My Reading List: August 2014

credit: slate.com

A week ago, I gave my team a talk about the necessity of developing and maintaining a reading habit for a number of reasons, including its ability to keep you up with the latest trends in your line of work or interests in the world, infusing you with ideas, and generally keeping you fresh and thinking. Naturally a few of them asked me about what my reading list was.

A couple of caveats, before I reveal this…this is *my* list and reflects *my* interests; I don’t believe AT ALL that this is the perfect list for anyone including myself. My interests change regularly, and my reading list changes with it. I generally encourage people to come up with their own, as each of us is different. Finally, my focus in that talk was the emphasis of developing the habit of reading. In the beginning, content is moot…the point is to just make the habit of reading; but hopefully over time, it will evolve into something more significant and educational.

I’d also like to make it clear that I am practising what I preach in terms of developing the habit. As a child, I lacked the attention span to read…the only books I read were mandatory for school and the ones I read by choice had lots of  pictures in them. That said, ALL my closest friends and the people I admired most were bookworms…so I got knowledge by proxy. Over time, as I got separated from my friends and the internet, particularly during long waits “in the field” on remote assignments away from my regular life, often in places where I didn’t speak the language, books became my solace, my escape, and my “happy place.” I clung to them and they to me. And so began a new habit…to a point where a book is usually my constant companion. I have an old iPad and an iPhone, but given a choice, I would prefer a good handheld paper book, than the e-reader any day…

What I’m reading now: I primarily read non-fiction, with a focus on travel, history of science/technology, entrepreneurship, business, international development, and auto/biographies. I LOVE memoirs. Of course its constantly evolving and here’s what’s on my current list:

  • A Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson: Narrated like a detective story, this tells the tale of John Snow, a young, driven surgeon in 19th century England who was trying desperately to find the cause of Cholera. His discovery eventually changed the face of modern medicine, led to the establishment of the modern public health sector, and changed the way cities were designed and maintained. This was the birth of the modern water-sanitation-trash collection sectors. I’m at the tail end of this book. Its been marvelous so far!
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: I’m reading this because I’ve come to love and greatly appreciate what Steve accomplished through Apple, something that has blossomed into deep admiration. Its thick and daunting, so its taking me a LONG time to get through it…
  • Walking Home From Mongolia by Rob Lillwall: I love slow travel through foreign countries, and I love long walks. On my bucket list is to do a very long walk somewhere…but until then I will live vicariously through others. Rob and his buddy’s crazy 3000 mile walk from the Gobi Desert to Hong Kong was absolutely riveting. At the tail end of this book too.
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: Like many other people, I was introduced to Brene through her superb TED Talk (which projected her into an insane fame spotlight) and was drawn to read more about her findings.
  • The Hindus by Wendy Doninger: A practicing Hindu myself, this book piqued my interest because of its highly controversial reputation in India where it was ultimately banned. Now that I’ve skimmed through it, I fail to understand the big deal. And I would encourage you to ignore most of the reviews (placed there to “kill” the book), as any non-biased person who has read it will tell you that its a great overview of the religion from an outsider’s perspective.
  • Jewels in the Crown by Ray Hutton: I just started this book, but its the ultimate revenge story in the best possible way. In six short years, Tata Motors of India acquired British automobile icons Jaguar-Land Rover, and turned the company around. This is the ultimate anti-colonial story that would make Gandhi proud.

What I plan to read in the future:

My blogroll/magazines I read regularly (this is NOT comprehensive…I read a lot of blogs…I read in breadth, not so much in depth when it comes to blogs…meaning I browse a LOT and find only a few things that I read thoroughly):

Lessons from Costco and Founder, Jim Sinegal

On someone’s excellent recommendation, I watched this MSNBC piece on Costco, which was absolutely brilliant. Despite being a seemingly no-frills operation, the documentary showcased the immense amount of work going on behind the scenes, that keeps Costco being as successful as it is.

Amongst other things, these were the key take-aways:

1. Level 5 Leadership is key:  Jim Sinegal is (and his successor are) another example of successful Level 5 leadership. To date, I had NO idea who founded or ran Costco. But my family and I love going there every chance we get.

2. Work hard to make it look effortless: What looks easy and effortless, really isn’t. An immense amount of research, and work goes on behind the scenes of this seemingly “no frills” business.

3. Word-of-Mouth is cheaper and more powerful, but it also means harder work. Costco relies on word-of-mouth. There is no advertising revenue. But that means more research, more dedication to making smarter choices. Toilet paper

4. Everything is about the Culture. Maintaining the Culture and Core Values of a company is key to any company’s success. It takes continuous work and commitment, but it has HUGE payoffs. Jim says that at around 20:00, and he even highlights why. Watch more to find out.

5. Know your Customer. Costco’s key customer is the middle-class and upper middle class. They know that their customers usually come shopping after a long day at work and don’t really want to spend a lot of effort making choices. Instead, Costco makes it easy to make decisions, and they stock everything within their customer’s price point, and to their taste.

6. Treat your Employees Well: This isn’t rocket science and yet I’m constantly surprised by how many people just DON”T get this. Find good employees and treat them well. They will stay. There is a reason why Costco boasts one of the lowest employee turnovers in the United States. They pay their employees well, provide good benefits, and keep them happy.

7. Stock a few items, but stock well: This is possible only if you know your customer well, which goes back to the need to research well. Costco usually stocks very few products in any category, but these are usually well thought out and win big…toilet paper and wine, to name a few, are BIG sellers. So they get the best in those categories and never let their customers down.

8. Even a small unknown company can be a BIG player: Who knew that Costco is the world’s largest buyer of fine wine? Well it is, and because it is such a huge player, they can even make powerhouse (sometimes egotistical) wine countries like France and Italy cater to their needs. Its similar to how California’s emission policy dictates world emission standards (because California is the world’s single largest car market), or for that matter how Gandhi brought down the British empire. Its not how small or unknown you are…its the power you can wield.

Innovative Accelerator: Startup Bus

Startup Bus

Startup Bus is an innovative accelerator aiming to build a community of young entrepreneurs around the world, and succeeding in doing so. It started as a joke that became serious very quickly.

The concept is simple. You apply to be a part of one of the various organized bus trips (there are six that traversed Europe in Dec 2012; no plans announced yet for 2013). If you meet whatever they are looking for, you are accepted and assigned to a specific bus. Expect your peers to be from a variety of backgrounds, and hungry to dive into the startup culture.

The bus trip costs ~USD200, and lasts 72 hours. During this time you are encouraged to network and brainstorm and a number of tools are given to you; including talks and workshops. You stop enroute on a “startup tour” of sorts, meeting venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and incubators. By the time you get off, the hope is that you would have the beginnings of a company, with hopefully a couple of cofounders.

In the worst case scenario, you’ve seen Europe (or some other part of the world where the bus is). Not bad, eh??

Interested?? Apply here.

Here’s a peek into what its like:

And for a parody, check this out:

Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

For those interested in presenting, Unite for Sight’s conference at Yale is currently accepting social enterprise pitch abstracts for presentation at the conference.  The registration rate increases after December.

Global Health & Innovation Conference 2013
Presented by Unite For Sight, 10th Annual Conference
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14, 2013

http://www.uniteforsight.org/conference

According to the organizers, The Global Health & Innovation Conference is “the world’s largest global health conference and social entrepreneurship conference.  This must-attend, thought-leading conference annually convenes 2,200 leaders, changemakers, students, and professionals from all fields of global health, international development, and social entrepreneurship.”  Register here.

Interested in presenting at the conference? Submit a social enterprise pitch abstract for consideration.

They have a great lineup of speakers, including a lot of stalwarts. Check out their lineup here.

Struggling to Startup Your Own Social Enterprise?? Here’s a great resource…

Need a blueprint for starting a social enterprise?? Look no further!

Starting a social enterprise is not easy; some might argue that because the field is so “new”, fewer resources mean that its harder than a regular startup.

So if you are wondering how to do it and are struggling, there is a resource that might be perfect for you…

Echoing Green Alumnus, TED Senior Fellow, MIT graduate, inventor, tinkerer, and founder of Social Tech Enterprise AIDG, Peter Haas is putting together a great webinar on “How to Set Up your Own Social Enterprise“. The workshop is aimed at teaching novices tools to be successful in the field of social enterprise.

“Are you frustrated trying to start your social enterprise. Struggling with sustainability, financial planning, impact reporting? This webinar is an overview of running a social enterprise. It takes from the experiences of some of the lead social entrepreneurs of our day to give you guidance on lessons learned and practical tools to help you overcome your obstacles. It will save you hours of work and research. Don’t reinvent the wheel, leverage some of the best practices of some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world today.”

 

To register, go here.

 

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Are you an enterprising University Student?? Apply to Attend the Karios 50 Summit!

Source: www.kairossociety.org

 

Enterprising university students should consider applying for the Kairos50 Summit. DEADLINE: 16 DEC 2012

According to the Kairos Society, the Karios 50 Summit is done as follows:

“We search dorm rooms everywhere to find the cutting-edge companies that college students are creating worldwide. We don’t just look for projects, we look for innovative ventures that are tackling today’s biggest global challenges. The end result is the Kairos 50, an annual compilation of the fifty most innovative student-run businesses in the world. At the Kairos Global Summit, we bring these companies to the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange and unveil their technologies. With the newfound support of peers, business and political leaders, media, and investors, K50 winners can accelerate their company’s growth to become global market leaders.”

Here’s a nice video about the Karios Society: