Thinking In Bets

Today another book is getting added to my reading list, Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke

This is an amazing book that makes the case for understanding how our lives going forward have multiple futures. Annie carefully makes the case for seeing ourselves in this way and provides tools to help the reader live and navigate understanding how possibilities can be predictive, they are not prescriptive.

Annie explains that we often find ourselves judging our decisions by our results. Early the book she demonstrates how this cause-effect thought process is good, healthy, and helped us evolve. Then she demonstrates the limitations of such linear thinking and explains how in poker (a game where chance exists) not everything can be perfectly predictive. Her book offers down-to-earth advice on how to account for the elements in life that involve chance and how to live comfortably in that world where direct cause-effect is no longer king.


I really enjoyed how the book not only makes the case for evaluating events going forward, it also makes the case for evaluating the decisions of our past. Once we can shed the results from our decision process it becomes easier to judge our actions (and those of others) based upon the environment and knowledge they had at the time. This process is perfectly in line with Tomas Sowell’s book Knowledge and Decisions, a classic book that discusses much of the same thoughts from an economics perspective.

I believe this book has other potential benefits as well that haven’t been stated. In Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg discusses some of the challenges Annie faced in her own life. Anyone reviewing her academic record would list her as highly functional (all doctoral coursework complete), yet Annie suffered from anxiety. From having worked around so many people in the military with PTSD and others who have anxiety I believe this book contains helpful instructions on thinking patterns that can reduce the impact of the thinking traps so common among those who live with those issues. One of the reasons why it’s been added to the Book List is because I’ll be recommending it to many of those who struggle to live now because they are haunted by their past.

The book isn’t explicitly written towards that audience. Instead it’s written with a much broader audience in mind. It’s perfectly crafted for those interested from a business, student, and personal perspective and so I’ll certainly be recommending to those in my other professional circles as well.

If you listen to the Audible version you’ll be pleased to hear Annie read the book at her own pace and with excellent inflection. I devoured the audio version on a recent family car ride. When I got home I enjoyed letting her know how much I enjoyed the book. I love living in an age where I can say thank you to someone as famous as brilliant as Annie Duke.

I also really appreciated that she read my tweet and hit the like button.

Ode to Helvetica

It’s not really that silly.  When you think about it you spend a lot of time with fonts.  I learned about their value when I saw my wife working her graphics art classes.  Fonts are real, and they require a lot of thought and detail to create.  Helvetica is a good place to start.  There’s a movie (below/Amazon) & a book.

And if you really want to get into it.  Ilene Strizver has a wonderful article up here:


The Open Organization: Book Review

Jim Whitehurst the CEO of the multibillion dollar open source company RedHat took to his keyboard to record and share the insights that have helped his company create a more inclusive culture and increase its productivity.  Typically books written by CEOs are used as long form SEC filings intended to woo shareholders.  Bill Gates predicted the iPhone in 1995 among several paragraphs of corporate doublespeak.  

Jim does take time to talk about his company in a positive light, but doesn’t get too much into specifics about predictions of the future.  Instead he’s more focussed and excited to tell you about how he’s learned to work with the many diverse people that make up his organization.  He openly shares insight on his methods for encouraging them to give their best effort to the company.  Throughout the book he covers his transition from a high ranking officer at Delta Airlines to working for a company that seemingly had an initially chaotic organizational structure.

The insights he provides work well with RedHat, but I work in a very structured hierarchical organization.  I read this skeptical of whether or not  I could apply those insights within my own sphere of influence.   Jim’s passion for the open organization was compelling and I began the experiment at work.  After a bit of transition costs I’ve noticed increased a more positive atmosphere at work.  We spend a little bit longer in the discussion phase–and sometimes it’s a bit messier–but the execution phase has become much shorter.  The wonderful people I manage are taking more of the right type of initiative in their everyday activities.  This initiative spreads the decision making across the organization and reduces decision fatigue not only for myself, but for other leaders as well giving us more time to focus on the tasks specific to our assigned roles.

I learned from this book that even with the most top down driven organizational architecture there’s room to include a more open atmosphere.  Doing so improves efficiency and morale.  Although we can’t tare down the 200 plus years of tradition that lead to our hierarchical organization’s success, we can layer on open organization principles and be successful.  The hierarchy gives us an efficient backdrop to leverage when necessary, while the open communication principles help us maximize our talent.  In my opinion this book can easily help any organization increase employee output.  If your meetings are lacking in thoughtful discussion this book is an easy roadmap to help you get them back on track.

The Open Organization
Hardcover: 256 pages
Audible Listening Length: 6 hours and 22 minutes
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (June 2, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1625275277