Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Road to Reinvention

The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate TransformationThe Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from 12 Books in exchange for this review.

Reinvention. It sounds like one of those business buzzwords, like reengineering, downsizing, rightsizing, and so many others. What is reinvention? According to the author, it's the process of re-doing everything, in some cases starting over, and building something new. It's either this or die.

A lot of what he says has been said elsewhere. The 8 principles he lists are these:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Encourage courage.
3. Embrace failure.
4. Do the opposite.
5. Imagine the possibilities.
6. Put yourself out of business.
7. Reject limits.
8. Aim beyond.

He uses the standard technique of showing companies that have done this, and have gone on to great success. He focuses on small companies, since they don't have a lot of the issues that larger companies do. He also focuses on Detroit, where he's based. Detroit has had a lot of problems over the last several decades, from white flight, to the 1967 riots, to the decline of the auto industry, to ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who treated the city treasury like his own personal piggy bank, to eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2013. He believes Detroit is coming back. We shall see.

One flaw in the book is that he doesn't address some negative issues on reinvention. He mentions the controversy with Lululemon and the see-through yoga pants. He uses this as an example of how a crisis can be uniquely averted. What he doesn't address is that the fallout from this caused their Chief Product Officer, Sherree Watson, and their CEO, Christine Day, to leave the company. He also doesn't mention a TV interview in which Chip Wilson, the founder of the company, blamed the customers for the problem. He later apologized for these remarks, but left the company less than a month later.

He also praises Wayne Huizenga, founder of Blockbuster, as an innovator, but fails to mention that Blockbuster no longer exists, mainly because of lack of reinvention. At one time, Blockbuster was the #1 video retailer in the US. They bought most of their movies for $80-90 per tape, and had a 3-6 month exclusive before the price dropped to $20 for sale. Then they got blindsided. First, it was the introduction of DVDs in the mid-1990s, which upset the price structure. DVDs came out priced to sell at $20 right away, which ended Blockbuster's exclusive window. In an interview in a video magazine, Wayne Huizenga said that he wanted the old pricing structure back. Then, Blockbuster got blindsided by Netflix. Netflix offered videos by mail, with no late fees (which made for very unhappy customers). Blockbuster tried its own mail service, but felt like a "me-too" approach, instead of innovation. They also revised their late-fee policy, but had to revise their advertising after complaints from the New Jersey Attorney General's office. Finally, Dish Network bought Blockbuster, but couldn't turn it around, so it folded. I believe streaming video from Netflix drove the last nail into the coffin. I bring Lululemon and Blockbuster up because this information should have been in the book. Reinvention needs to be an ongoing process, not "one-and-done". It also helps if you don't blame your customers for your problems.

Aside from this, the author does lay out a compelling case for reinvention. It's something companies can follow to be successful, but it won't be perfect. For every company mentioned in the book that became successful, there are many others who took these steps and didn't make it. With those cautions, it's a good book.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will A Rival's Better Quality UI Suddenly Destroy Your Business?

Will a Rival's Better Quality UI Suddenly Destroy Your Business?Will a Rival's Better Quality UI Suddenly Destroy Your Business? by Doug Lescoe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

User Interfaces (UI) can be frustrating, or they can be helpful. I still remember the days of DOS commands, trying to remember what to type in. Then Apple came out with Macintosh, and later, Microsoft with Windows, and things got easier. UIs also encompass more than computers. How many of you have called customer support, only to get this message: "Thank you for calling [company name]. For [this department], press 1. For [next department], press 2." When you finally push a button, you hear, "All of our representatives are currently assisting other callers. Please wait for the next available customer service representative." [Cue elevator music.] Then, about 20 minutes later, when someone answers, you get put on hold again, with more elevator music. "This call may monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes." Really? Then why hasn't the process improved any? This is an example of bad UI.

In this very short book, the author lays out reasons why UI is so bad, and why people accept it. UI is traditionally programmed by computer programmers, who don't usually worry about customers. (I learned that in the early days of computers, especially with DOS commands.) Customers put up with it because they believe that's the way it is. It doesn't have to be that way. Personally, I understand poor UI if it's a beta test, and they're trying to get customer input on how to improvement. For too many companies, however, the beta test doesn't end. This can be a problem. If no improvements are made, customers may eventually leave for a competitor. One of the biggest suggestions the author makes is to get programmers and marketers together to work on the problem. The one area that can be a problem is government. Unlike private companies, you can't just go elsewhere if you're dissatisfied.
All in all, a good little book. I wish more companies would listen. I'm still waiting for the phone interface to get better. [Cue elevator music.]

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Learning to Swim When You're Scared

Learning to Swim When You're Scared: How to Overcome a Fear of WaterLearning to Swim When You're Scared: How to Overcome a Fear of Water by Katie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for this review.

I took swimming lessons when I was in grade school. It wasn't always fun. I learned some basics, like how to swim, and how to float, but I knew I would never be the next Mark Spitz (or, for readers who don't remember that long ago, Michael Phelps. I'm glad I do know how to swim, though. It may come in handy some day.

That was my thought reading this book. It's a very short book, but it contains a lot of information. It's designed for adults who, unlike me, have never been swimming, or are afraid of the water. There are some basic exercises on how to get used to submerging your head, and how to float. It also goes over some basic reasons for being afraid of the water, and how to start to overcome them. The author does recommend professional help if the basics don't work.

The book doesn't have a lot of story information, but it wasn't designed for that. It takes a very no-nonsense approach to swimming, and reinforces the fact that anyone can do it. She also says many times during the book, don't worry about how you look, or how other people perceive you. If they have a problem, it's their problem not yours. I like that. She also has a section on what to look for in a swim instructor. All in all, a good book. So, to quote Dory from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming."

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Siren's Treasure

Siren's TreasureSiren's Treasure by Debbie Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

Book 2 of the siren series from Debbie Herbert. In Siren's Secret, book 1 of the series, we met Shelly, Jet, and Lily, mermaids who live in Alabama. The focus of book 1 was Shelly, and her relationship with Tillman, the local sheriff. Book 2 focuses on Jet. Jet never really fit in. As the book starts, she wins the Undines' Challenge, a mermaid competition. No one really pays her any attention, instead focusing on her sister Lily who has the siren's voice. As part of her win, she receives a trident that will give her one wish, which she will use to ask her mother why she is shunned by the mermaid community. When she gets back to Alabama, she has to meet with an IRS agent, Landry Fields. Supposedly, this is routine tax matter regarding her salvage company. She soon falls for him. (I'm not giving away anything that's not in the first part of the book.) Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend, Perry, just got out of jail, and is looking for her to help with an excavation financed by a South American drug dealer named Sebastian Vargas. I won't say any more, but there are a lot of plot twists and turns.

I read book 1 of the series, so I knew part of the story going in. I also knew Debbie Herbert's writing style. As usual, it was excellent. You knew Landry and Jet would fall for each other (this is a Harlequin novel, after all), but the way they do it kept me intrigued. Also, the other plotlines helped move the story along. We learn a lot about Jet's family, and why they shun her. That actually happens in the middle of the book. A lot of authors would have put it as an epilogue. I like the action (non-sexual) part of the book. These mermaids can fight. In the end, there is a setup for book 3, which the author has indicated will be focused on Lily. I look forward to it.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Way of the Seal

The Way of SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Succeed and Lead in LifeThe Way of SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Succeed and Lead in Life by Mark Divine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the 12 Books Group in exchange for this review.

The way of the SEAL. The Navy SEALs have been an elite force for the Navy for some time now. Their most famous mission was SEAL Team 6 killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Author Mark Divine is a retired Navy SEAL, who runs SEALFIT, NavySEALS.com, and started US Crossfit. In this book, he summarizes what he's learned as a SEAL, and how it can be adapted to everyday life.

He establishes 8 principles: Establish Your Set Point, Develop Front-Sight Focus, Bulletproof Your Mission, Do Today What Others Won't, Forge Mental Toughness, Break Things, Build Your Intuition, Think Offense All the Time. He emphasizes 5 areas: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Intuition, and Spirit. (Physical is a book by itself.) He includes exercises to help reinforce these principles. I haven't done the exercises yet. I wanted to read the book through once to see what it is.

Many of the principles in this book have been written about elsewhere. Go into B&N and look at the self-help or management sections, and you'll see all kinds of books on these topics. I recognized some of this book from a section of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. The question on this is how to make the material effective for your life. It helps that he walked the walk, as they say. This isn't just platitudes from someone who pretends to know what to do. I believe these can be effective, if done properly. The challenge with books like this isn't knowing what to do, it's actually doing it. Some books like this are thinly veiled commercials to sell other programs. To his credit, the author doesn't promote these too hard. Doing the exercises in the book will help. The author recommends getting help from local coaches or programs that could help.

The one issue I do have with the book is the same I have with a lot of other books like this. It doesn't recognize limitations, and there are some. For example, I'm 50 years old, have foot problems, and had heart bypass surgery 3 years ago. I will not play in the NFL, regardless of hotw well I improve myself. I also there are other things I will not be able to do. It would be better if it recognized this. All in all, though, a good book.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

2094

20942094 by John Lauricella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

This book imagines life in 2094, 80 years from now. To give some perspective, go back 80 years from now, to 1934. In the US in 1934, phones were hardwired to the wall, radio and movies were the main form of entertainment, TV was still in the experimental stage, airlines were in their infancy, the main form of cross-country transportation was by rail, most cars didn't have radios, and about 99% of what is shown on cable now would have been declared obscene. Also, Jim Crow was still in effect, and the n-word was used in polite conversation. If you had written a book back then predicting a phone you could carry with you that connected to a large computer network, regular airline service and a superhighway system that would outpace trains as a means of cross-country travel, TVs that were over 10 feet wide that showed over 1000 channels, cars with TV screens in the back, and any other technology we have now, your work would at best be dismissed as science fiction, or at worst the work of a lunatic.

That was my thought while I was reading this book. Would it be possible to live in this world? It becomes clear, however, that all is not perfect in this world. In the combined North America and Europe, life is a paradise. Anatomically correct androids that can change appearance to anyone you want, TV is on a giant wall operated by a chip in your brain, and anything else you want. However, in Mexico, separated by earthquake from the US, toxic waste is routinely dumped, and anyone not taken for service elsewhere is reduced to subsistence living. Guantanamo Bay prison is still open, with descendants of the original prisoners. On Mars, scientists run an Earthstation, and see Earth only as a source of labor and raw materials.

There are shades of Orwell's 1984 in the book. There is a bit of irony here, because J Melmoth thinks that his world would write 1984 off as improbable fiction. The same chips that give you control of the TV can also be used to control you. The androids are malfunctioning, and J Melmoth is questioning what he's been told recently. Prisoners refuse to work, and Mexicans are swept up to Mars for manual labor.

This book bounces around between plots. It was hard at first to see how they connected to each other. Even at the end, you could see some connection, but not total connection. It continues a trend in current literature, which is present tense. It's a look at a dystopian future. I hope in 80 years not all of this comes true.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September $229 Kindle Fire giveaway

September $229 Giveaway

229 giveaway   It’s time for September’s $229 Kindle Giveaway Hosted by I Am A Reader. We are giving away 2 great prizes both valued at $229. Winner’s choice of a Kindle Fire HDX or $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 Paypal Cash!   The first prize is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to those share this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter the 2nd giveaway in the rafflecopter.  

Win a Kindle Fire HDX 7", Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)
  Or $229 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)
  Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)
Each of these bloggers/authors paid to help sponsor this giveaway.   Sponsor List I Am A Reader Feed Your Reader A & E Kirk, Author Inspired Kathy Lori's Reading Corner Talia Jager, Author Mother Daughter Book Reviews Krysten Lindsay Hager Every Free Chance Books Romance Under Fire I Love to Read and Review Books :) Christine's Blog Elizabeth Isaacs Author Kimber Leigh Wheaton Pauline Creeden, Author Author - Cindy A Christiansen Mama Monkey Craftology MoreThanaReview My Devotional Thoughts Author Suzy Turner Jenn @ Bookreviewsandgiveaways Too-Clever Danielle @ Coffee and Characters Author D.E. Haggerty C Family of 6 Bella Street Weird Romance Bonnie Blythe's Pure Romance Sid Frost YA Author Fabio Bueno Read for your future Jennifer Laurens Author Laurie Here - Contemporary Fiction and MORE Reviews from a Bookworm Helen Smith (author) Author Deb Atwood Author Claudia Burgoa Start Publishing Elizabeth Isaacs True North Publishing Whiskey Creek Press Deanna Lynn Sletten, Author Luthando Coeur Bette Lee Crosby Against Idleness & Mischief (BOOKTUBE) BookBunnyPR Victoria Allred
Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Giveaway here: http://www.iamareader.com/category/kindle-giveaway-sign-ups   Giveaway Details 1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7" HDX (US Only - $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International). Ends 9/30/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway