Good to Great

I’ve made a habit of asking a question of people that I hold profound respect for. The question is interesting to me because I feel like it both gives me deeper insight into what makes that person tick as well as an interesting opinion.

The question is this: What books would you recommend that I read?

It seems innocent enough. 🙂

The thing is, when somebody really thinks about this and gives you an answer, it tells you a lot about what they value. It also tells you a little about what they think of you. You see, they wont recommend a book that they think you would dislike. Sometimes they will recommend books that they think will shore up a weakness in you. You naturally have to take this kind of recommendation in stride, since you asked the question. 🙂

I recently asked this question of a manager of mine that I’ve come to know as a friend over the years. Good to Great, by Jim Collins is one of the books he recommended.

I bought the book and have been reading it before I go to bed for the last two weeks. I’m only about a third of the way through it, but I’ve found a lot of the topics discussed very interesting. Its changed my perspective on the companies I’ve worked for and helped me better understand the difference between a functioning organization and a stagnant one.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve picked up so far is this point of getting the right people in the right place. Collins seemed to go as far as to say that it almost doesn’t matter whether the business is successful or not initially. If you get the smart, driven, social people that have a deep understanding of their business, and you get those people in the right places in your organization, they’ll figure out what it will take to make the organization successful.

I also came away thinking that one person in the wrong place can have the opposite effect on a bunch of smart, motivated people. The thing is, that one person can be smart, and a decent leader, but if they don’t understand their own business (or in a management position, what in the world the people under them are doing), they can hamstring hundreds of people.

Another thing I’ve found really interesting was this idea of an armadillo. There were three circles that needed to overlap (think venn diagram). The business has to do something that the people are passionate about. They have to do something that they can be the best in the world at. They have to do something that economically makes sense.

It was fun to read the part about the different companies being passionate about razors or diapers, but they were. And they were wildly successful.

In applying these things to myself, I consider myself a fairly passionate person, especially about my work. I often feel like I’m too passionate sometimes, but I’m slowly realizing that this is a good thing. It helps me enjoy what I do and do a good job at it.

I’ve started thinking about what I can be the best in the world at. This is a more difficult question. This is something I think most people don’t know. I’m still wondering about this.

Lastly, the economics. I feel like I’m moderately successful at what I do, but I wonder if I answer the second question (what can I be the best in the world at), if it will lead me to becoming wildly successful. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, I’m getting to the part about what companies do after they reach their changing point and start becoming wildly successful. Just preping isn’t enough – you have to maintain momentum. I look forward to this next part.

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Regarding Mobile Apps…

I’ve decided to write a mobile app. Not really because its so cool to have an app in an app store, but because I really want an app that does this thing. If it becomes successful, then woohoo.

I’ve developed experience with mobile apps at Adobe using their Flash/AIR platform. At the time I regarded it fairly slow, but somewhat functional. Before I left, I learned a lot about what it would take to build an optimized app, but never actually followed through and built anything.

I’m taking this opportunity to give it a shot and see what happens for two reasons.

One, I don’t feel like learning another language right now. I’m already digesting Java/Struts/Hibernate as well as JQuery and Oracle PL/SQL. Throwing a new platform (Objective C/C#/etc) would make my head explode I think.

Two, I still think that Flash/AIR are worth investing in for this kind of thing. Its not quite to the point where you’ll want to build your high performance game with it, but next year, you might.

An app will also give me the opportunity to try and build an API/Framework in Java. This is something I’ve never even come close to, but I think it will really help me learn the ins and outs of the language. I’m honestly really excited to see what I can do with Java. There were a lot of things that PHP couldn’t do that Java can.