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Try Something Different

I love thinking about behavior change. Specifically, how people get themselves to adopt new attitudes, habits, ways of living. Hell I even taught a Skillshare course to 150 people on the science of willpower and behavior change.

One thing I’ve realized is that it’s actually a lot easier to be shaped by external forces than by your own hand. People can and do change themselves, but it takes patience, sustained effort, and creativity. Continue reading…

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Until You Ship, Communication is the Deliverable

I’m a big fan of the Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan) who co-authored Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive, each one a fun and highly useable book on an interesting topic: Marketing, Behavior Change, and Decision Making, respectively. They have an email list where they very occasionally share updates on their work, ask questions, and offer up awesome nuggets.

Some time earlier this year they shared a list of seven books that they recommended. These books had to be well-written, provide some kind of useful / practical knowledge, and not be very widely-known – a great combination. Continue reading…

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The Difference Between Having Connections and Having Conversations

When I was in DC working as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, one of our objectives was to drive adoption for President Obama’s Executive Order to make all government information open, freely accessible, and machine-readable as the new default. That EO was backed up by a memo from the Office of Management and Budget known as M-13-13. Broadly this entire initiative was known as the Federal Open Data mandate. Continue reading…

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“This Book Could Have Been a Long Magazine Article”

A claim leveled against business books sometimes is that the book repeats the same concept over and over again and could have been better served as a long magazine article.

And indeed many books start out as long magazine articles. Hoffman, Yeh, & Casnocha published a 4.5k word article: “Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee Contract” in Harvard Business Review in June of 2013. A little over a year later, the 224 page book, The Alliance (my reading notes on that), was published. The article lays out the primary ideas behind the book:

  1. Engage employees on a “tour of duty” basis
  2. Support, and even fund the development of your employee’s networks
  3. Foster alumni networks for former employees

The same thing is true for Amabile & Kramer’s Progress Principle: HBR Article (2011) and Book (2013). So what’s the need for the book then if you can “just” read the magazine article? Heres why:

The goal of a book is not to inform, it is to persuade.

Because a book is longer, you are spending more time thinking about the idea. Because a book is physical (most of the time) you see it on your table, on your shelf. Maybe people ask you about it. As you go through example after example and additional data points around the ideas, you start to notice how those ideas fit into your world and you start imagining how you might implement those ideas in your life.

That’s why book summaries and even magazine articles are good if you want to “get the gist” of it. But the value of an idea is not in knowing it, but in acting on it. Books are more likely to drive action.

[1] Props to Seth Godin because I’m almost positive I got this idea from him somewhere, even though I couldn’t find it while doing research for this article