Learnings from 2016's reading list

I hate reading.

Somehow though I managed to get thru several books this past year as I finally narrowed down my preferred genre and style. Here are just a few thoughts on each of the books I read during 2016, in no particular order.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Product

by Nir Eyal

It’s all about the Hook Model as Nir Eyal describes, which serves to force habit-forming products. He lays out the four steps of the Hook Model: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment.

By carefully walking the reader thru various examples from making the initial contact, to notifications and alerts and well timed yet varying rewards, to keep you coming back and invested in the product. Eyal explains how forming habits in business can be accomplished.

He does stress though that it is our responsibility to not misuse the Hook Model.

The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

by Ben Horowitz

If you’re running an organization, you’re leading a department, or you’re a product manager in your organization this should be one of the first books you should pick up. Hell, if you’re even thinking about starting a business pick this book up!

Horowitz walks you thru his experience at Opsware from several situations and circumstances he experienced as if he was writing the book in real time as they were happening.

From setting up shop for your HR unit or communicating with your employees, to carefully hiring and selecting members of your executive team. Ben does a great job on relaying not just his experience but providing you with key takeaways for you to utilize in your day-to-day and long-term operations.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

by Peter Thiel

Ah yes, the first read of 2016 and what actually led me to read every other book on this list plus what ultimately led me to discover the current book I’m reading.

Thiel describes how creating isn’t as easy as it sounds and true (genuine) innovation is much more than a simple product iteration. New is 0 to 1, creating new is inspired by monopolies not competition. Thiel states that focusing on the competition is essentially the death knell of an organization, as this causes an organization to lose sight and focus on its own mission and vision, and leads to copying, not truly creating or innovating.

Well Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love

by Jon Kolko

Product managers in technology or marketing should pick this book up for the mere fact that it’d at the very least not only work as an introduction to your role but teach you how to frame, design, and position great products.

It’s all about establishing an emotional connection with your user/customer. If you’re able to add personality to your product — and your organization for that matter — then you’re very well on your way to success.

These are just a few notes I gathered and that were of highlight to me. I highly recommend all four readings to anyone in business or leadership. I would consider these basic reads for those entering the job market or currently in it in some capacity.