Book Report – Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything by Becky Bond and Zack Exley

The timing of reading this book is not lost on me, although I admit I was a bit hesitant on whether I would enjoy it. Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything by Becky Bond and Zack Exley is about how big groups of people can create massive change.

The authors were the brains behind the volunteer movement of the Bernie Sanders campaign to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The book provides insights into the campaign effort through strategies and tactics that can apply to any big organizing effort.

Short Synopsis

“Rules for Revolutionaries is a bold challenge to the political establishment and the “rules” that govern campaign strategy. It tells the story of a breakthrough experiment conducted on the fringes of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign: a technology-driven team empowered volunteers to build and manage the infrastructure to make 75 million calls, launch 8 million text messages, and hold more than 100,000 public meetings—in an effort to put Bernie’s insurgent campaign over the top.” – rulesforrevolutionaries.org

My Report

There are two reasons that I wondered if I would enjoy this book. First, I believe that change happens through a consistent and persistent effort over time. Big change – either on social issues or to the various systems – doesn’t happen very often in one big swoop. (Yes, the Trump presidency could likely prove me wrong). The Sanders campaign – with issues like breaking up Wall Street, free college tuition for everyone and universal health care – went big to try to achieve big change. Nothing wrong with that or those issues. However, I don’t believe the process or approach to achieve them was based on reality.

Second, Bernie lost. As some of my closest friends will tell you, I was no particular fan of his campaign even though I did attend one of his rallies with said friends in Iowa City early in the campaign. I struggled to get past the fact that he lost, especially at the beginning of the book. It’s also hard to tell now if his coalition has the sustainable effort, process and support to continue to push and/or implement big change.

With all that aside, the book is a quick read with a ton of good real-world examples on how to organize and deploy a massive group of volunteers around a common theme no matter your politics.

“The big vision, big goals, and big organizing that these revolutionary new rules enable, that is what this book is about. If we can put these new rules into action, and keep rewriting our rules to meet the obstacles that stand between the people and the change they want to see, then we can start to win the radical change necessary to address the pressing issues of our time.”

I did enjoy this book and it opened my eyes, especially on the tactics of big organizing which is the main point of the book. I also agree with the big revelations: The work of any big movement will be distributed and funding will come only from small donations.

Availability

The book is widely available.

Book Report – The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

I found The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone on one of those December top-10 lists for best books. It’s a memoir, a biography and original reporting on loneliness told through the author’s experience moving to New York and the work of famous artists.

I have struggled at times with loneliness and this book addresses what that means, why we connect with others and how technology plays a role. It’s also about why certain artists expressed loneliness through their work and what it means for the rest of us.

Short Synopsis from Amazon

“When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives – from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, from Henry Darger’s hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis – Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.”

My Report

This book was both easy and hard to read at the same time. It doesn’t so much answer all the questions posed in the first few pages but it allows the reader to think about their own life and develop answer for themselves. I like that.

It also highlights how overcoming loneliness is exceptionally difficult because societal norms are constantly working against it.

I certainly won’t look at Edward Hopper’s famous piece Nighthawks the same way ever again. As the book explains about the piece, there is no door to the outside, and the glass and colors have specific meanings. What does that have to do with loneliness? Well, read the book. The level of detail combined with reporting on the artists’ background leads to a level of understanding that gives the reader a sense that others have experience the same thing they may be going through and why.

I read this book hundreds of a miles away from family and good friends after just seeing them. I’m not sure if that helped our hurt and I identified with this:

Reading this book on a lonesome business trip, I found myself wondering if “The Lonely City” made the exact wrong or exact right companion for forlorn airport loitering and desolate continental breakfasting. I think both. Reading this book made me feel aloneness more acutely, but also exposed its value. As Laing describes finding consolation in the work of artists, so this book serves as both provocation and comfort, a secular prayer for those who are alone — meaning all of us. – Ada Calhoun, The New York Times, March 17, 2016.

 

Availability

The book is widely available.

Book Report – The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis may be the best nonfiction storytellers in American right now. I came across his latest book in an interview he did on the Charlie Rose program, which streams on Hulu and I encourage you to check it out.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds is about how two Israeli psychologists formed possibly the greatest partnership in science ever. The two undid assumptions about decision making and created the field of behavioral economics, and I’m not even close to describing the extent to which they’ve had on the world. The story, told brilliantly, also is about a complex and brilliant friendship.

Short Synopsis from Amazon

“Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original studies undoing our assumptions about the decision-making process. Their papers showed the ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations. Their work created the field of behavioral economics, revolutionized Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis’s own work possible. Kahneman and Tversky are more responsible than anybody for the powerful trend to mistrust human intuition and defer to algorithms.”

My Report

As I mentioned earlier, I am unable to do the book justice other than to say it was a page-turner and a great historical story I had no clue existed.

Here is an example of the meaning of it: Lewis wrote the book Moneyball on how a low-budget major league baseball team decided to defy all norms and use a self-build algorithm to pick players for the team rather than conventional wisdom and advice from scouts. The thought behind that sort of move was directly related to the work of Kahneman and Tversky on the human mind. It’s now been adopted in some form by every sports team in the world, not to mention its applications in medicine, economics, government policy, etc.

“A part of good science is to see what everyone else can see but think what no one else has ever said.” – Amos Tversky

 

What I Learned

“It is sometimes easier to make the world a better place than to prove you have made the world a better place.” – Amos Tversky

Availability

The book is widely available.

Book Report – Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers

Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers by Jeffrey K. Rohrs

Next up in my book report exercise is another in the professional and business development realm. The book Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers by Jeffrey K. Rohrs argues that audiences are, “a source of critical business energy in need of investment, leadership and support.”

The author puts forth that a core marketing responsibility is the development of your proprietary audience.

Book Synopsis from Amazon

“With AUDIENCE, Jeff Rohrs seeks to change this dynamic through adoption of The Audience Imperative.  This powerful mandate challenges all companies to use their paid, owned, and earned media to not only sell in the short-term but also increase the size, engagement, and value of their proprietary audiences over the long-term.”

My Report

The book is about how everyone, everything, every business needs audience to survive and thrive. Sounds simple, but it’s really hard as the book demonstrates.

“The audience is is not brought to you or given to you; it’s something that you fight for. You can forget that, especially if you’ve had some success. Getting an audience is HARD. Sustaining an audience is HARD. It demands consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time”
— Bruce Springsteen

It defines audience development as, “a comprehensive, collaborative and cross-channel effort to build audience your company alone can access,” which I think is as concise a definition as I have come across.

The book is an easy and quick read. It’s informative. It also offers simple exercises and practical approaches for any size business. It offers realistic business goals that speak to the value of propriety audiences that can be utilized to convince anyone in an organization that may be skeptical.

After reading the book, I had a greater understanding of why it is important and what is needed to do audience development work. Some of the chapters will be refreshers for marketers, while others will give guidance on where to start and why to focus on what matters most.

Something I learned

One of the biggest lessons I learned from the book is a simple yet often overlooked way to measure and communicate the success of audience development. Here it is: “Regularly communicate the financial value to management, both in terms of real revenue and advertising cost savings.”

Availability

The book is available at any major book retailer.

Reader Note

I will continue to use this outlet and Instagram to document and provide insight into the books I read. I tend to read mostly nonfiction, professional development and spy novels.

Book Report – Bullets from Dallas: Reporting the JFK Assassination

Bulletins from Dallas: Reporting the JFK Assassination by Bill Sanderson

As a former journalists and consumer of just about every piece of content related to events in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the book Bullets from Dallas: Reporting on the JFK Assassination by Bill Sanderson was right up my alley.

The focus of the book is journalist and White House reporter Merriman Smith and how he continually was the first to break news that day. It also explores his family, addiction and impact that day had on the rest of his life.

Here is a short synopsis from Amazon:

Thanks to one reporter’s skill, we can fix the exact moment on November 22, 1963 when the world stopped and held its breath: At 12:34 p.m. Central Time, UPI White House reporter Merriman Smith broke the news that shots had been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. Most people think Walter Cronkite was the first to tell America about the assassination. But when Cronkite broke the news on TV, he read from one of Smith’s dispatches. At Parkland Hospital, Smith saw President Kennedy’s blood-soaked body in the back of his limousine before the emergency room attendants arrived. Two hours later, he was one of three journalists to witness President Johnson’s swearing-in aboard Air Force One. Smith rightly won a Pulitzer Prize for the vivid story he wrote for the next day’s morning newspapers.

My Report

It took me a four hours to read this book and it was one I couldn’t put down. I made the mistake of starting it at around 2 a.m. Any journalist, news junkie or person fascinated with breaking news will love this.

The book reveals the blow-by-blow details of how reporters and news organizations reported on the biggest story of their careers. It also gives insights into the relationship at the time between the White House, Secret Service and the press corps.

The focus is on Smith and the author is able to put the reader in his shoes and transport you back to that time in a book that is clear, concise and very readable. Until now, Smith was, for the most part, a byline in history. But the process of how he broke the news and how it was distributed were spectacular details I did not know before.

If nothing else, the book also portrays Smith, a reporter, in a very human way which I could relate with.

Availability

The book is available at many book outlets including Amazon. More on the book can be found at bulletinsfromdallas.com.

Book Report – Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Matt Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. Pick it up if you have the chance.

It tells the story of eight families and two landlords in Milwaukee and how evictions have a devastating impact on all aspects of life, especially on women and children. This under-reported problem is unique to the U.S., Desmond says, and is perpetuated by greed and a broken set of systems.

Here’s a paragraph from the Amazon synopsis:

“Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.”

My Report

There are three specifics that stand out in reading this book: The author walked-the-talk to do the necessary research and fieldwork, the story is told in a human and nonjudgmental way but doesn’t hide anything and the author offers several credible solutions.

This is a heart-wrenching book and some of the stories, details and decisions people make will leave an impact. It also had me think that I’d make the same choices had I been in their shoes.

It also made me revisit just how lucky I was to have a steady home growing up.

Book Report – Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving

Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving by Noah Fleming

My passion for constant learning and staying sharp in a professional sense leads me to a business-minded book from time to time. Noah Fleming’s Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving was more of a mention than a recommendation during a phone conversation with my good friend Tom Altman.

This book also represents the first one I’ve read on a Kindle Paperwhite device. I remain a huge fan of the physical book. However, I purchased the device around Christmas as I travel often and wanted a lightweight option for my reading habits. I like it so far. I remain skeptical but willing to give it a try in certain situations.

My Review

The theme of the book is to tell marketing and business professional this: “You need to rid yourself of the new customer addiction and focus more on existing customers.”

To do this, Fleming uses what he calls the three C’s: Character (Your company), Community (Your customers) and Content (Your marketing) as foundations. He explains and provides examples of each that were simple to understand and it resonated with me.

He also makes clear that the single most valuable asset any business has is it’s customer base. I can hear many folks saying but, “People are your greatest asset.” This became crystal clear to me running a business. Yes, your people provide an advantage in the marketplace and many other things. But, the customer base is what allows all else to thrive in the growth of the business.

The biggest lesson I took away from the book is the need to constantly consider, analyze and refine the emotional impact of the customer experience. To highlight how impactful that was for me, I’m currently working on a real-world world example using this methodology. Marketers may find this a novice exercise. I understand the emotional impact during the sale process fairly well, but I have not yet intentionally applied it to the process that happens after you acquire a customer.

Other Thoughts

The book provides good information and recommendations on loyalty programs, promotions and customer intelligence that is useful for any level of marketing professional.

Availability

The book widely available at your favorite outlet or at Noah Fleming’s website. It is not, however, available at the Amarillo Public Library.

Book Report – Wide Body: The Triumph of the 747

Wide Body: The Triumph of the 747 by Clive Irving

This year I will do better to share, reflect and remember the books I read. This is mostly a selfish exercise, but I hope others may find some value.

Reading a book is a daily occurrence for me. I find it a relaxing and rewarding experience. I tend to interact with nonfiction on an array of topics and only venture in the fiction realm from time to time. You’ll notice this as I go along.

Wide-Body: The Triumph of the 747 by Clive Irving was recommended to me. I was in Portland to begin a trip around Oregon and stopped at Powell’s Books to grab a few good things to read. (It was the same day that Bruce Springsteen was doing a book signing at the store. More on that another time.)

After the book store, I walked a few blocks to have lunch at Deschutes Brewery, and sat at the bar. A retired couple sitting next to me noticed I had made a purchase at Powell’s and we started a conversation about books and jazz music. The man, a retired commercial airline pilot, was beaming about this book and was hoping to find a copy at Powell’s after loaning his copy to a friend.

His recommendation was based on the engineering process Boeing went through to develop the 747, which is fascinating in and of itself, and his obvious love of all things aviation.

I kept a note of the recommendation, added it to my Amazon wish list and ended up receiving it as a Christmas gift.

My Review

The book, published in 1993, is more wide-ranging than I anticipated. It includes the history, technology, people, processes, competition and business decisions that ultimately created an environment where the 747 became a possibility. Once the environment existed, Boeing created a market for the wide-body jet when none existed and made it happen through fascinating series of events.

The characters and their personalities also are on full display. I got a sense, without it being spelled out, that the intersection of all these skilled people and the understanding each of them had about one another just worked.

“Life at Boeing can never again be as it was for the young bloods who put the unruly swept wing into the wind tunnel and persisted until it was flyable. It was one of those confluences of people, time and place that are unrepeatable. Like Icarus, they might well have been jumping off the cliff with wax wings that would melt in the sun. Instead, they jumped off the cliff and the wings stayed hole. No one gets to jump off the cliff anymore. Those who did have a certain look about them. They are the survivors of an exclusive cult. They defied gravity, and never fell to earth.”

It was more of a business and history book then an engineering one for me, although there is plenty of that especially in terms of the swept wing. Two examples are the collaboration between two executives – Bill Allen at Boeing and Juan Trippe at Pan Am – and the decision by Boeing to build its own wind tunnel. If you read it, you’ll understand that more than anything those two things were game-changers.

Along the way, you’ll learn several backstories that make for fascinating reads themselves: Boeing’s company culture and how it guides everything, how the concept for the B-52 bomber happened in a hotel room in one weekend and an inclusion of one Boeing engineer on a trip to Germany right after the end of World War II was a major, major factor in the development of the airplane wing.

Availability

The book is available through third-party sellers on Amazon.

Four reasons to attend barcamp at EntreFEST 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 6.50.12 PMThe sessions are scheduled. The speakers are lined up. EntreFEST 2015, Iowa’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators, is happening over the next several days in Iowa City.

But there’s one event in particular where you have the opportunity to share knowledge and passion with the world. I’m happy to be hosting a miniature barcamp event from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday (RSVP here).

Barcamp events are a worldwide phenomenon, and have been in Iowa since 2008. Come present or simply take part in what will be one of EntreFEST’s most interesting, entertaining and sometimes unconventional breakout sessions. The best part – it’s crowdsourced and coordinated by YOU.

What is a barcamp? In basic terms, this is the unconference portion of the three-day event where the speaking floor is open to you. Whoever shows up helps sets the agenda. We gather in small groups and have lively and meaningful conversations.

BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees.

Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join. Source

Here are my top four reasons to participate in EntreFEST’s barcamp session:

  • A relaxed and informal environment – Barcamp is a safe place to share, get feedback and exchange meaningful dialogue. Who knows, you may also make a lasting connection. Also, it’s encouraged that you move around during sessions. No one will think less of you.
  • Your time to shine – There is no better opportunity to share your passions and knowledge with the world. Maybe there’s not a topic you’re passionate about on the EntreFEST schedule. Maybe you missed the deadline to speak. Barcamp opens the speaking floor to any and all attendees for 30 minutes.
  • Meet interesting and creative people like yourself – People who participate in barcamp events come to learn, share and are driven by a quest for knowledge and learning. In other words, they’re just like you.
  • It’s free – It’s true. You don’t even have to be an EntreFEST 2015 attendee to take part in the barcamp session.

I hope to see you Friday in Iowa City.

 

The Evolution of BarCamp NewsInnovation

bacamp newsinnovation 2014

The sixth BarCamp NewsInnovation event just concluded in Philadelphia. I’m sitting at a local coffee shop on a gorgeous Sunday morning to reflect and one thought keeps coming back: The NewsInnovation movement has evolved into a national journalism ecosystem and incubator for experimentation.

This year 320 people – the largest crowd yet – participated. The unconference included timely and relevant discussions and connections on:

For the the first time that I can recall, I was not the only product manager at a journalism event. People – journalists – regularly acknowledged and know the vital need to understand the audience. The Business Model Canvas was mentioned at least twice. There was actually a conversation about defining the purpose of a news organization.

Those are all signs that the BarCamp NewsInnovation movement is evolving in a positive direction. When it began I was an online editor in a newsroom who didn’t know much other than publishing. Today, I’m a product manager for a media company that can create connections between people and businesses in useful and interesting ways. In the next few weeks, I will be a co-founder of a startup company diving into mobile marketing for sports teams through recreating the nostalgia of the baseball card on a mobile app. I owe a great deal of my own evolution to the people, ideas and the like mindset behind NewsInnovation.

BarCamp NewsInnovation was introduced as a way to get people doing great things in journalism together to share, collaborate and encourage others to experiment. The unconference format was intended to get away from presentations and descriptions of best practices that are showcased at most journalism conference. It was and is lead by example, workshops that invite others to participate and ‘how can I help’ conversations.

Christopher Wink and Brian James Kirk, co-founders of Technical.ly, and Sean Blanda, co-founder of Technically Media, have given the BarCamp NewsInnovation movement this ongoing catalyst by hosting the event each year. It will continue to evolve, and I look forward to being a part of it.