I like to keep an eye out for books that provide ideas for my clients and for me. Below are some suggestions for holiday reading.
Is anyone else a compulsive highlighter of books? I was so excited years ago when I discovered that you could highlight text in e-books, because I had been using highlighters on paper books for years. Some people don’t like to highlight but for me it allows me to go back through a book at any time and see very quickly the points that resonated with me and /or that I was keen to remember. Sometimes I also write a summary of a book I have read. A chapter by chapter summary which provides me with an easy to read summary from my perspective.
The Future of the Professions – Richard and Daniel Susskind
This was written in 2015 by a father and son team. I wrote a review of it in November 2016 which you can see here: https://planetconsulting.com.au/book-reviews/book-review-the-future-of-the-professions-how-technology-will-transform-the-work-of-human-experts/
It is not an easy read but it does provide a well-considered view of what might happen to the professions. Here is a quote from their final chapter:
“In relation to our current professions, we argue that the professions will undergo two parallel sets of changes. The first will be dominated by automation. Traditional ways of working will be streamlined and optimized through the application of technology. The second will be dominated by innovation. Increasingly capable systems will transform the work of professionals, giving birth to new ways of sharing practical expertise. In the long run this second future will prevail, and our professions will be dismantled incrementally……..For the professions, there is no way of softening the blow. Decades from now, today’s professions will play a much less prominent role in society.”
If you are serious about understanding possible scenarios for our profession then this is essential reading.
Deep Work Cal Newport
You can see my very brief review of this book here:
The by-line in the book title, Rules for focused success in a distracted world, gives some clues as to what this about. It is basically about how we can stay focused and get important stuff done in a world which is increasingly throwing a multitude of distractions at us. This is a relatively easy read and well worth your time.
How to Have a Good Day – Caroline Webb
I draw on quite a bit of material from this book in my Manager Development Program , particularly for the Managing yourself and your priorities to be effective module. Webb weaves together a mixture of science, practical examples and real world stories to provide lots of useful ideas for how to have a good day. I find it interesting that she doesn’t say a “great” day. She is not trying to hype things up. Rather she is trying to explain some ideas that science has proven and which can be built into our day to day work routines. Another very worthwhile read. Not super hard but not an easy read.
Webb has a diagram that summarises the approach described in the book, which says:
FIRST OF ALL:
- PRIORITIES – Set intentional direction for your day
- PRODUCTIVITY – Make the hours in the day go further
THEN IN EVERY TASK:
- RELATIONSHIPS – Make the most of every interaction
- THINKING – Be your smartest, wisest, most creative self
- INFLUENCE – Maximise the impact of all you say and do
THROUGHOUT THE DAY:
- RESILIENCE – Sail through set backs and annoyances
- ENERGY – Boost your enthusiasm and enjoyment
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
This book by a medical doctor / surgeon was first published in 2010 and not surprisingly has a number of medical related stories in it. But there is much more to it than that……
Gawande notes in the introduction that he has spent much time pondering the concept of human fallibility. There are many situations where as humans we seem to have understanding and control of what is to be done and yet we fail. He identifies two reasons for this failure:
- Ignorance – perhaps because we have only a partial understanding or knowledge
- Ineptitude – because we fail to apply our knowledge correctly
“the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.
That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy – though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies.
It is a checklist”
The rest of the book takes us on a journey to show how the idea of checklists came about and how much of a difference it made in the medical and other fields. I found it a fascinating read but then I do love a good checklist! In my experience checklists and structured procedures are undervalued in accounting firms. The Checklist Manifesto is an interesting read and one which may give you renewed enthusiasm for a more rigorous implementation of agreed and documented best practice processes in your firm.
Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time -Brian Tracy
This is great book can be read in about two hours. Brian Tracy is not particularly well known in Australia but is a pretty big name in the USA where he is considered a leading authority on human potential and personal effectiveness.
Tracy quite rightly says that “if you are like most people today, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time.” He then adds that “you will never be able to do everything you have to do. You will never be caught up. You will always be behind in some of your tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them.”
Some may feel this is a depressing statement but I think it can be seen as liberating. His view is that successful people use their time more wisely than unsuccessful people and that in particular a successful person has the ability to concentrate on his or her most important task, to do it well and finish it, rather than jumping from one task to another and potentially not finishing any of them.
How do you decide what the most important task is? Well, Tracy’s first of the 21 “great ways” partly answers this because it is about setting goals. “..the number one reason why some people get more work done faster is because they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives, and they don’t deviate from them.”
I’ll let you read the book to find out what the frog reference is about.
The book has some really good tips and is definitely worth a read.
Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
This was originally published in 1984 and I read the Kindle version which is an updated edition from 2009. Don’t let these dates put you off. To quote Amazon:
“Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.”
“You’ll learn the six universal principles, how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and how to defend yourself against them. Perfect for people in all walks of life, the principles of Influence will move you toward profound personal change and act as a driving force for your success.”
The six “universal principles” discussed in the book are:
- Commitment and consistency
- Social proof
Some of these might ring bells for you if you have been exposed to marketing and sales training. Cialdini provides a good explanation of each of the six principles providing real world examples and explaining why each works. This is a most fascinating read and one that should be compulsory for everyone in business. It will take you between five and six hours to get through it and then, if you are like me, you will want to go back through it.
The E-Myth Revisited -Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael Gerber
The original book called The E-Myth from Michael Gerber was a huge hit and made him famous (and quite possibly rich!) He wrote this updated version 15 years after the original.
It will take four to five hours to read this book and I believe that will be time well invested. In essence it is a great book up on how to set up and run a business. Gerber places great emphasis on getting really clear on what you want from your business and on the application of systems to everything. Doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary, and in one sense it is not. But if you are an accounting firm owner and apply the thinking in this book I believe you will have a much better accounting firm. I hold the view that many accounting firm owners undervalue systems and structure in their firms. If you are such a person read this and tell me whether your view has changed.