A little bit of everything

Category: Books

The Himmler brothers or the ironies of life

Life is just full of ironies. This book is based on one of those.

Katrin Himmler would be a normal German woman, born in 1967, and graduated in political science, if it wasn’t the fact she was the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS and one of the leaders of the Nazi regime.

In that fact lies the irony. Katrin is married to a Israeli jew.

After their son was born she decided to study in depth her grandfather, Ernst Himmler, and how was his relation with his older brother, Heinrich. Moreover, she wanted to understand and figure out how much was her grandfather involved in the genocide occurring while he was also a member of the SS. This book portrays the findings of that research.

Several years ago, as I was doing my MSc in the Univeristy of Reading, I developed a routine. I would fly to London early in the morning and so I would have a couple of hours in town before heading to Reading. Usually, I spent those hours in the Waterstones in Picadilly. Up till today I think it’s the finest bookstore in the world. And I’ve visited a few…

On one of those visits, I did the usual thing: I wandered around my favorite sections: History, Business, and Biographies; then I chose a couple of books that reasoned to me, and I began skimming through them; I sat on one of their comfortable sofas, and read introduction or the first couple of chapters of the books.

With the “Himmler Brothers” I read the introduction and the first chapter and couldn’t let it go. I had to buy it and continue reading it, which I did. In a couple of days I had finished the book.

If you’re interested in History and particularly in the Second World War, this book is for you. I find most interesting to read about historical figures.

The way I see it real life stories are much more interesting that fiction ones…

 

The book that makes us dream and grow!

I was wondering which book would represent the kind of person I would like each of my kids to be. If I were to choose only one book that would encompass the most important things I would like my children to learn, this would be that one.

I’m sure most of you have already read this book. This is not even a recommendation, but above all a reminder. Because, most of the times we forget, right? At least I do. And, if nothing else, this post is my private reminder. From now on, I’ll have somewhere to come to and remember what the important things in life are. And, if nothing else, those are the things I want my kids to know and learn:

  1. Be happy
  2. Make others happy (it will help a lot with the previous one)
  3. Listen to what other’s tell you, but make your own decision
  4. Learn to fly 🙂

Delivering happiness by being happy yourself

I didn’t know Tony Hsieh or Zappos. Actually, I have never heard of them before. But last year, I was surfing the web and found a video with an interview of some crazy guy to Barbara Walters on 20/20. I became curious by the strange business concepts he was pushing forward during the interview, and it lead me to buy this guy’s book the next day. And I read it in 24 hours.

Obviously, the book was “Delivering happiness” and this was my introduction to Tony and his very different approach to company culture, business strategy and entrepreneurial mindset. The book is not great in terms of literary competency, so no Nobel Prize in the vicinity, but the concepts and the ideas amazed me. I guess you can tell that, along with the book, I bought Tony’s concepts about businesses and life. And by “I bought”, I really mean it took me.

When I first saw the interview I was skeptical (to say the least) about this managerial approach. Actually, what interested me the most were not all the concepts in themselves (which I though were just another hype), but the fact that someone made a successful company in spite of them! More than that, something was there, because Amazon decided to acquire that company for a billion dollars (and this was 3 years ago…).

So about the book. First the critiques: as I told you before, it is not a literary master piece as Tony Hsieh himself will inform you in the Introduction. But it does the trick. On the other hand its rhythm is not constant. What I mean is, half the book is an auto-biography. A cool one, about an Asian-American, with an entrepreneurial spirit, business driven from cradle, who wanted to do nice things and enjoy himself while developing his own businesses. Then, you have a second part, which is the implementation of the business philosophy he was developing. And he did so, applying all his concepts at Zappos.com and succeeded. And so far, so good. The book made sense. The organization of it was logical, too. But there is a third part, on I couldn’t figure out as part of the same book. It was a list of things companies should do (according to Tony) to become great and how to do it. But this feels kind of weird inside this book. It almost feels like a strange body that is not correctly fitted in there. But that’s enough with the critiques, otherwise you’ll think the book is not good at all. Which is not true! It is a good book and it is definitely worth reading, because the ideas of this guy are pretty interesting!

Tony argues that a company should run the extra mile for its customers. And that means actually doing whatever it takes to make sure the client gets satisfied. Even delivering a pizza to someone, although your company is about selling shoes… but if that’s what it takes for that person to be happy, you should do it. It’s pretty much assuming the concept of “defaulting to yes” that many authors (Guy Kawasaky et al) are proclaiming but giving the next step and, not only saying yes, but doing yes.

On the other hand, Tony says that if you want a company to completely commit to its customers, you have to make sure that company has its staff committed with each other and with the company itself. And to do so, you have to make sure your employees are happy. Completely happy. And ready to do the extra effort for the company. And they should do it because it’s not going to fell like an effort at all. To achieve it, Tony argues that all the staff should be as a family. And, yes families have problems, and arguments, and fights, but people try to keep it and solve it within the family. And as if that was not enough, he proclaims that excellency (in terms of this concept of the company as a family) is only achieved when employees want to spend all their time with other co-workers.

Bringing all this together, Tony Hsieh built Zappos.com and made it the most successful online shoes retailer by far. And it was so successful that in 2009 Amazon decided to acquire it for a sum around 1 billion dollars… Yes, a load truck of money, right?

I’d say that’s a pretty convincing argument about, at least, giving these ideas a chance. In the end, they might take you. They sure took me.

In the book you’ll find these ideas, but better thought and better explained (it took him a couple more characters too…). Don’t loose the interest because I didn’t argue for these concepts well enough. He does it way, way better. And it’s by far more interesting, because it’s full of funny episodes of his own experience. So, definitely worth to read.

 

…and it’s becoming flatter and flatter everyday

The World is Flat was one of the first books I’ve read on the changes produced in the world by all the possibilities of the modern age and the web 2.0. Here you can find the 10 flatteners or, according to Thomas Friedman, the conditions that allowed the world to become flat. On the other hand Mr. Friedman also explains how those 10 flatteners work together to allow the world to become flat.

It is quite common nowadays to read or listen the idea that today, as never before, it is easier to produce whatever you want, wherever it is easier, when it’s cheaper and the most appropriate way. You can design something in Italy, define the standard in Germany, produce it in China, establish the support in India, market in the US and then sell it all over the world!

Obviously this idea is not new anymore. And it Thomas Friedman was not the first one to notice all these features and situations. However, his book has three features that put it above all the others on the same subject.

First it is well organized and structured. It is very easy to read and comprehend all the concepts and ideas Mr. Friedman puts forth.

On the other hand, Mr. Friedman’s experiences are very well depicted in the book and he can actually fit them very well on each of the concepts creating a more interesting and entailing story for the reader.

Last but not the least Mr. Friedman’s writing is very easy to follow and entertaining and with very good rhythm.

Ok, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t read the latest edition, I read the original “The World is Flat”. The current one is a new and revised edition with new chapters and updated with new stories and examples. I’m anxious to read it too, because if the two new chapters are half as good as the previous 15, the book is still amazing.

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link on the image bellow.

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