Monday, December 31, 2007

Off the (Business) Books

In the interest of saving time and money in terms of trying to keep up with current business and technology books, I subscribe to several book summary services. In recent days, I've been impressed by several such summaries -- and the ideas they (as well as the books they're about) contain. Here are some highlights:

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is Dean's Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts, and if that's not a cool academic title, I don't know what is. I'm sure the 400-page book is well worth reading, but GetAbstract's five-page summary turned me on to several fascinating concepts. They include the Ludic fallacy, confirmation bias, and the risks of Gaussian curves. This was my first exposure to GetAbstract, and I was pretty impressed. We'll see if every five pager is as jam packed with ideas!

Intellectual Property: The Tough New Realities That Could Make or Break Your Business (via Soundview Executive Book Summaries)
Soundview's summaries are a tad longer, but at eight pages, this is still a quick read, and you're able to get the main ideas behind the book in pretty short order -- I read this one last night in bed before falling asleep. Key topics addressed in this summary include the paradox of public goods, how economists view IP as inexhaustible while businesses view them as scalable, and the current state of patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law. Several cool examples were briefly considered, like the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, landmark cases in patenting plants and vertebrates, and McDonald's v. Quality Inns (which is touched on in Language Log). A useful primer.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (via Audio-tech)
I've had a copy of Chip and Dan Heath's book on my reading pile since it came out, and I've even exchanged emails with them. But I've yet to read the thing. So it's high time I checked out this 16-page summary. While Audio-tech tends to summarize on the long side, this is still a relatively quick read and stays a little more true to the original text. Among the highlights in this summary were the debunking of the dangers of Halloween candy, the Curse of Knowledge, the commander's intent statement (something I plan to start using when appropriate), forced prioritization, the gap theory of curiosity (discussed in Trusted.MD), and the origin of the phrase "sour grapes." I'll have to make a note to go through the book in more detail when I hit it in the old reading pile.

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