Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: Switch

Do you ever feel like you want to change something but don't know how? If you are anything like me, this is a challenge you face daily. Luckily for us, the Heath brother has taken upon themselves to create a comprehensive framework for how to go about changing someone or something. What's even better is that they succeeded to write another great book, that lives up to the high expectations from their debut blockbuster Made to Stick.

Switch reaches Gladwellian mastery when it comes to readability and entertainment value. But the true value comes with the concrete framework for driving change. Laying out such a framework follows in the tradition of Made to Stick, and has become something of a Heath trademark. With this framework, driving change replaces the guesswork with a more methodological approach to change where the outcome can be predicted.

I enjoyed this book immensely and I expect to get as much value out of Switch as I got out of Made to Stick. I can't wait for their next book, whatever it may be.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My IBM Interview

Valerie Skinner interviewed me for the IBM “Yin meets Yang” blog. I am sharing my thoughts on agile, Jazz and other software development stuff.

Impeccable timing, since my company today also launches a preview of our integration product for Jazz and Lotus Connections.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Two Books On Presentations

Recently, I had the enjoyment to read two good books on presentations. You know, these humiliating affairs feared more than death itself. One is “Confessions of a Public Speaker”, which I panhandled from a colleague after reading his praising tweet; the other is “Presentation Zen”, a longtime item on my Wish List. I wrote Amazon reviews for both books:

One thing is certain, Scott Berkun has the gift of the gab. The author's personal experiences as a speaker at conferences is greatly entertaining and full of humorous anecdotes. I promptly subscribed to his blog, to get more of Berkun's good writing.

But of course, that's not why you read this book, you want to learn about public speaking. And Berkun doesn't disappoint. His first-hand, pragmatic advice on all matters related to public speaking is useful and highly relevant for budding speakers. The book is not, neither does it try to be, a complete reference - but rather a view into the hard work behind presentations.

Let's make it clear that Scott Berkun is not a glamorous celebrity on the speaking circuit. But he is a professional with a name for himself. I think that makes him even better suited to write this book, more so than a superstar such as Jobs or Gladwell.

No matter if you have any upcoming speaking events, you'll get the itch to give it a go after reading this book. I highly recommend it.

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Conceptually, Presentation Zen is an excellent book. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would've wanted to.

Let's start with the good. I love Garr Reynolds's artistic approach to slide design, giving a death kneel to the ubiquitous bullet points. This is where the book really shines, and where you will learn the most. If this section would have been expanded to form the entire book, I would be in heaven.

Here's what I didn't like. Plenty of concepts are mentioned repeatedly, degrading the reading experience when the book is read cover-to-cover. There's also some typographical errors in the book, an issue that always gets me fuming.

But my largest gripe is about the font chapter. There is no such chapter. With plenty of sample slides showing how a changed font can improve upon a slide design, not a single word is written on font usage.

To summarize, the concepts and ideas put forward on slide design are great, and I know that my slides will look better next time I design a slide deck. However, I think that the book is not reaching its full potential, with a halting treatment on slide design - the book's claim to fame.