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J

I enjoy learning and re-learning.

ratings
25
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4
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  • Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By John P. Kotter, Lorne A. Whitehead
    • Narrated By Tim Wheeler
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (97)
    Performance
    (56)
    Story
    (56)

    You believe in a good idea. You know it could make a crucial difference for you, your organization, your community. You present it, hoping for enthusiastic support. Instead, you get confounding questions, inane comments, and verbal bullets. Before you know what’s hit you, your idea is dead, shot down. It doesn’t have to be this way, say John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead. In Buy-In, they reveal how to protect good ideas and win the support needed to deliver valuable results.

    Kellie says: "Practical Application"
    "Brief, fascinating, memorable"
    Overall
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    WHAT IS THIS BOOK'S FOCUS?
    Leadership and change management, but also about anything having to do with getting, you guessed it, buy-in

    DID THIS BOOK CHANGE THE WAY I VIEW THE WORLD?
    Yes, it’s a great book. Not only is it worthwhile to read, but it’s engaging and easy to remember. I’d highly recommend it!

    John Kotter, one of the Harvard Business School scholars who has made his way into the mainstream by way of years of research and more than one HBS grad’s book recommendation, herein presents an entertaining and enlightening discussion of how to build and maintain buy-in.

    So when was the last time you had a good idea? Were you able to accomplish it by yourself? Most of the the ideas we have rely on input from others, whether at home, at work or with friends. How do you react to situations where people undermine your ideas? Character assassination? Rude… but effective. Death by delay? Ugh… and it works!

    The best (and worst) part of the book revolves around how it progresses. Kotter and Whitehead depart from the typical business school or management text by putting the reader in the role of the protagonist in a protracted negotiation. Congratulations: now every annoying, frustrating, undermining attack you can think of is presented in first-person!

    As with many other titles, I listened to this as an audiobook. This probably accentuated the “frustrating” aspect referenced above, but, WOW, it sticks! The emotional connection that’s made this way (see Brain Rules and probably Made to Stick) really cement the lessons in the mind. There really were some good psychological forces behind the book’s approach - that the “feeling of participation” follows principles of the case method is really no surprise: it’s part of the HBS model. That said, it works for anyone who might read the book… which is great, because anyone could learn something and stand to benefit from the investment.

    Given the way that the duo goes about sharing some of their prescriptive recommendations I would feel that I cheated the creativity of the book if I listed them all out. That said, this is a book about creating buy-in in an ethically-sound manner: no manipulation. For me, this was the icing on the cake, because I feel rooted in both the process and the purpose. Oh, and I remember it - I was in a staff meeting the other week and started laughing out loud because the character types discussed in the book are ABSOLUTELY real. So check it out!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By John J. Medina
    • Narrated By John J. Medina
    Overall
    (1613)
    Performance
    (913)
    Story
    (914)

    Most of us have no idea what's really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know - such as the brain's need for physical activity to work at its best. How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget - and so important to repeat new information? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

    Beenre says: "My favorite book for students."
    "If you can get over the narrator... the book rocks"
    Overall
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    WHAT IS THIS BOOK'S FOCUS?
    Neuroscience, biology, mental processes, memory, learning

    DID THIS BOOK CHANGE HOW I VIEW THE WORLD?
    Yes, though more in a "reminder" sort-of way than revolutionary changes. That said, there are some great resources available that this book helps make more accessible.

    Brain Rules was really interesting. The value is extended beyond the actual time reading, since all the actually interesting information is available for free on the Brain Rules website. I took a number of key bits out and am trying to make use of several aspects to both improve my own mental functioning and improve the training given at work.

    Medina, a molecular biologist, breaks out the book into twelve chapters, each of which is captured in a simple “brain rule”, the context for which is summarized at the end of each chapter. This format makes it easy to read (or listen to) each chapter at a time or go back and review certain aspects without much trouble. From a design perspective, this is a huge plus. The fact that there’s an accompanying website and that there is no necessarily linear design (though traveling through the rules in order helps) makes for an easy entrance into the “world of the mind”.

    That said, there weren’t any particularly revolutionary ideas. Almost everything stated was familiar, but the reason behind these rules were well worth reading (minus a couple of chapters that focused more on purported pre-history savannah habits than anything applicable today). That exercise improves mental capacity is both relatively well-known and, if you understand what cardio-vascular exercise does, intuitive. That we don’t pay attention to “boring things” seems hardly even worth noting (but the counter-arguments were very applicable to education or presentations).

    To be fair, this book is very easy to digest and, even if a reader/listener has never learned the basics of biology or the mind, accessible. Given the complexity of certain sections, this is a major coup. Medina makes it very clear at the start that his intent in writing the book is to drive further study of the brain and each of the rules in education, hospitals, the workplace: basically, everywhere. It seems his interest in spreading this research is driven by the implications of these rules, but he is very careful to say that they are more descriptive than prescriptive - they describe various aspects of the brain seen in studies, but are not yet well-studied enough to prescribe a given set of actions in response to a problem (at least, not with any way of evaluating the chances of success).

    I’m biased towards a few of these rules - conveniently, someone else already decided to put a SlideShare presentation together called “Brain Rules for Presenters” - it goes through Rule 1, Rule 4 and Rule 10. In this presentation (again, I do recommend reading the book, but this presentation is a great, tongue-in-cheek tool) three items are discussed: the importance of exercise, the issues we have in paying attention, and the importance of vision in maintaining that attention/retention.

    I believe most of us are sensitive to the fact that audio learning is not easy. In fact, my retention in listening to the audio book was pretty poor (it didn’t help that the narrator’s voice squeaked when he got excited - puberty strikes back?). That said, we also limit ourselves to providing audio or text only for numerous interactions each day: phone calls, emails and presentations can be overwhelming and difficult to recall. To-do lists? I’ve been trying to teach myself SketchNotes for just that purpose! (I ended up just buying the book… review to follow).

    So, with that obvious little gem out of the way, and the fact that pictures make a big difference (right around an additional 50%), I figured you all may want to check the book out. As I’ve been evaluating the ways to encourage innovation and creativity in my organization, I’ve realized just how “rote” and painful learning has become to most people. HOW DEPRESSING! That’s not how it’s supposed to be.

    I highly recommend checking out the Brain Rules site for videos and some audio. The book version that I listened to I would not recommend, if only because it was so irritating, but hopefully other elements of the site have a different narrator and are engaging. I haven’t spent a lot of time on it yet, but hope to incorporate elements of it into my work training, both to help people learn, inspire them to try new things and improve our presentations (for which we have a lot!).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Dan Heath, Chip Heath
    • Narrated By Charles Kahlenberg
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1557)
    Performance
    (686)
    Story
    (695)

    In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

    Jeremy says: "Even Better Than Made to Stick"
    "A fascinating framework for change"
    Overall
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    WHAT IS THIS BOOK'S FOCUS?
    Psychology, leadership, management and change are central focus areas.

    DID THIS BOOK CHANGE THE WAY I VIEW THE WORLD?
    Yes! This is the best book I’ve ever read on what I would term “applied behavioral economics”, as well as change-leadership or change-management. AWESOME BOOK!

    The beauty of Switch is the simplicity of its framework. Chip and Dan Heath, Stanford and Duke professors, respectively, quickly and efficiently argue that change is fundamentally influenced by three elements: rational, emotional and transitional. They help readers quickly identify with this description by focusing on a simple picture: an elephant rider.

    The Rider, in this case, represents the rational mind - he knows what is going on around him and is able to respond to external stimuli in a calm and clear manner in order to help the Elephant reach the intended destination. The phrase coined to refer to dealing with the rational mind in change situations is “Direct the Rider”, which speaks to a clear picture of how we would deal with a rational person on an elephant. More specifically, there are three mechanisms to accomplish this: follow the “bright spots” (areas of success in current conditions), script the critical moves and point to the destination. The Rider is clearly in control when situations are calm and the Elephant is on board, but what happens if the Elephant has other ideas?

    The Elephant is the emotional mind, which will always dominate the Rider’s logic in times when there is contention between them. We see this all the time - the root of many addictions and negative behavior patterns addressed in books like The Power of Habit stem from this proclivity towards emotional dominance. That said, as a leader of change you can use this fact to help accomplish your objectives. Similar to the previous element, “Motivate the Elephant” is coined to address dealing with emotional parts of change leadership. Find the feeling, shrink the change and grow the people are used to describe mechanisms through which to use the innate identity of the Elephant to accomplish the desired change. Kotter’s work on change is addressed general terms here with an interesting perspective. Given that I’ve yet to read anything more substantive than Buy In, I’ll save my opinion on the accuracy of these statements, but the certainly were sound arguments for why there is more to change than just using fear to launch people into action. Sometimes, however, addressing the Rider and the Elephant alone is either not enough or not realistic.

    The final element of Switch is to “Shape the Path”, which the authors argue involves tweaking the environment, building habits and rallying the herd. This chapter in particular will echo of Nudge, Power of Habit, and Buy In (as well as many others), but the pair so masterfully use stories and case studies to explain their points that you wonder how you ever made it all the way through Thinking, Fast and Slow in the first place.

    After finishing Switch I was blown away. I literally just sat in silence as I pondered how many inferior, or at least less applicable, tomes I have recently digested that are all masterfully addressed in this simple, yet elegant, work. The ease with which I assimilated and began mentally running the Switch framework was astonishing (I listened to the audio book at 1.5x speed, never looking at the phrases once). The authors use “clinics” throughout the book in place of case studies where the reader is challenged to participate by trying to solve elements of the change puzzle based off of what they have learned so far before moving further along. Even in an audio book, which I did not pause except at destinations, I felt sufficiently challenged to engage, and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

    Another awesome part of this book, as with Brain Rules and The Power of Habit, is the resource list compiled online by the authors for post-reading application and review. The “Switch Your Organization” sheet is one I’ll be using at work (this book coincidentally addressed pretty much every element I’d been crafting for my own ongoing change efffort), and there are MP3s and other cool treats as well. The price is your email address, which you use to log-in immediately. The same site also hosts resources for their other books, Decisive and Made to Stick, which are very high up on my reading list after finishing this gem.

    Overall, this is one of the best of the 50 or so odd books I’ve read in the last 8 months. You need to read it. Your boss needs to read it. Your friends need to read it. Bigfoot needs to read it. It’s quick, simple, memorable and infinitely applicable. I can’t wait to put it into action myself, and I plan to encourage discussion with my co-workers in order to share the common terminology and aggressively target change-resistant elements of our office that I previously felt ill-equipped to handle.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By John J. Ratey
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    Overall
    (2650)
    Performance
    (1685)
    Story
    (1666)

    Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.

    Kathleen says: "Spark"
    "Want a kick in the head?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    WHAT IS THIS BOOK'S FOCUS?
    Psychology, neurology, physiology, exercise, aging, human performance

    DID THIS BOOK CHANGE THE WAY I VIEW THE WORLD?
    Definitely. I recently read Born to Run and had already gone through Brain Rules, but this book takes understanding the brain to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL. Also, it times perfectly with my push for more exercise despite having less time.

    Okay, okay. Exercise is good. Everyone knows it - what more is there to say? Well, if you ask Dr. John Ratey, quite a bit more! A clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author or co-author of eight books on brain functioning, Ratey is pretty enthusiastic. I don’t know a lot of psychiatrists, but that alone seems worth investigating.

    As it turns out, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Forget doing sudoku or crossword puzzles to help prevent Alzheimers (which recent studies have shown don’t really help anyway), try yoga or skiing! Feeling blue? Maybe even depressed? You’re in luck! More than just a “runner’s high”, the dopamine response with which some exercise enthusiasts are familiar is just the tip of the iceberg.

    About halfway through the book I was excited because, hey, I had a pretty good list going of everything I could get just from one exercise session. Then I lost track. Seriously - there are THAT MANY BENEFITS. Granted, a lot of the studies referenced can’t specifically lay out the causal role of exercise vice mere correlation, but there is strong enough evidence (or common sense) to provide entire chapters on how exercise affects the brain not just in learning (fascinating), aging (good to know), but also depression, ADHD, postpartum depression (wives, anyone?) and the list goes on.

    Whether you’re interested in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, aka “Miracle-Gro”) or just looking to boost your motivation for getting out on a daily AM run (*cough* me *cough*), Spark is jam-packed with case studies (the Naperville one is fascinating) and recommendations for how to use exercise to improve your mood, learning, retention and counter the deterioration commonly associated with aging.

    The book is both fascinating and fantastic. There is an associated website for Sparking Life and apparently Ratey just wrote a new book called Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization. I’ll be checking it out soon - and you have some catching up (and exercise) to do!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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