An entrepreneurial curriculum

The influence of the last few years kept pushing me more and more towards entrepreneurship, and learning more about startups, innovation, creativity, independence, creating value. Recently I found myself reading more and more about them, and ending up with an ever-increasing reading list as well. Never before I had so many non-fiction book waiting for me, and i want to make some notes of the ones I have read.

Books on my Taipei Hackerspace bookself
A very varied bookshelf I got

This post will be most likely a constantly updated book review collection, where I list what have I read and what have I learned from them, with special focus on research & innovation, since that’s the area where I’m most likely headed.

I know of course that reading is not substitute to action. I can still learn from other people’s successes and failures, though.

The books so far

♣ The Art of Innovation

It was an interesting collection of anecdotes. In retrospect, the title would suggest that it contain some guidelines that can be replicated to some extent by other teams and companies. The book however feels more like just storytelling how much fun people have at IDEO, with the breakthroughs and failures they had with particular projects.

Some ideas stand out nevertheless. The importance of prototyping: do things as soon as possible, try ideas out and make educated guesses based on actual experience, move fast and make things. The importance of inspiration: when there’s an ideation project, just go out and get a big bunch of items that are connected to it in any way (eg. figuring out a new bottle cap? Go out and get every possible way of closing containers, and more…). The importance of keeping discarded projects: today’s discarded project can be the main inspiration for tomorrow’s success, thus really worth keeping a log of everything. The importance of play: indirect exploration and team morale are awesome things to have on your side, and they are signs of a long term strategic thinking.

♣ Winning at Innovation: The A-to-F model

This one is much-much drier than the Art of Innovation, but also very thorough. So many intuitive things from the previous book was made completely clear because of this systematic approach. It’s good have a better understanding for the things that stick around in one’s mind.

This had some pretty good points too. Can’t innovate something while you are doing it: have to stop and look at things from the outside to see how to improve. That means it is really helpful to have some people doing the tasks, while others make it better. The importance of neighbouring industries: look at companies that serve the same target customers with different products, or serve different customers the same product as you. Mash up and create new combinations, learn from these neighbours.

♣ The Wide Lens

The premise of the book is worth an epiphany: it’s an age of ecosystems, have to think in broader terms than just your products. So often can miss critical ingredients of the the ecosystem and can fail really badly while doing the execution perfectly. Co-innovation and adoption chain risks are there quite often for quite simple teams, besides the execution risk which is the first thing that companies learn to conquer. It’s not enough to take care of the last one, have to manage the first two as well. Need to always be on top, who else is there to win besides you to make your stuff work.

Of course, the detailed look this needs can be much easier in hindsight. One of the final, big example of an enterprise that did things wiser than other was Better Place, an electric car company. I was thinking how the book’s models would apply to Tesla, while just this week I read about how Better Place just filed for bankruptcy.

♣ The Lean Startup

…coming soon

♣ Rework

…coming soon

On the reading list

There are always more books than I have time for, these are the ones that are shortlisted currently to be added to the reviews above.

If you have a suggestions what else I should include, please let me know!


Switched to SPDY and now Google’s confused

Out of interest, I recently switched this site to SPDY, party because I like to try out new things, and partly because I would want to make things be better and faster. So far it’s a mixed experience, with some puzzling changes, that I cannot make heads or tails of.

The first step for the switch was bringing everything onto HTTPS, which I have done with a free SSL certificate from StartSSL. Redirected everything from the HTTP to the secure connection, with the 301 http code so I thought Google will be able to follow it well and replace the addresses in their index. Then enabled the SPDY module in Nginx, and checking the result looked like I was in business.

Some time has passed, and a scary graph started to manifest itself in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics impression count, the site has changed around May 8.
Google Analytics impression count, the site has changed around May 8.

Right after I have made the changes, my impression count on Google dropped like a brick, now being exactly 0. That’s not really the change I wanted to see. Digging more into it, though, it looks like I still have a constant stream of visitors from Google Search:

Visitor numbers from Google Search, same time interval as the impression count.
Visitor numbers from Google Search, same time interval as the impression count.

How can I have zero impressions, but still a half a dozen visitors from Search? The results in the Webmaster Tools mirror things: dropping impression count, no crawl errors, same or even better indexed count, and relatively good stats:

Google Crawler stats, with a big spike when switched over HTTPS/SPDY when needed to reindex everything
Google Crawler stats, with a big spike when switched over HTTPS/SPDY when needed to reindex everything

The crawl seemed to have gotten a bit slower (the bottom plot of the three), but more consistent.

I wonder what could be the change, does the impression count depend on the method of access (http/https)? Or did I made some braking changes? If so, then why’s the conflicting information?

Being a scientist, my main concern is not actually the raw value of any visitor count, but understanding the reactions to my actions, and consistency of the “experimental results”.  I wonder what kind of technique I could use to debug all this?

Update 2013/May/28: 

Following some recommendations from the comments, it looks like that the https:// version of my URL has to added to the Webmaster Tools separately. Now there’s a and a section as well. In the latter section, I can see that there are some impressions reported. Some weird things still exist: the sum of impressions from both is less than how many visitors I reportedly get from Google Search; the crawl stats is shared between the two sections (ie. the https version reports a lot of crawl stats even from the time there wasn’t https enabled), while most other data is separate for the two sections (e.g. impression, search queries, sitemaps). Still probably this is on the right path.

The impression count after adding a https version of my site's records to the Webmaster  Tools
The impression count after adding a https version of my site’s records to the Webmaster Tools

After the Webmaster Tools changes, I have just switched the Google Analytics association from one WMT property to the other. Hopefully this will freak me out less, though it will likely take some days to see the changes in the result.