Hi again, Matt here.
I read 25 books in 2019. Looking back, I missed out on a lot of good fiction in favor of business-flavored non-fiction. What was your favorite fiction of the last year? Anything exciting coming out next year?
I wrote up a short review of all the books I’ve read this year, and you can read the whole list over on my website. I’ll share a few of my favorites at the end of this email.
But first, a song. Well, not just a single song, but a whole live show by the inimitably funky Vulfpeck. One of their performances at Madison Square Garden is on Youtube. It’s such an infectiously joyful performance, and would make great holiday watching. Check it out here.
Now, on to the reviews.
It’s hard to overstate the value of understanding bias. This book is a must-read: Kahneman has such a talent for unraveling the counter-intuitive nature of bias, heuristics, and the way people make decisions. His research with Amos Tversky (called prospect theory) has influenced economics in ways I can’t understand, but the effect is recognizable when you book a hotel online (scarcity bias at play) or check out on Amazon.
The sections of the book on expert intuition were especially relevant at the time I read them, and helped me to write an essay called Intuition vs. Data.
This is one of the best business books I’ve read. Granted: I haven’t read a whole lot of business books. But this one is very good nonetheless.
It’s unorthodox: it’s written as a novel. It follows Alex Rogo, a plant manager for a fictional manufacturing conglomerate. Alex’s plant is on the brink of shutting down, and his marriage is in shambles. Through a series of discoveries and experiments, Alex turns the plant around and saves his marriage.
The ideas in the book are an outline of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, which is an offshoot and response to Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Product System. If you don’t already know, I’m really into manufacturing processes; the mental technology created by Henry Ford and Taiichi Ohno have really neat applications in digital product creation. This book was a really neat way to learn about some of those tools and understand them in a real-world (hypothetical) context.
At the end of the book is a more traditional essay that walks through the history of the application of Lean Manufacturing at Hitachi, and discusses how important it is to not simply try to copy the success of other companies by copying their methodologies.
I finally finished this after a few years of off-and-on reading. Such a solid book. I found that much of the advice was really befitting a manager-of-managers, which is a very small percentage of people in the workplace. The advice is still solid and applicable nonetheless.
Favorite part: the scorecard at the end! Such a Grove move.
Here’s one of my favorite highlights:
The idea that planners can be people apart from those implementing the plan simply does not work. Planning cannot be made a separate career but is instead a key managerial activity, one with enormous leverage through its impact on the future performance of an organization.
Thanks for reading! See you next year.