Early non-fiction

This is part of a series of posts I’m doing to write about books I read after I started noting down ratings for books, but before I started noting down when I read them, and writing full reviews for them. This post covers various non-fiction I read.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins
Publisher: HarperBusiness
Released: October 16, 2001
Pages: 300
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To find the keys to greatness, Collins's 21-person research team read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project. The findings will surprise many readers and, quite frankly, upset others.

The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:
Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.

The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.

A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

Me, and the other delegates, were given this book during the annual conference of an organisation I was in. the purpose was to instil some thinking in us about what made good businesses good, and the mentality one should have when trying to achieve something.

The interesting takeaway in this book (or, at least what I took away from it) can be covered with one sentence: when doing something you should aim to be better than everyone else at whatever you’re doing, otherwise you should evaluate why you’re doing it, or perhaps think about doing something else.

Regardless of whether or not this statement is valid, the book mostly seemed like fodder around this idea. I found it boring, and not at all helpful.

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our TimeThe Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David A. Vise
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: October 1, 2005
Pages: 326
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Moscow-born Sergey Brin and Midwest-born Larry Page dropped out of graduate school at Stanford University to, in their own words, "change the world" through a powerful search engine that would organize every bit of information on the Web for free. The Google Story takes you deep inside the company's wild ride from an idea that struggled for funding in 1998 to a firm that rakes in billions in profits, making Brin and Page the wealthiest young men in America. Based on scrupulous research and extraordinary access to Google, this fast-moving narrative reveals how an unorthodox management style and culture of innovation enabled a search engine to shake up Madison Avenue and Wall Street, scoop up YouTube, and battle Microsoft at every turn. Not afraid of controversy, Google is expanding in Communist China and quietly working on a searchable genetic database, initiatives that test the founders' guiding mantra: DON'T BE EVIL.

I picked The Google Story up at an airport on the outward journey of a holiday, and I’m very happy I did! I read this book on the holiday, and it was incredibly interesting. It gave a great outline of the early history of Google, and the story behind how they started making money in the way they later became famous for. This book sparked an interest in me for online-revenue making that would stick with me, and later affect quite a few of the essays I wrote in Economics. I’m not sure how the book holds up now, or indeed if it’s entirely accurate, but as a young tech-interest geek, this was an incredibly entertaining read!

Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink FloydInside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason, Philip Dodd
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Released: September 30, 2004
Pages: 360
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Here, for the first time, is the story of Pink Floydfrom the inside out. With 116 million albums sold worldwide and 25 years on the pop charts to their credit, Pink Floyd is one of the most successful rock groups in history, yet their storyuntil nowis one of the least known. The only continuous member of the band through its entire 40-year history, Nick Mason has witnessed every twist, turn, and sommersault from behind his drum kit. The journey begins with the band's origins as the darlings of London's late 1960s underground and the creation of the classic Pink Floyd sound, all the way through to The Wall and those legendary stadium shows. Here are the players who shaped the band's history and the story behind the storythe inside perspective on, for example, the deterioration and departure of Syd Barrett; the overwhelming success of The Dark Side of the Moon and the resulting pressures and conflicts within the band, including the rift with Roger Waters; and Nick and David Gilmour's decision to put their reputations on the line and continue as Pink Floyd. Packed with rare photographs and vintage Floyd graphics from Nick Mason's extensive private archive, Inside Out is an eye-opener for both veteran fans and those just discovering the group. And, in keeping with the classic Floyd style, the book's cover was designed by Storm Thorgerson, creator of such iconic images as the Dark Side pyramid. Always candid, by turns poignant and funny, Nick's own memories are augmented with extensive research and interviews, making Inside Out a comprehensive history of one of the most brilliant and imaginative bands the world has knownand a masterly memoir of rock and roll.

This was probably a Christmas gift based on my interest in Pink Floyd, and it not only was the book interesting, it was also surprisingly entertaining. I read this before all information about everything became readily available on the internet, and there was a bunch of stuff in here, especially about the early history of Pink Floyd, that I just didn’t know about. I truly would recommend this as a must-read for any Pink Floyd fan, if only for the charming way in which this book is written. Some years later I also got this book signed by Roger Waters, which doesn’t make me appreciate the book any less.

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