New Power

Book Review: New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms

New Power was written in 2017, but today it is even more actual than ever. It is clear that power – the ability to produce intended effects – can be obtained via different strategies. The modern technologies made possible to create the new strategies built on new principles. Crowdfunding, participation, shared responsibility – this is new power.

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

Heimans, Jeremy; Timms, Henry. New Power (p. 2)

The book analyzes multiple organizations, social movements and companies that use new power to achieve various results and solve different challenges. Create social movement (GetUP in Australia), spread ideas on scale (TED), rally people for the political campaign (Barack Obama) or get funding (BrewDog). It is very interesting to find patterns in behavior of so unlike entities.

The big part of the book is about building a crowd. A crowd that will not simply consume product/information/content but actively participate in a community and help to develop it. To measure it, the authors introduce “Participation Scale” and it is very much aligned with another book I read earlier this year.

New power is not only about methods, but about values as well. The book introduces another dimension that allows to create the mapping below:

The most practical part of the book for me was Chapter 9: Leadership and Chapter 11: New Power at Work. Younger generations, who grew together with the rise of disruptive Internet-based technologies have different values and expectations from the workplace. They (or maybe I should say “we” as I belong to the same group of people) are looking for more recognition, more feedback, more participation in decision making process. And most importantly, they see employer – employee social contract differently – there is no decade long commitment and loyalty. Is it good or not is another question, but companies have to adopt. And it is encouraging to see how Amazon’s policies and tools actually aligned with new power values and values.

For me, as a people manager, is very important to find the way how to give the power to my team, how to give “founder feeling” and how to create mutually beneficial relations between the company and an employee of a hyperconnected age. So, there are number of practices that I will implement at my work.

I highly recommend this book to everybody as it cover both philosophical and practical aspects of a new power world.


Th Oz Principle

Book review: The Oz Principle by R. Connors, T. Smith and C. Hickman

If you are in program or project management, you definitely familiar with RACI matrix. Probably, the most confusing part of it is the difference between Accountable and Responsible. The picture below I took from the book and it visualize this difference nicely.

The one may be directly responsible for a specific scope, but true accountability spreads beyond immediate tasks and covers a wider area.

Accountability and Responsibility

Why it is important? Because at any company things “fell between the cracks” because people let them fell between cracks because they don’t want to take accountability for that. So, it does not really matter how many head counts are assigned to the task, there always be missed deliverables. There always be blame assignment to other departments, customers, ineffective tools or processes Unless everybody feels accountable.

This resonates very well with Amazon Leadership Principle – Ownership: “Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.

The Oz Principle book defines a framework which an individual or an organization can utilize to detect that they fell “below the bar”, accept accountability for that and start a process of exiting downward spiral. The book defines four steps in the framework.

See It

Everything starts with accepting the reality. If there is a problem, denial is not a solution. The book does not give any magical instruments here – ask and listen to a feedback, actively work towards better understanding of a problem, acknowledge the reality, accept coaching from others.

I believe that deep inside everyone knows if they are below or above the line. So See It is not about knowledge but about courage to accept the reality.

Own It

Accept accountability for results and actions that led to the problem or current state of things. The book provides an interesting list of questions that helps to swallow a pill of accountability:

  1. Can you cite the most convincing point of the “other side of the story” that “they” are telling?
  2. If you wished to warn someone in similar circumstances not to make the same mistakes, what would you tell them?
  3. What facts did you choose to ignore?
  4. What facts should you add to the story that you have left out?
  5. What would you do differently if you faced this situation again?
Solve It

There is always somebody in a team who Sees all the problems and even may be Owns them but still does not move an inch towards resolution. The book suggest ask yourself triggering questions, like “Do you stay engaged in solving a problem when things get difficult?”, “Do you try to discover new ways of thinking about problems?”. There is always an easier way to “quit and stay” and wait until somebody will step in. But will it help in a long run?

For me the best part of the book is simple idea to ask yourself and your team – What else can we do to rise above our circumstances and get results we want?

Do It

Well, Do It is actually about doing it. Stay above the bar for a long time, review selected course of actions and progress step by step. There is a gravitational pull from below the bar that you have to resist. And you failed to resist, then recognize it quickly enough to raise the bar again.

Overall, 4 out of 5 book. The ideas described in it are not new and some parts of the book are outdated, but it is still a solid summary how to drive accountability for yourself and organization.

Check out my other book reviews.


Amazon Interviews

Amazon interviews “Yes, but…” insights

Recently, I have crossed the mark of 150 completed interviews at Amazon. Taking my tenure into the account, I have interviewed one candidate every 4 days. It may look like a high number, but I am still learning what does it mean to be a “professional interviewer”. I am passionate about the subject, so I want to share some of the insights. So, this will be a first post of its kind.

Today’s topic – preparation for an interview at Amazon.

What is common among the candidates who received an offer from Amazon? They took time to prepare for the interview, but there are some nuances you should be aware of:

  • Be prepared, but not overdo it. It is very clear for the interviewer, especially tenured one, when a candidate is prepared. But is also very clear when the candidate overdid that. When a candidate answers looks like a script, it breaks a natural flow of a conversation and may give a weird impression.
  • Know Amazon leadership principles, but do not try to memorize them. Nobody will ask you to name Amazon Leadership Principles during your interview, so an attempt to remember them all is a waste of time. Amazon interviewers assess your previous experience, complexity of situations you dealt with and scale of your impact.
  • Prepare to ask questions, but only relevant ones. There are no additional scores for the question “What is your favorite Amazon Leadership Principle?”. Ask something that you genuinely interested in – a team structure, a working from home policy, key objectives for the role you applied and etc.
  • Carefully read emails from a recruiter, but do your own research. There is a reason why recruiters send you information before the interview. And this information is important, do not ignore it. But it should not be your single source of truth.
  • Collect data points for your examples, but only those you can explain. Amazon is a truly data-driven company, so are Amazon interviewers. But if a candidate cannot explain context of the data or how it was measured/collected, it does not give additional scores to the candidate.

If you are interested in the role of Technical Account Manager, check out my other post.


Multipliers

Book Review: Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Years ago, at the beginning of my career, I learned a simple but powerful idea – people come to work for a leader, not for a company. Talent development and retention is one of the most difficult parts of a people manager’s job. So, how do you “multiply” intelligence of your team?

Even if a company fully equipped with learning materials and encourages employees to develop themselves, if will not going to happen on a large scale without a leader who possesses right skills to help people to grow. But what are those skills? And how to measure them?

A one way to measure these skills is to check if people around a leader become smarter over time or they stall in professional development and degrade? The book uses this specific metric to group leaders into two categories “Multipliers” and “Diminishers”. And it makes a lot of sense – if people grow around a leader, they can contribute more and willing to do it. The book calls it “Multiplier Effect”. And vice versa, if people don’t grow, they will give less and less. They will “quit and stay”, as the author nicely put it.

5 chapters of the book analyze patterns and anti-patters of behavior that help a reader to identify are they a “Multiplier” or a “Diminisher”.

  • Talent Magnet vs Empire Builder
  • Liberator vs Tyrant
  • Challenger vs Know-It-All
  • Debate Maker vs Decision Maker
  • Investor vs Micromanager

The book describes how patterns above influence people productivity and collective intelligence . This part has helped to see my own flaws as a manager and a leader.

One interesting idea described in the Chapter 1 is “The Logic of Addition”. And I think, may organizations and individuals operate exactly as the book describes it:

Operational leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argue:

1. Our people are overworked.

2. Our best people are the most maxed out.

3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources.

Wiseman, Liz; McKeown, Greg. Multipliers (p. 14).

If this logic applies in a growing market, it may work for a long time. But, inevitably, an organization will face a problem that cannot be solved by throwing in more bodies. And what to do when it happens? Increase productivity of an organization by getting more from its people. It is an obvious conclusion that is very difficult to implement in practice. First of all, why people should care about giving more?

The book gives perspective and recommendations how to run a team in a way that people will want to contribute more and will do it voluntarily. Out of all recommendations, one was specifically interesting for me – “Work The Extremes”. The research done by the authors showed it is not necessary have strengths in all Multiplier dimensions. The one can be great in one or two. What is important that there are no obvious weaknesses. I will use this idea in my development plans.

Overall, a great book – 5 out of 5. If you are a people manager, I highly recommend you to read it.


Check out my other book reviews!

Book Review: Genkhis Khan

Book Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

When I visited Mongolia for the first time back in 2013, the main airport of the country still had was called Genghis Khan International airport. It was renamed in 2020, but not because the founder of Mongolian Empire lost his importance for Mongolian people.

23 July, 2013 – my first trip to Mongolia

I believe every European at least heard about Genghis Khan and Mongolia but has very vague understanding how many things in the modern world exist because of them.

Adoption of Arabic numerical system, Forbidden Palace in Beijing, Silk Route – the list is very long. However, in collective knowledge, Genghis Khan is primarily associated with cities destructions and war atrocities (that also had a place without a doubt).

I have recently finished a book – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It give truly fascinating and amazing story of a rise and fall of Mongolian Empire and its founder. The book provides very detailed overview of Genghis Khan life and path to power and gives insights how ideas and beliefs of a nomadic tribe leader influenced half of the planet population.

Roughly half of the book is telling a reader story how Mongolian empire lived after the great warrior passed away. And why Mongolian expansion stopped – apparently, it is more related to climate conditions than anything else.

The most interesting part of the book is how Mongolian innovations spread across national and religion boundaries. Connecting West and East, they were able to build global economy, proto-globalization, in some sense. It is amazing to see how many modern world features can be traced back to Genghis Khan and his followers.

Overall, it is a great book for anybody who is interested in history and Mongolian culture.

5 out of 5.


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Linkmeup podcast: Again about 5G

I had a great opportunity to join as a speaker at Linkmeup podcast. This time we are talking about 5G radio network, its architecture and what is happening on the 5G market around the globe.

https://linkmeup.ru/podcasts/2116/


The Invincible Company

Book Review: The Invincible Company

The Invincible company was a first book that I could not open with my Kindle Paperwhite. The reason is that it is written as a visual story with a lot of graphical elements, diagrams and tables. It is a new format for me, but I have enjoyed it.

Strategyzer is a company that develops Innovation Software Management products, runs trainings and writes books about strategy, innovation and business models. I came across their most well-known book The Invincible Company because I like core idea they convey:

“Innovation is not a magic that happens by itself. It is a craft that can be analyzed and taught”

The other question how you do this and what patterns you should adopt and avoid.

What is in the book?

The Invincible Company book consists of four major pieces:

  • Business Model Portfolio. A great tool that guides a reader how to analyze existing products portfolio and what actions to take for both Explore (aka Innovation) and Exploit (aka mature products) parts of the portfolio. This is an interesting exercise that I tried to apply for AWS Support products – the line of business I am currently managing myself.
  • Portfolio Management – how to manage Explore and Exploit portfolios. This part was very interesting for me because it provides a workflow to design, test, scale and retire business ideas and models. Here you will find also has number of case studies where companies were able to successfully manage innovation process or transform themselves to avoid disruption. For example, Fujifilm had the same business model as Kodak but it survived photo industry digitalization and re-invented itself. Why and how? The book explains it.
  • Invent Pattern Library. Collection of patterns from successful companies. How they explored new markets, how they created new value propositions, how they found new revenue streams or changed cost structure. Every pattern has associated case study, assessment and trigger questions for leaders. These questions help to build a scorecard for existing portfolio and be a conversation starter to initiate a change.
  • Improve Pattern Library. Also a collection of patterns but related to business model shifts – “From Product to Recurring Service”, “From Low Touch to High Touch” and etc. What different companies did to improve their business models and how did they do it. The most interesting case study for me was TED – TED transformed from an invite-only, niche conference to a mass, online destination for the intellectually curious. Again, for every pattern there is a conversation starter – “strategic reflection”.

A combination of appealing graphical design, a lot of case studies and trigger questions make this book an excellent source of insights. I highly recommend it for everybody who is doing portfolio management or involved in any innovation processes creation or management.

5 out of 5.


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Atomic Habits

Book Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Every company is trying to build processes with predictable outcomes. Every company is trying to automate as much as possible routine operations. Why? There are multiple reasons, for sure. But one of the most obvious ones is – to save time and resources for innovation and expanding a business.

Habits play the same role in human life as processes and mechanisms play in a life of a company. We have a limited amount of mental energy, our attention span is short and we are distracted easily. All of us need a system that will efficiently maintain daily routines and help us move forward without visible conscious effort. It is not possible to focus and progress in ten different things simultaneously.

The cornerstone of such system is habits. There are two types of habits – those that make us better and efficient every day and those that hurt and degrade us with time. Let’s call them efficient and inefficient for simplicity. Why does it matter? A simple mathematical equation below gives the answer.

0.99^365 = 0.0255

1.01^365 = 37.783

Do 1% less every day for a year and you will degrade significantly. Do 1% more every day for a year and you will thrive. Progressive overload is a great example.

However, it is difficult to adopt new efficient habits and get rid of inefficient ones. I believe everyone had experience this challenge in some point of time. This is where the book Atomic Habits by James Clear comes to help. It provides exceptionally clear recommendations how to implement habits and break them. The book gives The 4 Laws:

  • The 1st Law: Make It Obvious
  • The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive
  • The 3rd Law: Make It Easy
  • The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

How to create a good habit

It looks very easy and straightforward but I know from my personal experience that it is way more difficult to implement in reality. A couple of years ago I have read another excellent book – Pragmatic Thinking by Andy Hunt. I have implemented some of them and they stuck with me while others were abandoned over time. Now I understand why and how to fix it.

Somebody may ask, well, I have my goals. Isn’t it enough? I would like to quote the view of the author:

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Clear, James. Atomic Habits (p. 27). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I highly recommend Atomic Habits book to everyone.


Social Architecture

Book Review: Building On-line Communities by Pieter Hintjens

As of November 2021 there are 28 million public repositories at GitHub. Internet literally runs on open source software. After recent log4j drama there were a lot of debates (here is a very good example) about how critical parts of modern IT world are maintained by online communities and how it can be improved.

So, I asked myself a question – how exactly you can build a thriving open source project and create community around to support and maintain it? I came across the book Social Architecture by Pieter Hintjens (a founder of ZeroMQ project) gives his view on processes and guidelines how to successfully achieve such goal.

The book starts with definition and description of 20 key ideas or tools that online community should have to be successful in the long term. Transparency, decentralization, strong mission and non-tribalism are among others.

After that book moves to explaining the idea that innovation is not done by a small group of people but rather it comes from a well-defined process:

The innovative nature of the Internet comes not from a small, select band of Einsteins. It comes from RFCs anyone can use and improve, made by hundreds and thousands of smart, though not uniquely smart, individuals. It comes from open source software that anyone can use and improve. It comes from sharing, remixing, and scale of community. It comes from the continuous accretion of good solutions, and the disposal of bad ones.

Hintjens, Pieter. Social Architecture: Building On-line Communities (p. 38). Pieter Hintjens.

Basically, the book states that well-defined protocols how community members interact with each other is a mandatory pre-requisite for Collective Intelligence and, as outcome, successful open source product.

The author explains what types of licensing exist today and what are the pros and cons for each type. Other practical explanations about watermarks and how to register them are also in place.

The second half of the book describes how ZeroMQ community has been built and operates today. The most interesting part for me was dive deep into Collective Code Construction Contract (C4) that describes in RFC-like format how community should build, distribute and maintain open source software.

One more refreshing idea that I found in the book is that ZeroMQ community does not use roadmaps and do not release features. They use Simplicity Oriented Design and see a product as an endless chain of patches stack one on top of another. Every patch represents the most simple solution to a very specific problem. This idea, probably, not new but allows to look differently on traditional approach with long roadmaps and constant prioritization of engineering resources.

Overall, the book has number of interesting ideas and real life examples. 4.5 out of 5.


Have a look on my other book reviews!

Levers of Influence

Levers of Influence. Why do we comply?

Humanity social systems can exist because people can collaborate and align on common goals. Without our abilities to influence each other and comply to each others requests our civilization simply would not survive. It is not very important how exactly our ancestors evolved those abilities, probably, being social and collaborative gave significant advantage in Stone Age times. What is important – is to learn what exactly makes us comply. And why?

For sure, we are influenced by facts and rational explanations, but behavioral economics and great book Thinking Fast and Slow prove that people are irrational. There are other factors or levers that significantly impact our judgment and readiness to agree.

I have finished recently a book “Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion”. This book has detailed analysis of main behavioral models (we can call them biases as well) that force us to comply. These biases trigger embedded mechanisms in our brain – skip critical thinking part and jump directly to conclusions and actions. Click and run. Let’s dive deeper into them.

Reciprocation

If somebody gives us something, we feel urge to give something back. Favor, gift or our compliance with the next request. There is a deep psychological connection between reciprocity, gratitude and life satisfaction – we feel better when we are participating in exchange of goods and favors. We use this mechanism to influence others decisions and make others feel “much obliged”.

In Japan, normally people say “arigato gozaimasu,”  meaning “thank you”. However, people also say “sumimasen” when they want to express their appreciation or a feeling of regret, guilt, or another negative emotion. For example, when they receive unexpected gift or favor from others.

Practical implementations of reciprocation lever are everywhere. Free samples of products, small gifts after first purchase or a small concession made by one of the parties in negotiation process.

Liking

There is famous quote: “People buy from those who they like”. It is a golden rule for every salesperson – in the situation where competing products price and features are the same, people buy from whom they like more. Even if they know that it is just a compliance strategy.

But liking is a vague term. If we will try to decompose it, then we will see that we like people who:

  • Similar to us
  • Give us compliments
  • Easy to contact and ready to cooperate with us.

That is pretty simple to use in real life. Focus on commonalities rather than differences. Show others that you appreciate them and their actions. Be a “go-to-person” who is ready to work on a shared goal.

Liking is the reason why brands go to influencers for advertisements. Because thousands of people like them and inevitably extend their likeness to a brand too.

Social Proof

When I go to a new restaurant, I often ask for the most famous meal in the menu. Collective experience of other visitors cannot be wrong. The same logic applies to product reviews and ratings. We view an action as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Social proof lever is especially efficient in ambiguous situations. The more unknown environment we are at, the more we rely on others behaviour. I think this is the reason why in a new city I trust reviews at Google Maps completely and blindly.

So, if you need help, don’t rely on others reaction unless it is clear for them that there is an emergency. A lot of us witnessed situation when a person lies on the ground and people demonstrate zero actions to help the person. Why? Situation is ambiguous and everybody rely on each other reaction. And nobody takes a first step.

Another tip I learned – if you are delivering a webinar and want audience to ask questions, you have to break the ice yourself first. Come up with a couple of artificial questions, read them loud and give an answer. Social proof will do the rest for you.

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