Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Strategic Collection

The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy (Knickerbocker Classics) Sun Tzu, Nicolo Machiavelli, with An Introduction by Erik O. Ronningen - (Racepoint Publishing)

Over the course of time there have been shelves full of books written about strategic thinking and how to apply strategy to business. While many of these books have been touted as classics and have offered up nuggets of useful information most have not held up in the same fashion as the classic military strategy books that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

These military treatises have been interpreted and re-interpreted many times and have had variations that point to a way to utilize them in the world of business. Four of these truly classical takes on strategy are collected in a beautiful and extremely useful package dubbed, The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy.

Housed in a sturdy slip cover, this well designed collection includes; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Nicolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, General Carl von Clausewitz’s, On War, and Fredrick the Great’s, Instructions to His Generals. Military veteran Erik O. Ronningen provides an introduction to the collection that not only informs, but adds historical context for each of the individual books.

While many renditions and interpretations of Sun Tzu have come before; I have muddle through any number of variations, the version included in this set tracks very well and is among the most relatible versions I have encountered. The von Clausewitz is a book that I have recommended many times after an instructor at West Point passed along his recommendation to me. There is something quintessential about each of these pieces that translates to even modern situations.

Perfect for fans of military history or business strategy, it has allowed me to jettison the individual, often dog eared copies of the four books. There is something substantial about the heft of this book/case that tells me it will stand the test of time, much like the texts it contains. While I have gifted my son with some of these books individually, I plan to purchase an additional copy to pass along to him this holiday season. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Education vs. Learning

Don’t Pay for Your MBA- The Faster, Cheaper, Better Way to Get the Business Education You Need – Laurie Pickard (AMACOM)

This has been one of the seemingly endless, personal, debates that I have had over the course of my career; should I take the next educational step, bite the bullet and get an MBA. The debate is marked by any number of the familiar touch points that these kinds of debates usually have; the lack of time to commit to getting it done conflicting with work and family, the high cost, again conflicting with family and lifestyle and the invariable question, is it truly worth the investment of time ad treasure?

I will admit that most often the debate comes up when a colleague or manager has encouraged me down that road with talk of a higher level position or new management role. I have continued to nurture and invest my own personal learning, but without taking the step of enrolling in a formal educational program.

It is that at this point in the debate that Laurie Pickard’s new book, Don’t Pay for Your MBA- The Faster, Cheaper, Better Way to Get the Business Education You Need, has tossed gasoline on the fire of that debate. Pickard advocates persuasively for taking the route of taking MOOCs; Massive Open Online Courses. I encourage you to Google MOOCs and be astounded by the truly massive variety of low and no, cost courses that  are available and accessible to furthering your learning.

Pickard also goes as far as arming you with a road map and the tools to design the course of study you want to undertake; whether it’s sharpening your skillset, growing into new areas or setting yourself up to take the plunge into a full on MBA program, she helps you chart the course. This allows you to evaluate your personal progress, determine how much time you want to commit and design the best program to achieve your goals, not somebody else wants. It’s a safe bet the no high priced MBA program can offer you access to a personally designed core curriculum like the one you can build, especially at the comfortable price of a copy of Pickard’s book.

This is the kind of investment parents should make for those perpetual students, who can’t quite manage to figure out what they want to do. A second copy may also help those parents figure out what direction they personally want to take. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Go Your Own Way

Dot Journaling: The Set – Rachel Wilkerson Miller – (The Experiment)

As I have written on numerous prior occasions, I am more than a bit of an addict when it comes to journals, notebooks, organizers and pens. There is literally a pile of these books in various states of usage and size that litter my desk, my office and my home. My wife will attest to the fact that I NEVER leave home without some form of notebook and at least two pens…you never know when a brilliant idea might strike!

I am also a copious taker of notes and I have tried the full range of note taking implements; from legal pads and binders to bound notebooks all variety and size. My focus is to be as organized as possible within the parameters of a very busy work life. Once while interviewing potential ad agencies, I was gifted with a custom designed notepad that was designed for meeting note taking and I am not ashamed to admit that I went as far as re-creating the notes pages and I have continued to utilize the design many years later.

I am after all, an addict. Over the course of time I have sought and discarded countless organizational tools including more than a few high priced, “custom’ solutions, that I later found to be lacking in some way shape or form. Recently I toyed with investing in Michael Hyatt’s quarterly subscription organizer, but was concerned that it would end up on the stack, unused and couldn’t justify the price tag.

Then came the opportunity to review Rachel Wilkerson Miller’s  Dot Journaling: The Set, which includes Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide and a dot journal notebook. While it says so right there in the title, I did find Miller’s guide very practical. While some gurus of these kinds of organizational systems try to mold you to their way of thinking and organizing, the thing I liked immediately about Miller’s “system” is that the only real system there is, is the one you create. The dot journal lends itself to being everything you want it to be and nothing you don’t.

If you want a notebook, you’ve got one. If you want and organizer for your calendar, you can create it. Say you want something uniquely your own design, there is nothing about this approach that stops you from building it your way. The rules you work with, are the ones that you write, you can go your own way.

Miller does a wonderful job of offering up literally dozens of variations that you can build into your dot journal. She provides loads of useful solutions and techniques for making the system as useful to you as you want it to be. I often found other “systems” either too much or not quite enough. 

My only quibbles and they are minor, is that I found the journal included in the set to be a little smaller than I would like and a little girly, with the pale green cover, insert it into a leather cover and that problem is solved. The other is that the paper was a little light for my heavy hand and tended to bleed a bit. The solution is a quick fix and visit to Amazon for a larger format and heavy weight paper dot journal; the system can work anywhere.