What we're reading...
It's summer...and while Scott and I will indulge in a beach read or two (my choice: The Martian, by Andy Weir...great stuff!), we also try to keep our minds dialed into the strategic goings-on. No doubt there's enough in the headlines to draw our attention: Grexit, whispers of a market crash (as always!), the Apple Watch, FIFA's implosion, etc. Living in this type of high-velocity environment, we seek out readings that can put some structure around these issues and hopefully give us insight that we can use (or relay) in our daily lives. A few of the readings that have hit a chord with us: Value Proposition Design (the follow-up to Business Model Generation, by Osterwalder and Pigneur), Peter Thiel's Zero to One and Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Value Proposition Design: the authors' follow-up to their international best-seller, Business Model Generation, focuses squarely on two of the nine building blocks in the Business Model Canvas, namely Value Proposition (VP) and Customer Segments (CS). No doubt this is crucial: coming off of having four sections of Business Model Design, I can unequivocally say that if the VP and CS are not clearly defined, individually, and, subsequently, directly connected, the remainder of the building blocks will be fuzzy at best and, at worst, completely misleading. VPD helps go a few levels deeper to tease out not just the overarching Value Proposition, but also sub-VPs for some of the different customer segments a business may be targeting. It's definitely a useful and necessary add-on to BMG.
Zero to One: Thiel started PayPal in 1998 and, as CEO, took the company public in 2002, eventually selling it to eBay. These days, he's a venture capitalist with a Midas Touch, as well as a "big picture" thinker. His book, based on the courses he taught at Stanford, provides an opportunity to ruminate on the motivations behind entrepreneurs, some of the elements needed to make it, as well as some market dynamics that pave the way for organizational success. This isn't a how-to book, and some of chapters come off as random thoughts - but some of the novel insights stick with you and make you think twice about some tenets that have been around for decades.
Thinking, Fast and Slow: Published in 2013, Kahneman's book makes accessible the author's lifetime research on human risk framing and taking. Scott and I have been big fans of "Prospect Theory", for which Kahneman and his colleague Tversky received the Nobel prize. The book cracks open the black box of our minds and teases apart some of our whacky wiring that supposedly makes us rational beings. Economists beware: much of Kahneman's findings undercut the assumptions of homus economicus, in the process destabilizing much of traditional economic theory. It's a great read and, at times, feels like holding a large mirror up to the face of humanity. From a business perspective, it certainly sheds light on some of the fallacies involved in decision-making: knowing one's propensities (awareness!) is step one to not making potentially fatal strategic mistakes.