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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oblivion Special Release

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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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