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DRAFT: Women writing about technology: a reading list for the new year

Draft!  Feedback welcome!

If you want to get straight to the list, feel free to skip the backstory.  If you’d prefer to start of with a great example of why we need lists like this, read on 🙂
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Make desire more important than fear: “Change the Way You See Yourself (Through Asset-Based Thinking)”

cover for CTWYSEKathy Cramer and Hank Wasiak’s new book is out, a gorgeous and well-focused follow-on to their Change the Way You See Everything, one of the Microsoft Ad Astra project’s signature giveaways.* In May 2007, we did an amazing two-day workshop with Kathy, Hank and his colleagues from the Concept Farm, and folks from Extreme Arts and Sciences and Telstar oriented around the “Hero’s Journey” archetypal narrative as a metaphor for innovation. We also steadily refined a series of Asset-Based Thinking workshops involving customer-focused brainstorming and problem-solving. So it’s safe to say I’m a fan.

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“Unstuck”

I picked up this short paperback (by Keith Yamahsita and Sandra Spataro) because I was intrigued with its design; it turned out to be very interesting in general. Unstuck is billed as “a tool for yourself, your team, and your world”, and while most of the examples come from the corporate space, it’s just as valuable for non-profit or political groups.

All leaders, teams, and individuals who aspire to be great, get stuck. That said, not all individuals who get stuck are wiling to admit that they’re stuck…. When you’re truly reaching out to the world, trying new things, and living up to your potential — that’s when you’re most likely to get stuck, because you’re deeply challenging the status quo. Those of us who stay stuck, do so because we’re paralyzed by fear. We’ve learned that getting unstuck requires staring our fear in the face, and relentlessly leaning into it. Staring fear in the face, the challenge then is to find one sliver of opportunity to defeat that fear — and often, that breakthrough is our opening to getting unstuck. From there, it’s about systems thinking, systems thinking, systems thinking.

Indeed. The three sections of the book deal with admitting you’re stuck (or recognizing the symptoms), diagnosing why you’re stuck (getting at the root causes: being overwhelmed, exhausted, directionless, hopeless, battle-torn, worthless, and alone), and doing something about it.

The last section is the longest with 40+ brief ideas for getting unstuck. The practicality and concreteness of these ideas is why I agree with the authors that the book really is a tool: “build a living lab”, “build a haven for radical thinking”, “start with the control points of the systme”, “write a headline from the future”, “make your brand a manifestation of your company’s purpose”, “be careful about which mode you are in”, “give the movement a name”, and “take over the tv station” are just a few examples. There’s also a lot of attention to network-centric thinking and diversity, including specifically calling out how younger employees are often marginalized. I’ve employed most of these techniques at various times (for example, I described a proposal for working on culture by focusing on internal communications as “putting the dissidents in charge of the communication ministry”) and they work well; along with Bob Sutton’s Weird Ideas that Work, this is the best collection I’ve seen.

The navigation through the third part of the book is interesting. Going through the section linearly presents techniques in an order that seems fairly random to me; charts in the identify the paths that correspond to each of the “serious seven” root causes; and most of the pages have one to three links to other pages. For example, on the page for “hold a summit”, there are links called “take to the airwaves” (pointing to “take over the tv station), “what will be the name of the event?” (pointing to “give the movement a name”), and “what will the headlines say?” (pointing to “write a headline from the future”). Particularly since the text of the links is different from the title of the target, it feels like a very wiki-esque organization to me; the excellent graphic design makes it feel very natural, and quite usable, in dead tree form as well.

Strongly recomended.

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