Book Summary: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

The book talks about various psychological tactics used by compliance practitioners like salespeople, waiters, car dealers, and fundraisers to influence us into saying yes to something to which ideally we would have said no.
The author went and took sales jobs as a car salesman and waiter to see these tactics in action.
He referred to these tactics as six weapons of influence. Each of them forms the basis of a chapter in the book.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Weapons of influence

Weapons of influence consist of identifying fixed action patterns and exploiting them. Compliance practitioners use them as a basis for influence.

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Book summary: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture

Some salient notes from the book

  1. If there’s an elephant in the room, introduce it.
  2. Even if you are in the position of strength, be fair.
  3. Have something to bring to the table, people would be more welcoming of you to join in then.
  4. Get the fundamentals right, fancy stuff does not work without that.
  5. When you are screwing up and nobody says anything, they have given up on you (that’s a really bad place to be).
  6. Playing sports is not about learning the technicalities of the game but about teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of hard work and ability to deal with adversity.
  7. The brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out, they are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
  8. Manage time explicitly like money
  9. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
  10. Ask yourself: are you spending your time on the right things
  11. Delegate your work as much as possible
  12. What’s more fun than fulfilling one’s own dreams is to help someone else fulfill their dreams.
  13. Use positive language, “When does this [Disney] park close?” is to be responded with “This park is open until 8 PM”.
  14. Don’t complain about your problems, whining does not help, focus on working harder instead.
  15. Almost everyone has a good side, if you wait long enough, it will come out.
  16. Focus on what people do not what they say.
  17. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  18. You can be an optimist if you have a contingency plan for what to do when all hell breaks loose.
  19. A bad apology is worse than no apology.
  20. No job is beneath you, do your best at whatever job you are put to.
  21. Rights come with responsibilities.
  22. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

Book summary: Only The Paranoid Survives by Andrew Grove

The book talks about inflection points which if not handled carefully, are drastic (10x) enough to put a company out of business.

Only The Paranoid Survives

Something changed

In 1994, Intel’s Pentium processors suffered from floating point bug. Surprisingly for Intel, once the consumers became aware of the bug, rather than reaching out to manufacturers, they were calling Intel directly. It became obvious at that point that Intel has become a household name. Even though it’s selling to enterprises, consumers think of it as a consumer electronics company and have the same expectations of customer service.

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Book Summary: The Innovator’s Dilemma (when new technologies cause great firms to fail) by Clayton Christensen

The book presents Clayton’s counter-intuitive thesis on how firms with good management practices and a sound understanding of their customers’ needs eventually fail at disruptive innovations while still succeeding at sustainable innovations. The book emphasizes that its not engineering but management oversight that leads to the demise of incumbents in the face of disruptive innovations.

One-line summary: At some point, the incumbent’s product’s performance exceeds the demand of most customers. Then the “edge” which this performance metrics provided is lost, and the customers’ value proposition changes. They start valuing some other metrics, along which a disruptor’s product has better performance. The disruptor has an early mover’s advantage as well as leading to the demise of the incumbent.

The following are the salient ideas raised in the book.

The Innovator's Dilemma

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Book summary: How to create a mind by Ray Kurzweil

The book is an insightful journey into the contemporary understanding of the human brain and how scientists are trying to replicate it.
Major takeaways from the book are listed below.

How to create a mind

Thought experiments in the world

  1. Charles Lyell was the first person to propose that steady movement of water carves out gorges and canyons.
  2. This became the inspiration for Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution.
  3. Both of them engaged in thought experiments looking for how things around them attained their states and discovered underlying phenomena.
  4. Similarly, Einstein, after reading about the experiments which concluded that relative speed of light is always constant, engaged in thought experiments which eventually lead to “Theory of relativity”.
  5. The human brain is remarkably amazing in its ability to identify such patterns and discover underlying phenomena just by thinking.

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Book Summary: The score takes care of itself (my philosophy of leadership)

The book is written by Bill Walsh – San Francisco’s 49ers Football team coach who transformed the worst performing team of its era to the best performing team. The book talks about changes he brought in as well as his philosophy of leadership which is generic enough to apply outside of American Football. He is also known as the creator of West Coast Offense.

He brought in a Standards of Performance sets the expectations from everyone who was part of 49ers.

Process vs Result

  1. Aim for a Standard of Performance (which is absolute) vs winning (which is relative to others).
  2. “Process” of improvement leads to “result” of victory and not vice-versa.
  3. Focus on the process which produces results and not on results.
  4. Promotions/wins/sales quotas are results, they do not provide information about performance. And it’s important to dig into the performance to find the truth hidden behind these results.

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