Just Read: The Two Second Advantage

Coincidentally, the topics in the book “The Two Second Advantage” by Vivek Ranadivé & Kevin Maney, are both interesting and fascinating out of an Agile perspective and I’ll discuss this here in my impression of the book.

The book tries to show how some parts of human talent comes from wiring the brain in such a way that it perceives things just a little bit ahead of time. Phenomenal individuals, such as hockey virtuoso Wayne Gretzky and pickup artist “Mystery” are brought forward as examples of humans having acquired such talent. The authors argue there a number of factors required for this wiring to take place along with the now famous 10 000 hours of deliberate practice. To be able to predict the future, or assess situations, very quickly, the authors argue that the brain does something called “chunking”. This means that the brain, upon repetition or practice, over time builds up a “chunk” of knowledge of a certain topic. It can then use this chunked, mental model for predictions instead of having to look at all available data stored in the brain’s neurons. Supposedly, this is partly due to the substance myelin building up along frequently used neurons.

All this is quite fascinating but has a focus on the human body and its capabilities. However, these topics are just the beginning of the book and the authors soon progress to transpose their arguments to the business world. Here it starts to get even more interesting for us in the software business. They talk about the data explosion going on in today’s connected world, and about how 20th century solutions to finding important statistics and other information from what is gathered in a company’s servers, are simply not enough anymore.

Conventional data mining and analysis has a couple of problems namely that it deals with how things used to be and not how they will be. With the amount of stored data growing, there are also situations where it simply cannot be mined fast enough.

So, what has all of this got to do with Agile? Well as I see it, companies taking the necessary steps to introduce forward looking software, to gain a prediction advantage over competitors will need to have an Agile organization. They will need this because when their new predictive system tells them what to do, they must be able to pivot, and quickly put the knowledge to use before it gets old and useless. If done right, that must be the nirvana of Agility. To have a brain-like software constantly mining the business related data to predict what customers or clients will want to have in the future, and have the organization and delivery procedures ready to carry out the necessary changes ahead of time, with exactness.

The book is short, on topic and connects the workings of the mind with 21st century business processes, as well as includes a vast amount of fascinating stories and references. You can say it gets your mind spinning, and it’s worth a read.

Just Read: Googled

In ‘Googled‘, by Ken Auletta you get to follow the journey that Sergey Brin and Larry Page undertook when creating one of the true giants among modern media companies. The book describes the startup of Google, the growing years and onto the later years of dominance as it stands today.

Apart from this, Google’s several legal battles are in focus. An example of this is the long winded struggle with publishers over the Google Books project, which intends to scan every written book into digital form. Another problem for Google, that is described in the book, is the occurrence of government influence on the company, and the need for Google to put a larger and larger lobbying group in Washington D.C. to deal with such influences.

The author also spends a vast amount of pages on the impact Google is having on the rest of the world in general and ‘traditional media’ in particular.

Well, this isn’t a proper review but more of an extended opinion, but the above outlines what the book is about. It’s a good book. The most entertaining parts are found in the story sections, where the reader follows the creation of a giant tech company. The author has great details on everything from Brin and Page living together in an apartment among servers and fast food boxes, to the argumentation of Google’s spectacular employee benefits. The book details relationships and decisions at the highest level of the hierarchy, where Eric Schmidt   was taken aboard as CEO, and it introduces the reader to the mercurial mediator ‘Coach Campbell‘.

The sections after the story one are also good, but here the author seems to lose focus on Google itself, to instead wade through masses of references to various other events in the media sector, the non-transformation of ‘traditional media’ along with segments that ask questions about Google’s struggle with maintaining its “Don’t be evil” facade. Unfortunately, even though great work must have been done to source all these references, it’s easy to get confused and find a red line through all of it.

As a summary, I like the first part best and would have been happy with a shorter book, or even more details on Google’s story and the company itself. I would not say the other parts are a waste – they provide a very good overview of the media landscape created in Google’s wake – they are just not as entertaining. So, whatever the case, the book is a ‘must read’ for me overall due to the author’s detailed description of the spectacular story and world impact of Google, the greatest disruptor!