Chapter sampling

So far this year I’ve downloaded sample chapters of 20 non-fiction books to my Kindle.  In 2017 I downloaded 34.  I don’t think I’ll be downloading another 14 this year, but probably I’ll download 2 or 3 more.

I download chapters of books that either I’ve read a review of that I think sounds interesting and relevant to the work that I’m doing, or that people have recommended – in response to something I’ve said I’m working on.  So, reviewing the chapter list I can review my year at work.  It’s a variant of a personal diary, except I’ve done the reading not the writing.

At least, in theory, I’ve done the reading.  In practice I have not read all the sample chapters all the way through, and I don’t know if Amazon is keeping track of the sample chapters that I convert to buying the whole book – probably they are, so I’m expecting a nudge on the lines of  ‘People like you download 25 sample chapters per year and then buy the full book of 20 of them.’

Amazon may not have the AI (yet) to report that my starting to read a sample chapter invariably invokes my personal a ‘fail fast’ system, and may be running their sample chapter operation on the premise that I will read the sample and buy the book.  But I don’t.  If I want to read it, I borrow it from the library.  (Libraries are a very necessary part of community life and are under increasing threat.  I’m a confirmed library user and delighted to see how the campaign is growing to save the UK’s libraries from closure).

I wonder what nudges, reprimands or penalties Amazon will invoke when they get the pattern. What proportion of readers really are like me and don’t buy the book?   Will Amazon to redesign my process or make me see it from a different perspective because I stop their purchasing a few pages in?  I see Amazon’s Alexa now has Hunches, will she/he sense my preference for library borrowing and urge me to buy the book instead or will Alexa be biased in favour of libraries?

Enough on Alexa and Amazon. The books I haven’t bought during 2018 are a mixed bunch:

  1. Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach, Bernard van Praag and Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell.
  2. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor
  3. Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management: Organizing For Innovation And Growth, David Teece
  4. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, Gay Hendricks
  5. The Tyranny of Metrics, Jerry Z Muller
  6. Agile IT Organization Design: For Digital Transformation and Continuous Delivery,  Sriram Narayan
  7. Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience,  Mary Helen Immordino-yang
  8. Deviate: the science of seeing differently, Beau Lotto
  9. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth,
  10. Small Arcs of Larger Circles: framing through other patterns, Nora Bateson
  11. Simple Complexity: a clear guide to complexity thinking, Neil Johnson
  12. Notes on a nervous planet, Matt Haig
  13. GDP: a brief but affectionate history, Diane Coyle
  14. Twitter and Tear Gas: the power and fragility of networked protest,  Zeynep Tufekci
  15. Networks of Outrage and Hope: social movements in the internet age, Manuel Castells
  16. Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, Kate Raworth,
  17. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts, and Tools,  Richard Paul
  18. Metaphors in Mind: transformations through symbolic modelling,  James Lawley
  19. Moral Courage, Rushworth Kidder
  20. Bullshit jobs, David Graeber

Applying my human sense-making to the list and attempting to see a pattern in it, reveals that through the year I was looking at four categories:  employee experience (1, 2, 20), designing systems (3, 6, 10, 11, 18), operational context (5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16)  and brain stuff (7, 8, 4, 9, 17, 19).

The list reflects the way I work with organisation design.  I do think it’s about designing structures, roles, processes and systems that yield a positive employee experience.  In doing that we have to be alert to the constantly changing environment (internal and external) and take thoughtful, often courageous action.

In each of the categories I find that, even if I have not either bought or borrowed the book, I have taken info from the sample chapter and used it in my work – an example from each category:

Employee Experience CategoryBullshit Jobs,  which discusses the ‘possibility that our society is riddled with useless jobs that no one wants to talk about’, because as he observes, ‘Everyone is familiar with those sort of jobs that don’t seem to the outsider, to really do much of anything’.  It did good service in alerting me to be more rigorous and critical in my work on job design.

Designing systems categorySimple Complexity – The writing style of the author irritated me so I looked for other sources of info and was recommended David Snowden’s 3-minute video How to Organise a Children’s Party which explains simply and brilliantly.  I’ve now shown the video many times in workshops.

Operational context categoryThe Tyranny of Metrics – not only did I borrow the book, from the library, and read it all, I also wrote a blog on it

Brain stuff categoryMiniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts, and Tools – I wrote a blog on this too and I’m also now using the tools, frameworks, and info available on the Critical Thinking Foundation website – so well worth the download.

Have you read all or part of any of the books I downloaded sample chapters of?  If so, what did you learn from them?  Let me know.

Image:  Kindle logo

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