How you can also read a book per week in 2019

This year is the first year I will finish the year with around 52 books read. I didn’t plan for it, nor was it my goal (30 books was my original goal, though I increased it to 40 halfway the year). Though let me share with you how I managed to reach this reading level, which is like CEO level according to some, or the level that Bill gates does), though I read because I like it, not because I aspire to be somebody else.

1. Read multiple books at the same time

There hasn’t been any moment that I was reading just a single book. I have like four or five books that I am reading at any moment. The main reason I do this is that of number 2 and 3. I use different formats (physical, audio, and ebooks) and where I read.

2. Read different formats

My favorite format is the good old paperback. However, this is not always an option. Either because it is not published as a paperback or because I would like to consume it during cycling. Also, there are ebooks of course, though I am not a big fan of them (or at least I haven’t found a nice way of consuming them). Of course, I could buy yet another dedicated device for it, but for that feels like overkill. A note on audiobooks: I read them on double speed. It is remarkable how easy for the brain it is to process faster audio, though build this up quite gradually I would recommend.

3. Have books always nearby

In my backpack which is like always near to me, I have a book with me. This is like my main book. In my living room, I have another book (currently Poor Charlie’s Almanack which is really more a living room book from a size perspective). In my car, I have a book in case I go somewhere without a backpack, and I want to read, and lastly, on my phone, I got my audiobooks and ebooks.

4. Create reading habits

I have standard moments when I read. When I m traveling, but I don’t have to drive myself I read. When I am cycling, I put on an audiobook and read. When I have some more time in the morning, I pick up a book and read. When I get my son to soccer practice, I read for like the first 45 minutes and watch the rest. Creating moments when you read is a huge advantage and gives you a lot of reading time.

Something that didn’t work for me, but could work for other is to force yourself reading every day a fixed amount (minutes or chapters). I did it during my holidays by reading one chapter per day. Even though I read more, I enjoyed it less. Though it can help you in building a habit, though make sure to commit to it for 3-4 weeks at a minimum.

The reading list

All the books I read you can find here at Goodreads. If you’d like you could also follow me there to get more real-time updates on what I am reading.

Out of the books I have now completed I would recommend most of them, though especially I would recommend:

Thinking in bets

Concise summary: life is not chess it is poker, and you should not confuse poor outcomes with poor decisions. Really good for people who want to understand their decision making a lot better.

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work

If you are leading a group of people, it is mandatory to read this from my perspective. It shows that you don’t have to do all the crazy things (80 hour weeks, endless meetings, busy, sleep deprivation) to be really good at what you do. Of course the precursor of the book: rework, already shared such insights with you.

Algorithms to live by

Everything is an algorithm nowadays, however, what is an algorithm, how does it work and how would it be applied. An excellent book to get started with a better understanding of the new/current world of computer science.

How to fight a hydra

I think the only fable I read this year, but a great short (audio)book that reminders that ambitious challenges are full with ambiguity and uncertainty but that if you are willing to tackle the unknown, you can complete most challenges.

The checklist manifesto

Don’t let your brain do things that a checklist can. That is what my takeaway from this book is. If you weren’t aware: your mind is unreliable, you can not remember every step and a checklist can be based on examples shown in his book, actually save lives. Also, it provides an excellent blueprint for a useful checklist (so like a checklist for checklists ;)).

Man’s search for meaning

Every summary I would write would do a disservice for this superb book. It is the story about and by Viktor E. Frankl during WW2 while staying and surviving the concentration camps. This quote gives you the best indication of what it will be about:

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a pursuit of power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a search for meaning.

For next year I aim at 40 books again. If you have any suggestions, please let me know, always looking for good reading tips.

No Mandate? Don’t bother with social media

Companies have the dillusion that answering complaints on social media is showing they care. It isn’t. Fixing complaints, or preventing them in the first place is a sign you care. Providing answers is just what it is: providing answers.

Though is answering not a nice activity? Well not really, since if this is the sequence:

A: My applicator is broken

B: Yes we know. We are really sorry.

Than you answered. However was it helpful? No clearly not.

This is not to blame to the poor people answering those message on social media. The people who  iniated this “answering machine” is to blame, since people are not looking for answers, they are looking for solutions. And solutions can only be provided when the person confronted with the issue has to mandate to fix it.

A mandate to tweet doesn’t solve anything. If you decide you need to do web care, than “take care”, don’t pretend you care by not taking care.

Robots are not taking your job

The rise of Artificial Intelligence seems to be a scary things for many people. Since the thing that robots / algorithms will take their job. However that is not the case. People have taken the jobs of robots and now need to give them back.

Would you really want to do a job that can be done better by a robot or a by a few lines of code? Or would you rather be a little bit more creative and less repetitive? AI is great in augmenting people at their job and making them better in the work they do, AI doesn’t steal jobs away it just makes them better and more fun.

If only people would stop taking the jobs from the robots away, than we would not have had this discussion in the first place.

The 2019 trends are not important

After the GDPR fiesta of messages in May we reached the end of the year which means that everybody who is dependent on his income advising others how they should do digital is publishing the 2019 trends on digital. Those trends are completely irrelevant.

The reason for these trends is to give people, who are hiring advisors, the feeling that they are moving in the completely wrong direction. Which is ironic since you had hired that advisor before to guide you the way. Another reason is that advisors prefer to have more business from you and need to find another project.

You know how many consultants it take to change a light bulb? Your current budget + 30%. 

So next time somebody comes to you with next year trends and what you need to do, just ask yourself five questions:

  1. What is the budget you have available?
  2. What is the segment you would like to target?
  3. What is your current position in the market?
  4. What are your overall objectives?
  5. Given my previous answers is this really the number 1 should be doing?

Fix your strategy first before you can jump in those trendy tactics for 2019.

And if you really want to know what is happening in 2019, then this set of predictions sums it up for marketing:

What is it that your customer is asking?

If you ever had to collect requirements you might have heard the anecdote that if your customer asks for a drill, you should not ask how big the drill should be or how strong it should be. you should ask why the customer wants to have the hole in the wall.

Yes, that is a good start. But that is only half the story. It is not about the hole in the wall nor is it about the drill. It is about what the customer is doing next. Does he want to hang a painting he just bought. Is it a shelf to put the pictures of his grand children there.

Even with that answer, you only have a very functional view of the customer requirement. What is it about the painting it should hang there, is it something she made, bought, inherited from a loved family member? The pictures of the grandchildren, are those the ones that she sees every weekend or those who live around the world?

Yes, it is about how the result makes the customer feel, not about the outcome itself. Be also curious about the process. There might be a sense of pride involved doing it herself.

If you are not interested in how your customers feel, you’re not providing customer experience. You are just providing a service.

Customer Experience: it is just about balancing anxiety and excitement

Today everything is customer experience. Even the things you don’t do, but that have your name on it affects CX. Though let’s keep it simple: customer experience is just about removing anxiety and increasing excitement in a consistent manner.

Removing anxiety

Every question a customer has is a potential source of fear for her. Every next step in the user journey that has an ambiguous outcome drives anxiety. Nobody likes anxiety and if there is a way to get rid of it people sometimes go a great length. Including switching service providers or brands in general.

Warning signs that you are maintaining anxiety are lists of frequently-asked-questions and answers. Why should customers ask you the same questions frequently? Standard boilerplate responses of customer service representatives are also a sign that there is something wrong. It is all effective, but it does not create a great experience. They keep the poor experience and don’t improve it in the long run.

FAQs and boilerplate are responses to small spikes of anxiety that you have caused by leaving gaps, and those could have been small spikes of excitement if you bothered to work on your well-structured todo list which you have now transformed into an FAQ (well it is always easier to list issues than to solve them). Instead of answering a question on social media using a templated reply, why not work with your customer to make sure this kind of question should never be asked again.

Increasing excitement

It is not about putting up the balloons and throwing confetti (though it helps). A celebration is just one type of excitement, which is excellent, but there is more. Something as simple as confirmation can reassure a customer that she is on the right way. Looking forward to the future is another way of creating excitement (for example with a countdown to the holidays you just have booked). Alternatively, a simple manual (upfront or of course afterward) to explain how the item they want to use is working can create much excitement. It is about triggering the imagination how great life will be, based on their actions. Alternatively, it is about reassuring them that they made a correct decision.

Consistency is better than incidental greatness

Customers’ benchmark of your service is the highest level of service they have experienced. Everything you move below level is a dissatisfier and can create more anxiety (“did I do something wrong that I get this outcome”)

Consistency is not the same as average. If you put your feet in the fridge and your head in an oven. Your average temperature is ok. However, it is not a very consistent experience and probably makes you feel quite miserable.

Consistency removes anxiety. People know what happens next and at the same time, it increases excitement because of that same reason. It provides precise control in the variation, just enough to not make it identical but similar. Even though the outcome is not completely clear the range of the results is identified and are in line with the expectations of the customer.

Keep Customer Experience simple

Identify where your customer has anxiety and remove it. Increase excitement where possible and where applicable. Deliver the experience consistently so your customer has a reasonable expectation of what is next and what she can achieve during her interactions with you.

Let real people be your brand’s Social Media activity

If you haven’t done so already, there is no reason to invest big time in starting up a corporate social media channel. Of course, it is a hygiene measure to have a corporate social media account though will this be your tactic that makes the biggest impact? I don’t think so.

There are groups of people who never owned a desktop computer and learned to access the web via a tablet or who directly went to a mobile phone and skipped landlines. This is the same for corporate social media channels: there is a use for it, and it was an attractive tactic in the past, however, employee advocacy will get you ahead, while the corporate channel will just defend your status quo.

Nobody wants to be friends with a logo

Building up a corporate account is painful. You start with zero attention (friends, followers etc) and what would be the most compelling reason for people to follow a company, to friend a logo? Building up an audience of a reasonable size will be super hard, consuming a lot of time and resources and even then your impact (reach, traffic, engagement) will be limited.

Don’t spend money on acquiring an audience you already have

Chances are high that even though your company is not on social media, your employees are. They might be there for personal reasons to read or share about their hobbies, their expertise or just connect with people they like. Some might be there for professional reasons and some of them might already be an ambassador for your company.

However, don’t see them as your new found marketing department. Don’t just give these employees the content you wanted to share on your corporate social media accounts with the instruction to share it on their own accounts. I would recommend against it, you need a smarter approach. Otherwise, your employees might end up looking like corporate banner ads and loose some friends since all they can talk about is your company.

Just to stress it is not an OR – OR decision between corporate accounts and employee advocacy. Though if you have a limited budget put more into employee advocacy than into building up a corporate social media presence.

Employees have more impact than your corporate accounts

People trust people, that is what is the Edelman Trust barometer is showing year over year. Therefore content shared by your employees is likely to perceived more trust worthy than content shared via a logo (your corporate accounts) even when the content is similar since people trust people more than logos, especially when these people display a certain level of expertise.

Next to trusting content, content (and in particular brand content) is re-shared 24 times more often when distributed by employees than by a brand. Which means that reach is not just a little bit bigger, it is five times bigger. For this increase in reach you either had to be very lucky with your corporate accounts or you had to invest in advertising for a significant amount.

Besides reaching more people, the engagement with your content is a lot higher: up to 8 times higher. So it is not just reach that increases, but also there are more actions that the audience takes with your content.

Lastly many channels, Facebook included, are deprioritizing company content over real people content. So if you are just focusing on corporate channels you will just end up paying more to maintain the same reach.

If it was that easy, why is not everybody doing this?

Before explaining you how you could help the existing group of social media enthusiasts in your company better, let me explain you how you could assist those who are not yet that active on social media first. There are always three root causes why people are not active on social media yet:

Root cause 1: employees lack the knowledge on how to do it

This might be the easiest to tackle by providing continuous education. Not just from a very practical point of view to explain how things work and which buttons to push, but also by sharing best practices with them and by stimulating conversations between themselves to discover what works for them. This is where you can also ask the enthusiastic to step in and share their experiences.

Root cause 2: employees  think they are not allowed to do it

It is not uncommon for people to feel they are not the ones who should be talking on social media. “What would I have to add to this discussion” is they question they raise. Which is true, though at the same time, millions of people don’t seem to holding back and keep adding to the discussion. Is more than always better? No, but you can explain them they have a point of view that is unique and that is valued.

Root cause 3: employees have a lack of discipline

Starting is always easy, keeping the pace is the hard thing. Some people don’t start because they think they cannot keep the pace, some people start and don’t maintain the pace. It is up to you to find a way to keep them going over time by building a habit of sharing and participation.

How you could help your employees to shine

You will help your employees most by not seeing them as a replacement of your corporate communications department or your marketing department. By not burdening them with a task to do for you. Employee advocacy is about making them shine and if you do it well enough their results will reflect on your company, it is not the other way around. In the end people trust people and want to connect with people not with logos.

Make social media a perk, not work

Employee advocacy is about making your employees shine, make them look smarter than they already do, provide them with things they can learn from and what their network could learn from. It is about providing employees an opportunity to grow in a safe and risk free way. Provide them with the opportunity to learn even if they don’t share any content with their network.

Make it easy

Being active on social media is not something natural for everybody and building a habit takes time. Therefore try to make it as frictionless as possible. It can be as simple as you sending them tailor made messages for them to share by clicking a link or by pointing them to an interesting discussion with some proposed talking points.

It shouldn’t take them a lot of time and it should give them a sense of accomplishments and pride on what they have done. Even though you make it easy, don’t forget to praise them for doing it, since they are changing their way of working.

Employee account, employee rules

If you ask your employees to participate you cannot expect that you are the only one setting all the rules. You ask them to participate on social media, you should give them the freedom to choose with what they participate and how they participate. Of course you can provide suggestions, though it is very much up to them to decide what they will do.

Spotlight internal and external

Don’t forget to compliment the employees for their hard work. And more importantly, don’t forget to show it what they mean for you outside the organization and inside. Outside: why not draw the spotlight on them: sponsor their content, highlight their contribution on the corporate accounts and inside: explain why they

Be ready for disappointment on the short term

Change is never easy, keep that in mind. You are working on change management and if that was an easy job, there wasn’t an industry around it. Change is hard both for you as the people you want to help out. Be prepared that it will take twice as long as you planned, success will be limited in the beginning, people dislike your ideas, but that on the long run you can be successful if you persist.

If you can persevere and make employee advocacy work, your employees will win more than the company. The more you enable employees to win big, the more your company can win over time.

Bad doors and bad design are everywhere.

We need more people who care so deeply about good design.

Don Norman started complaining about doors over 25 years ago. Doors shouldn’t need instructions – the shape of them can guide you through just fine. So why do so many doors need instruction manuals right on the side of them?

When most people complain about something, nothing happens. Don Norman is not most people – he’s a psychologist and cognitive scientist. Don Norman thought about, and wrote about his complaints so incredibly thoroughly that he changed the world.