“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

Why Being Real Matters

There’s a great article on TechCrunch by Danny Crichton called Startups and The Big Lie.

Crichton, who is a former colleague back in my days at The Stanford Daily, has a great line about how startups “run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia that is incredibly important to experimentation” and that entrepreneurs essentially have to lie a lot of the time about how things are going. Continue reading…


Take More Naps and Other Talent-Building Ideas

Five years ago, I stood in a bookstore for about an hour and read half of a wonderful book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyne. It had come out around the same time as a few other books in a similar vein of developing expertise and 10,000 hours etc but just grabbed me and didn’t let go.

Part of it was that Coyne went out into the field and visited “talent hotspots” that developed elite performers across many disciplines: soccer stars, violin prodigies, chess champions, etc. The stories he came back with are concrete, have a human element to them, and deeply resonate with my own experience. Continue reading…