirk model), just like the traffic light, is a metaphor expressing that any idea can work.  The accent is on positive encouragement, generation of as many ideas as possible, no matter their status. On the other hand, the Red Light (or think Mr. Spock model) is the metaphor for the sober analysis of what will go and what will be put in practice.
Green Light thinking can be associated also with brainstorming, as it involves the generation of as many ideas as possible, encouraging people to think of solutions they might overlook in other conditions. For the Red Light thinking, it involves an evaluation of each potential solution through certain criteria. Andy Green synthesis the process like this:
Green Light Thinking 
  • Anything goes and is permissible
  • The big picture is the context
  • Positive impact of risk
  • Emotional and intuitive
  • Anything can happen in the future
  • There is no evaluation or censorship of ideas
  • There should be no selling of ideas
  • The leader does not offer ideas
  • The list is reviewed at the end of the session
Red Light Thinking
  • Focus on analysis
  • Bring in the judgment mentality
  • Analyse practicalities
  • See functionality – will it work?
  • Assess the negative impact of risk
  • Take a look at the details
  • Examine what worked in the past

The Disney Strategy

This technique, inspired by Walt Disney strategy, focuses on a set of distinct stages to encourage creativity. According to this method, by using a specific flow builds parallel thinking that can be used to generate, evaluate, critique ideas and solve problems.
The stages are the Dreamer, the Realist, the Critic.
When your team is in the stage of dreamers, allow them to brainstorm without any restraints. Ask questions like:
  • What do we want?
  • What is the solution?
  • How do we imagine the solution?
  • What are the benefits of applying this solution?
Next, switch to the realist stage: filter the dreams, organize them and act upon. The team switches the place and the mode to think in a more logical planning style, starting to work on how dreams can be translated into the real world.
During this stage, ask questions like:
  • How can we apply this idea in reality?
  • What is the action plan to apply the idea?
  • What is the timeline to apply this idea?
  • How to evaluate the idea?
Then move to the critic phase. Here is the stage in which the team evaluates the ideas. Help the participants with questions like:
  • What could be wrong with the idea?
  • What is missing?
  • Why cannot be applied it?
  • What are the weaknesses in the plan?

A long-term investment

The creative mindset is a must have in the today world. Work is done not just for the sake of work, but for us to leave a better and outstanding tomorrow.
Let your teams experiment. Encourage them to challenge the obvious and make the quest for creativity an on-going endeavor. Thus, they will make an outstanding contribution in your products, business and internal/external communities.
If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires. Malcolm Gladwell

Motivation is a marathon. 3 ideas to experiment with

The question of How to keep your team motivated pops up in various discussions with managers. The reasons vary, but with the increasing generation gap (think Millenials are coming), learning this is a process that requires adjustment. Feedback helps us adjust the work behaviour and keeps the motivation level high.
Gathering knowledge across a couple of years, there are a few ideas that stuck:
  • show people progress by emphasising small advancements towards the bigger goal
  • find incentives outside the material resources
  • challenge your own daily routines
Give intrinsic incentives? Show the small steps towards progress? Some of us do question this approach. Myself, after having experienced with working in international team, I’ve realised how important is to find the right, creative ways to keep people engaged, to work towards same goals while being happy and productive.
For you to experiment new techniques, here are some means to better engage the teams:
Read the full article here.  

5 links

I've always seen the New Year as a moment of wonder and reset. Taking time to be present, to dream, to have a look at how our year might look like, letting go of preconceived things, allows me to to have a better view on whats next for me.

I rarely make New Year Resolutions though. I try to give a direction of where I would like to be one year from now, with whom, and where, and I just work to make things happen. As last year showed me, by the end of the period, your meticulous plan might end up being overwhelming and different.
Each year, I try to review my working habits and personal patterns. Based on this assessment process, I try to change and improve, in order to increase my productivity and to achieve personal goals.

So, I believe is more important to have everything in order, keep an open mind, and actually start working on things.
Jeanne Crain in the motion picture Home in Indiana

For this blog, I have in mind a few ideas. The first of them is to switch the language from Romanian to English. When necessary, I will keep the posts in Romanian. Also, I am changing the series of web articles to the series 5 links. Other changes are on their way.

Thank you for reading my posts and looking forward for a new, exciting online year!



                                         10 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Must Watch