Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is the starting point for anyone who wants to stop and really learn about how we think and make decisions. It’s an incredibly information rich book, it’s certainly not an easy read but it is most definitely a worth while one.

It collects decades of research into how we make decisions, how we consider risk and gain and how we use shortcuts that are sometimes great but can often be terrible.

It starts by discussing System 1 and System 2, two models of thought. System 1 is the hasty and instinctual prone to taking shortcuts and making lazy decisions. System 2 is the more rational, willing to spend effort to make important decisions. Kahneman discusses the differences between these two modes, and shows us when System 1 can make good decisions, and where it can fall down.

We then move on to thinking about Humans and Econs. Traditional economic theory suggests that people always make rational decisions. Kahneman shows us times we may not behave rationally, when we are Humans and not the Econs of rational theory.

Finally, he discusses the differences between the remembering self and experiencing self. In this approach, we see that people are often willing to experience greater overall discomfort if the end of it is more pleasant. We remember the end of the experience more clearly, or we recall the peaks more than the average. It’s a surprising insight.

The book is brilliantly researched, each insight is backed up with rock solid studies that are brilliantly footnoted. Every chapter covers one of these major insights, compressed down into less than a dozen pages. There are regular ‘Speaking of’ sections that give great short practical views into each of the complex topics.

Take the time to drink this book in. Don’t rush through it, but do rush to buy it!

 

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Intro to CBT Approaches

I had a really great continuing professional development session last week with the British School of Coaching, spending a morning discussing CBT, getting a basic understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, what it means and how you can consider it during a coaching session.

We talked about feelings, emotions, thoughts and actions, considering how they all might be linked together and talked about productively. There was a brilliant range of attendees, from those just starting on their coaching journey to some who had long term experience in CBT.

The sessions went into enough depth to give an interested practitioner enough information to understand how to go and learn more, whether that was the full CBT or some of the tools and approaches that can help you connect better to emotion in a coaching session.

Continuing professional development is a key part of your growth of a coach, and these types of focused taster sessions are a brilliant springboard to understanding future learning options.

 

Innovation is Tough

Building a culture of innovation is tough. It’s pretty easy to learn the ‘fail fast’ or ‘build-measure-learn’ mantras, but to really pull it together requires a deep understanding of these paradigms. You have to recognise a good failure as opposed to a bad. You need to be strong in defining experiments and how you react if you don’t get hoped for results. You really must have strong leadership at all levels.

The benefits of innovation are immense. You solve the right problems, you do it effectively and efficiently and you empower people to bring about massive positive change.

HBR’s recent article, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures, really drills down into the detail of this. It shows you what good and bad is, and how to recognise them. It’s an excellent read, well worth your time and the time of anyone attempting to embed this culture in their organisation.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have just released their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. It’s a collection of micro essays on covering the authors’ thoughts of damaging or short term working practices.

It’s an incredibly quick read, each thought is presented over at most three pages, so it’s easy to rattle through them at speed. Most of them have examples of the described approach and benefits from Basecamp, the company they founded in 1999.

The basic premise is that you can find time to do important work by shutting out distractions, rather than pushing to be the most reactive, always on and always struggling to grow.

Not every piece of advice will be relevant to you, or possible for you to enact (some of the bigger benefits like a four day week can be hard to implement). However, some of them likely will be useful. Cutting down on chat software, setting sensible boundaries and other simple changes can make big differences to what you are able to accomplish, without it feeling crazy.

People rarely do great work while under unreasonable pressure or whilst constantly distracted. This is worth recognising, and this book is certainly a good quick intro to some of these thoughts.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

Crucial Conversations

Vital Smarts’ Crucial Conversations is a classic book on the subject of communication. Its core message is that some conversations are far more important than others, that they may suddenly occur without warning and that if you aren’t prepared for this, it’ll often go badly.

It’s set out much as you may expect, opening up with the basic premise, running through how to recognise what a Crucial Conversation is and when you might be about to enter one. It runs through techniques to succeed, methods to deal with complex situations and finally works through how to secure actions and commitments at the end of a conversation.

The newer edition also covers a series of particularly difficult cases or types of behaviour, dealing with a large number of the possible objections along the lines of “Great ideas, but my specific case doesn’t fit because …”.

Altogether, it’s well written and simple to follow. If you’ve read a lot in this area, then you’ll find the ideas and approaches familiar, but that’s probably because newer books build on them or take them as a starting point.

If all you take away from the book is that some conversations are vital, and that if you can be aware of that then you’ll improve your overall communication and effectiveness. If you can go to the next level, and seek to improve how you build dialogue during those conversations, then you’ll really be taking the value from this writing.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

 

The Coaching Manual

Julie Starr’s book on the required reading list for anyone exploring the Coaching method. It has reached its fourth edition, first released in 2002, it has been revised and updated regularly, and is an excellent guide to the practice and processes of Coaching.

Spread over several chapters, it covers what coaching is, and shows some differences between effective and ineffective methods. It covers the skills of coaching and the barriers you might encounter. Finally, it works through how a coaching session can be put together, and then how to put together a wider coaching engagement spanning multiple sessions.

It’s a very practical guide, well written and split into easily consumable sections. It’s simple to dip in and out for details of ares that are of interest in the moment, but it’s certainly worth reading all the way through.

There are numerous sidebars that encourage you to reflect on what you’ve read, to consider your own practice or to complete a relevant exercise. It’s easy to skip them on a quick read through, but worth returning to those that cover the places you most wish to improve upon, as they will really cement your learning.

There are also hints and tips, practical examples and short summaries scattered throughout the book, all of which can provide useful guidance. The appendix covers a toolkit of useful documents and considerations, and Julie provides a number of web based resources online, which are also extremely valuable.

Overall, this in an excellent reference book, and should be on the shelf of all practising coaches.

Effective Modern Coaching

Miles Downey’s book, Effective Modern Coaching, is the recent update to his 1999 Effective Coaching. It’s a short and punchy introduction to the art of business coaching.

It’s split into four main parts, a description of coaching practice, the models and skills you can apply in coaching, approaches to coaching in the workplace, and a final short section on coaching for genius.

Overall, it’s a good initial introduction to coaching, especially in a business context. It has a couple of really useful ideas, the first is a consideration of the coaching relationship. In this model, Downey refers to the ‘coach’ and the ‘player’. By moving away from the terminology of ‘coachee’, Downey brings the player fully into the relationship as an equal participant rather than a passive recipient. It’s a fundamental recognition of the core of successful coaching, that both sides must be fully invested in the process to ensure a great outcome.

The second is his recognition of the possibility of coaching unlocking the genius inherent in a person. It shows the understanding that all people have it within themselves to excel in an arena, and that one of the major strengths of coaching is that it can help them to recognise that, and to help them find the area to excel, and to discover the path to get there.

If you take nothing else from this book, then those two ideas alone are worth the cost of entry and a place in your coaching library.