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More Remarkable Books – April 2011

This post continues my Remarkable Books Series that lists the books I have read recently and found inspiring or insightful.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Researchers have discovered that using external motivators - what Daniel calls the carrot and the stick - is not only generally ineffective for creative, knowledge-based work, but can even be harmful. The traditional view in economics and business management of people as rational wealth-maximizing agents is flawed as demonstrated by numerous experiments and real-life events. Intrinsic motivation is the missing ingredient with three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The book is inspiring both because of the hopeful future it depicts for business based on intrinsic motivation and because of the numerous strategies and examples it provides on how to redesign organizations to use these principles.

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. I found this book both insightful and eminently practical. The authors explain the ineffectiveness of common, overly-simplistic approaches to running retrospectives and describe a five stage model for structuring a retrospective’s agenda. They then present a wide variety of activities for each of these five stages. I was able to easily put the concepts and activities presented in this book into practice and I feel that it has made a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of the retrospectives and other meetings I facilitate.

How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business by Douglas Hubbard. The author in the first few chapters presents his philosophy and rational approach to measurement while demolishing frequently-held myths about measuring, especially those commonly touted in business. I loved how his approach seemed conceptually simple yet powerful, deriving from a clarified definition of what measurement means. I felt like I experienced a paradigm shift after reading this material and now view measurement differently. Prime examples of where this would apply in the field of software development are estimation of effort and schedule, especially high-level initial project estimation, and measurement of quality including customer satisfaction. The book then shifts into presenting various measurement methods involving varying levels of statistics. Despite my inexperience with anything beyond introductory statistics, I was able to follow along just fine. To really adopt these methods, however, I need to study and practice these methods more carefully. Douglas does a good job of providing easy ways to apply these statistics for the layperson ranging from simple lookup tables to Excel formulas, so they are quite accessible. But even if the statistics do not interest you, I believe the first few sections are so remarkable that they are worth reading on their own.

While I read tons of blog posts and tweets, I still find books extremely valuable for gaining the deeper insights and perspectives based on the authors' experiences and mindset that require immersion across multiple chapters to really absorb. So I highly recommend you check these books out.

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One Comment on “More Remarkable Books – April 2011”

  1. Lloyd says:

    For those to lazy to read here is an excellent 11min video about Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

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