Book Review – Simple Rules, How to Thrive in a Complex World

I thought that it would be good to track my reading list here and also capture a few thoughts as I go through each one.

Tonight as I passed through the Airport in Melbourne a book called out to me. This is often how I will buy a book. Initially I fight to resist the call but if the ideas on the cover keep pulling me back then I will usually succumb.

Simple Rules, How to Thrive in a Complex World.
By Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt

The sight of this book was like someone reaching out and plucking forth the very ideas that I ponder every day. It was impossible to ignore. It’s introduction positions it as looking at the wonderfully unpredictable complex world that we live in, and then seeking simple guiding rules that can either model behaviours or guide decisions.

It differentiates its narrative from both popular science texts that provide technical insight but not practical usage, and self help guides and anecdotes that offer simple rules but lack scientific rigour.

The fun part for me is that one of the stories in this book relates to the flocking of starlings (birds) and how they can be modelled by 3 simple rules. This is the very same example that I use in my Essentials of Product Management training to try and distill the analysis of Product Management to just 2 simple questions.

I’ll update this post as I read further.

Internet Marketing – WordPress Visitor Tracking

If I am going to get people visiting this website then I should be able to count them. The whole point of this exercise is to take a volume of existing visitors to the website and

  1. Grow that number
  2. Increase the engagement with that group such that they may buy something.

The gorilla in the WordPress Visitor Tracking room of course is Google. So headed over to the Google Analytics page to get started. As user friendly as they claim the service to be I found it to be speaking in a secret club language that requires of reading and video watching to understand. Suffice to say I blundered through it crossing my fingers that I have done it correctly. I now have a Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and a Google Webmaster Account set up for Visitor tracking.

Unfortunately, aside from trial and error at the moment I have no idea how to effectively use these tools, and don’t want to waste too much time finding out. If anyone reading this can help me find a fast and simple resource for learning the Analytics basics the please leave a note in the comments.

I was then faced with the challenge of connecting the Google Analytics account to the WordPress site to allow Google to start collecting website visitor tracking data.  I remembered that rather than touching the HTMP and PHP code in WordPress I needed to find a plugin.  A quick search surfaced “Google Analytics”, again by Yoast.

The Plugin was well reviewed and is well documented. I’ll have to get back to that aspect of it later.


Reading list: Personal MBA

Personal MBA: by Josh Kaufman

While taking some time out in Fiji I returned to my backed up reading list. One on the books that I has started but failed to complete before was Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA. I spotted this in an airport bookshop on a different trip, then cheekily downloaded it to the kindle app on my iPad for a fraction of the shell price. Sorry traditional retail, but get over it.

When I first picked it up i was struck by how closely the themes of the book mapped to the thinking and approach of the brainmates Product Management methodology. What I have really been enjoying is the very clearly articulated thinking that chucks down many of the terms that we use and disambiguates them very effectively.

For example he has by effectively differentiated between a product and a service. His definition of a product is something (almost anything) that can repeatable deliver value without the direct involvement of person. A service on the other hand does requires a persons direct involvement to deliver value and therefore lacks scalability. I think a this is a very useful distinction. I have often been asked if software is a product or a service. Under this definition it is clearly a product as it does not require a persons time and effort as part of the the delivery process.

There are many other examples of concepts that are very familiar yet are difficult to clearly articulate. Josh has tackled this challenge and has delivered a package of neatly summarized tools to test and support any business idea against.

When I get back to Sydney, I will review my notes and create a checklist of things to consider that will make Brainmates and the training business in particular more effective for 2012.

just a post about coupons.

This is not really the place for simple free writing. but at the same time it is important to have somethgin to say about anything really. I just need to write and get past the first few lines of nothing to say. The first thing that cane to mind this eventing was spreets, and groupon and all of these other deals aggregation sites.

When i first came across them i thought that they were a ridiculous idea. Yet the businesses that are investing in them suggest that there is more to it than that. Why would a business offer a such huge discounts to such a a large number of potential customers? It doesn’t seem to be a sustainable model to me, yet every day there are hundreds of people that sign up for the deals, handover their cash and presumably get a product at a great price.
The businesses offering the deals get a flood of sales at (i imagine) much lower margins than normal but they get a chance to prove themselves to a new customer.

OK, so this can work for products where the main component is a service where the margins are generally higher than for a physical product. This allows a steep discount to be applied without making a horrible loss. business that offer a deal that give them a zero or negative margin are in for a rough ride. It also requires a product that has excess inventory that would otherwise be wasted. Again this can apply to services where there are peak times and quite times. The business can require that the offer be channeled in to the quiet times to improve the overall revenue, again providing that this is not done at a loss.

The biggest problem that I see here is that the type of customers that these group voucher deal sites attract are the least loyal, price sensitive bunch around. They will hop off to the next deal without even remembering who they last bought a product from.

Dry January

An other new year is upon us and I had decided to try and make this a dry month. Although I don’t consider myself overweight i do know that I am heavier than I want to be, by at least 5kg. The math is simple. I need to consume less and exercise more. The most likely culprit for excess calories is the consumption of alcohol so it won’t hurt to work to cut it out of my diet for a month.

At the same time I want to try and make time for running again. I had a run yesterday that was harder than it should have been, but it was also the first run in a few months, on the back of a year with practically no exercise. I am hoping that these two initiatives will start me on the path to a healthier 2012.