Archive for 2015

Book Review: Hidden Strengths

September 1st 2015

Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have
hidden-strengths-book-cover

Review Review Review Review boo-stars-fadepng.png

Author: Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell

This book is a concise and straight forward leadership development book with a bit of a twist to the normal personal development focus.  Most of us know that focusing on weaknesses can be less fruitful than focusing on our strengths, as in “Now, Discover Your Strengths” and I’ve certainly used that coaching people for personal development.  This book adds the advice to also not focus only on your strengths but instead, find the ‘hidden strengths’ that you can develop and gain more broad capabilities with less effort and time.  This is done by the help of a skills assessment by the author and then a breakdown of 28 skills in 4 main categories:

  1. Leading Self
  2. Leading Others
  3. Leading the Organization
  4. Leading Implementation

The Sindell authors provide descriptions of each of the 28 skills, advice on how to use and develop them through numerous stories or case studies of business development where the characters develop hidden strengths to improve their roles in leadership.  These hidden skill stories give believable evidence of how everyone has more hidden strength to draw upon and use in our personal development journeys.  The only thing I didn’t like about these short stories is that they seem too easy in some of the cases where skills focus made significant impact in just days or a few short weeks in most cases.  I personally haven’t ever found this to be the case, they usually develop and cause impact over the course of many weeks, or even months or years.  Skills just don’t have that immediate of impact in organizations and in all the people I’ve coached, it typically takes longer for them to even practice and develop the skills.  Hidden strengths I think is a great place to find opportunities for personal development, however, lasting skill development should not be understated, it needs to be practiced and practiced to get good at to truly develop into a strength that can be applied in one’s leadership.  This is especially true since leadership skills reveal themselves often at the point of adversity and challenge.

The book is in three main parts to lead your through these discoveries and examples:

  1. What are hidden strengths?
  2. Finding your Hidden Strengths.
  3. Hidden Strengths into action.

So, overall I enjoyed reading the book.  Its 78 pages is  a pretty quick read and the free skills assessment with the book will have you thinking carefully about how you can too, develop some of your hidden strengths.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: Hidden Strengths

Book Review: Creative Anarchy

February 16th 2015

How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design For Creative Success

Review Review Review Review boo-stars-fadepng.png

C

Author: Denise Bosler

I received another offer to review a book just recently and couldn’t pass it up.  The cover and title sounded very interesting to me and certainly with my graphic design and 3D animation business, I thought there would be many things to learn and discover in the book.

First, the book is a large book and about 140+80 pages (more on that later) and a quick thumb through it leaves you impressed with the many visuals and color pages, yet scratching you head as to how its put together.  The reason; This is NOT an ordinary book.  And I loved that aspect of it.  From the first few pages to the back of the book, you quickly encounter the fact that the book reads from both ends and has what you normally expect at the start or end, quite out of order.  This showed me the creative aspects and anarchy topic of the book right from the first few pages, which I thought was just great.  The first half is about graphic design rules and what is typically done and why. It flows through 10 rules, exploring each topic with examples, tips and content to learn.  I found most of this information fairly uninspiring, but nonetheless, good information and some useful tips and examples, as well as at least few new points of knowledge on each of the 10 rules.

The back of the book (flip it around and read it backwards) then covers the anarchy aspect, labelled, Break the Rules.  These chapters cover:

  • advertising
  • branding
  • posters
  • publication design
  • promotions
  • packaging
  • interactive

They include many inspiring stories, examples and exercises you can do to expand your thinking and designs into what is beyond the normal rules of design.  It sparks a lot of ideas reading through the many examples and business cases described, so should help instill new ideas and methods to any design artist or creative individual.

The thing that left me wanting were branching into other graphic areas, like animation, computer illustration and 3D design.  Animation was not even mentioned and 3D came from a sense of physical 3D, not computer graphics or 3D printing.  As a 3D artist doing graphic design solely  in 3D animation, I was disappointed that these areas were not covered in a current book on design and creativity.  However, there is more than enough references to other styles and methods that this did not take away from the book and the creativity it helps tap into.  There were a number of examples of design for websites, but again, there was very little coverage of workflow and usability, which I consider to be the critical piece of creative design as a software developer.  I think concepts from the rest of the book can be applied here as well, but I would have loved to see more on the design aspects and creative aspects of software and computer imagery.

Overall, I think there is a lot to learn from this book and although it covers traditional print design thoroughly without exploring new design concepts like 3D print or animation, I think it has more than enough to spark new creative vibes and gives a load of examples and inspiring content to help any designer bring some new methods and ideas to their own workflow.  The whole concept then of breaking some of the rules to find that creative success is an excellent one and nice to see that this book make a great example of what it is teaching by breaking the rules itself.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: Creative Anarchy

Book Review: The Martian

February 10th 2015

Review Review Review Review Review

Author: Andy Weir

I rarely read fiction compared to the many non-fiction titles I devour.  Anyway, I had caught up on books I brought with me while travelling recently and so needed something new to sink into while doing some business travel.  I have to say, most of the fiction rack didn’t interest me at all, either romance or books about someone’s dog it seems.  At the time, I thought The Martian was the best of the worse, since nothing really interested me.  Anyway, I was quickly taken into the depth of this intriguing book and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Basically, the first chapter tells you the start and end of the whole book, which I couldn’t quite figure out why so much climax was put in at the start.  It definitely hooked me though as I quickly learned the astronaut, Mark Watney is left for dead isolated on Mars after a freak space accident with his crew, which they had to abandon him (having every indication and belief that Mark was in fact dead).  Mark quickly reveals how ingenious and inventive he is as he saves himself from death and begins what will be a very long isolated adventure on Mars.  From obvious limitations of food, water, air and company, Mark seems to face everything Mars can throw at him with his engineering mind set to solve each problem and move past it.  I certainly connected with the engineering aspect and some of the science behind his many inventions (I’m certainly no space junky however), and the author has certainly down his research in making every scenario, every experiment and every problem as realistic as you could expect, which I felt really help to draw me into the Martian world.  Mark logs his adventures from his own perspective and the book jumps between his solitude on Mars and the other parties involved from NASA to the crew to families back on Earth.

The whole story is quite an amazing adventure and the incredibly resourceful Mark Watney makes the whole book amusing and gripping. He is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read and I just couldn’t put the book down.  Each setback and problem, left me wanting to see Watney escape and figure out yet another impossible problem.  Its brilliantly written and I hope to see more books from Weir, as this is his first.

So, I hope you pick up a copy if you have any interest in space, science, adventure or even human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as this book has all of those.

 

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: The Martian

Book Review: Wins Friends and Customers

January 15th 2015

Relationship and Business Success from Empathic AcknowledgingClipboard Image (3)-814x1200

Review Review Review Review boo-stars-fadepng.png

Author: Lawrence Bookbinder, PH.D.

This book is a short and easy to read book with what is often otherwise complex content and terminology.  Bookbinder presents a wide scope of examples and context around the idea of using empathic communication (primarily listening) as well as acknowledging during conversations to help the reader better connect and understand how to show interest in relationships.  The book jumps between numerous examples, some repeated, to highlight different aspects of conversation that teach how to bring more empathic (the same thing as empathetic) listening into common situations.  People are so often focused (even in private conversation), on what they want to say in the conversation, it is common for neither party to ever really hear what the other is saying and even more rare that they connect and engage on the “important” portions of a conversation.  The techniques in this book help to demonstrate that and give methods and subtleties that can be practiced to change that and be more empathetic in conversation with others.

The acknowledging focus then in the book is essentially recognizing and repeating what another person is actually saying and a more advanced version of that, is to interpret some feeling or meaning from that that connects with the person sharing the information.  This is again a conversation technique and can be used while listening to confirm what has been heard, or to connect and engage the other on what or how it has impacted them, if that can be determined.  The author describes many advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques and provides some great insight as to when to use them or when to refrain.  I thought these guides were quite refreshing and helped to lay a better context around when these tools should actually be used, as obviously they do not always make sense.

I enjoy reading books on different communication techniques or tools and this book was an easy read, quick to understand and I think one that will be very useful to me as I actually now do some practice with these methods to see where I can better connect and engage others in not just any conversation, but meaningful conversation.

One thing I found very odd about the book, was how much content is in the appendixes and how some of them are written.  They describe the book, they outline why you should read it and they seem to go into great detail to convince you to read it, almost to a defensive stance, which I could understand this on the cover, on the preface, but not in the appendixes.  I, like most people read the book from start to finish and so reading these aspects in the appendixes after reading the book, made me question what I had just read, since it seemed like the author was defending the book and perhaps even himself, despite any reason or challenge to do so.  I found that quite odd and not something I’ve seen before in a book.  If you do pick this up, I’d recommend starting in the appendixes and then reading the main book afterwards.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews & Relationships | Comments Off on Book Review: Wins Friends and Customers

Copyright © 2017 Mike King