I recently read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (President of Pixar).  The book’s tagline is to overcome the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.  Chapter by chapter, Catmull unlocks creative leadership ideas by effective (and vulnerable) story telling.  He shares his own journey in detail – through the lens of job transitions as well as different projects (like various Pixar movies).  The book reads more like a page-turning biographical novel, with the added bonus that it has golden content on leadership.  David Slocum, writer for Forbes magazine, says “it’s one of the half-dozen best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever” (source).

One key takeaway that I had from the book was on time management.  I’m a organized+creative+visual person, so I loved this idea that was sparked by a producer on the Pixar team.  The idea was simple: popsicle sticks stuck to a wall of Velcro.  Each stick represented a person-week (which equals the amount of work one animator could accomplish in a week’s time).  The sticks, in various amounts, would get placed next to a particular project (in Pixar’s case, a character from the movie The Incredibles).  The popsicle system gave the team a visual representation of their resources.  Here’s how Catmull described it working: “A bunch of sticks would be lined up next to a particular character for easy reference.  A glance at the wall would tell you: If you use that many popsicle sticks on Elastigirl, you’ll have less time to spend on Jack-Jack.  And so on.” When a manager would approach the team and say “This needs to be done today” the team would reference the Velcro wall and explain that they would then need another “stick” or ask where they’d like to take a stick from.  Catmull called it “a great example of the positive creative impact of limits.”

pixarI was so drawn to this example of time management and resources, that I made my own popsicle stick Velcro wall (see picture).  For my own work purposes, each colored Velcro line equals a key goal in my job (e.g. project management, 1:1’s with direct reports, etc).  And the popsicle sticks equal 1 hour of work.  So by glancing at my mini-wall, I can see where my week’s resources are being placed, and if I need to adjust in any way.  An added bonus is that the color-coded key goals correspond to the different category colors represented on my Outlook calendar (yes, I’m a bit of a nerd).

What time management tools do you use?  I’ll look forward to connecting with you in the comments section.

gift-from-kindsnacksLast month, our team received a very thoughtful gift from KINDSnacks. In addition to the many delicious (and healthy!) goodies, the box also included a few copies of KINDSnacks’ CEO Daniel Lubetzky’s new book, Do the KIND Thing. I read Lubetzky’s book, and I’m here to tell you why you should, too.

It will teach you that you don’t always have to compromise.

Early in the book, Lubetzky introduces the idea of thinking with “AND.” You can have a snack that tastes good AND is good for you, which is one of the fundamental values of KINDSnacks. But you can also apply it to your daily life. You can be successful professionally AND show empathy and kindness to those around you.

“You don’t have to accept the way things are. All you need to do is ask: Why does it have to be that way? When your default thinking is “AND” instead of “or,” you start to break down the roadblocks that prevent you from getting more out of life.”

There is a sort of grace that is associated with compromise. But every once in awhile, why can’t you have it all? Why can’t you have this AND that?

It could be your roadmap to building a lasting company culture.

Core values can be different for every business, and they may even evolve over time. At thinkspace, our team recently spent some time revamping our own core values to make sure they represent the culture we are cultivating every day. But the ten tenets outlined in Do the KIND Thing can be a great jumping off point, a source of inspiration or a guideline for creating a culture that encourages success as well as kindness and generosity.

You can see it in action.

Speaking from experience, when you’re an undergraduate pursing a degree in creative writing, your mantra may well be, “Show, don’t tell.” For Lubetzky, this is when his story shines brightest.

There is value in sweeping visionary statements and lofty ideals. But in a book that encourages the reader to do the KIND thing, it is so encouraging—and meaningful—to see that kindness in action. In the Acknowledgements section, Lubetzky thanks Djavo, the friendly superintendent who helped him move boxes twenty-one years ago. After finishing his book, Lubetzky ran into Djavo at a dinner, where Djavo was a server. Admittedly, he hadn’t thought of Djavo in years, but their chance meeting prompted this acknowledgement:

“I want to thank all those people, including the ones I have not seen in two decades, as well as the security guard that opened the door and the friendly stranger that share a smile this morning, for the unrecognized warmth they bring to our world every day…”

KINDSnacks is on a mission to prove that companies can be financially successful as well as—well, kind. And this book can show you how it’s possible.

Halley Suitt Tucker HeadshotYou know when someone jokes that they have “done it all?” Halley Suitt Tucker could put Chief Everything Officer on her business card. Halley is currently living in Boston and writes for a living. You name it she writes it. Halley has been blogging for 10 years, went through Techstars, and is now writing books! Halley is also CEO of BoOkBoX, and created a Kickstarter to fund her novel and e-book “Founders Less Than Three” . Halley has incorporated her knowledge of startups and entrepreneurial knowledge into this new read, which will be available on Amazon August 15th. “Founders Less Than Three” is centered around 10 young entrepreneurs creating a startup and racing towards their demo day in Boston. Though fiction, there are solid pieces of advice and insight into starting a business.

Halley’s friend, mentor, and author of APE – Guy Kawasaki – once told her “If you thought starting a book was hard, wait until you try to finish one.” We are so lucky to have Halley launching her (finished!) book at Hackers and Founders August 20th.  We’ll be meeting at the Bellevue Microsoft Store at 6pm that Tuesday. Please join us, and RSVP here.

beresfordsThis week, I finished my “Christina-Dudley-triathlon-series” (read more about that series here and here) by reading her latest book, The Beresfords.  The book is a modern day adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and was actually chosen as “The Best Modern Adaptation” in 2012 by Austenprose.  Similar to the Fanny Price of Mansfield Park, the book tells the tale of Frannie Price and her coming of age while living with her extended family.  There is drama, romance, heartache, and reconciliation.  What’s not to love?  Dudley may be on to something with her modern day adaptations, and I hope she chooses Emma next.

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4
–> Week 5  –> Week 6  –> Week 7  –> Week 8
–> Week 9  –> Week 10  –> Week 11  –> Week 12
–> Week 13  –> Week 14


Sequel to Week 13’s Mourning Becomes Cassandra, The Littlest Doubts continues the fun, and at times comical, plot line.  The book also ties up a few loose ends, but not in the way one expects.  Dudley keeps you guessing until the final pages.  And as you finish the book, you’ll wish that the sequel continued into a trilogy.  But stay tuned for next week’s post…a stand alone book to finish my triathlon series!

And in the meantime while you wait for Week 15’s post, check out Dudley’s Urban Farm Junkie blog featuring posts about Farmer’s Markets (the Bellevue Farmer’s Market, in particular).

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4  –> Week 5  –> Week 6  –> Week 7  –> Week 8  –> Week 9  –> Week 10  –> Week 11  –> Week 12  –> Week 13


CD_1Week 13 marks the start of my “Christina-Dudley-triathlon!”  Three weeks in a row, I will read (correction: re-read…because yes they are that good!!) books by the acclaimed Seattle author.  The following is said about Dudley: “Despite dropping out of the Stanford PhD program in English Literature after two piddly years and going don in flames on Jeopardy! in 2008, she still somehow gets speaking and writing gigs.”  Her manner and writing are witty, humorous, and heartfelt.

This week, I read Mourning Becomes Cassandra.  Why do I love this book (so much so that this is my fourth time through it)?  There are two main reasons.  First, the book takes place in Clyde Hill (where I spent much of my youth, attending Bellevue Christian School), so I already feel like an insider to the storyline as well as demographic.  Second, the book is about how our best made plans don’t always go according to plan, which I completely resonate with.  You’ll laugh, cry, and be overjoyed when you find out that it has a sequel (stay tuned for Week 14).

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4  –> Week 5  –> Week 6   –> Week 7  –> Week 8
–> Week 9  –> Week 10  –> Week 11 –> Week 12

horseLast week, I read Half Broke Horses, a true-life novel by Jeannette Walls.  It was fabulous, as I knew it would be because the first book I read from Walls (her childhood memoir called The Glass Castle) I read in one sitting.  Within reading the first few pages of both books, Walls captivates you with her incredible story-telling skills.  Previously a MSNBC.com columnist, Walls knows how to craft a story, especially when the content is all about her family’s history.  Half Broke Horses tells the tale of Lily Casey Smith, Walls’ grandmother.  The novel is “Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-esque” in its unbelievable (but true!) accounts of living off the land, surviving tornadoes, draughts, and flash floods.  I have two recommendations for you (of which you can thank me later for): 1) read both books, and 2) read them chronologically. Start with Half Broke Horses (featuring Wall’s grandmother) and finish with The Glass Castle (featuring Wall’s mother as well as herself).  Let me know what you think, and I’ll chat with you in the comments below!

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4  –> Week 5  –> Week 6   –> Week 7  –> Week 8
–> Week 9  –> Week 10  –> Week 11

niloferThis week I re-read #SocialEra by Nilofer Merchant.  Reading this book is a rite of passage to work at thinkspace.  I was actually given the book before I accepted the job here (probably to make sure I aligned with the community’s core values…which I do).  The book outlines everything thinkspace strives to be – a connected community of entrepreneurs that create value for each other – and it was definitely a worthwhile re-read.  Fast Company calls it one of the best business books of 2012.

What is the social era all about? Connections.  Today, in a post-industrial era, connections are what create value.  “If the industrial era was about building things, the social era is about connecting things, people, and ideas,” she writes. “Networks of connected people with shared interests and goals create ways that can produce returns for any company that serves their needs.”

The book lays to rest the ideas from the industrial era – where organizations were encouraged to be unique and set apart from competition – and raises up community, collaboration, and consumers as co-creators.  This book is a tool and resource that all entrepreneurs should consult as well as put into practice.  Reading (and re-reading) the book opened my eyes to the continued need for openness – “It’s the difference between holding our ideas in a tight,closed fist or holding our hand, open to what happen next.  We might imagine that if we hold an idea tight enough, we’ll end up with a diamond.  But when we hold open an idea as if in an open hand, we are unlocking the vault of limitless human capabilities to create new and better ideas that are owned together.”

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4  –> Week 5  –> Week 6   –> Week 7  –> Week 8

–> Week 9  –> Week 10

bcDue to Memorial Day weekend, I am late on posting Week 9 (my apologies!). For Week 9, I read the novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  The book is a beautiful blend of cultures.  The setting takes place somewhere in South America, and the two main characters of the book are Mr. Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss.  Mr. Hosokawa is a successful Japanese entrepreneur and lover of opera music.  In particular, he follows the talents of world renown soprano, Roxanne Coss.  Their two worlds collide at a birthday party held in Mr. Hosokawa’s honor.  During the birthday celebration, held at a Vice President’s home in South America, a group of armed terrorist make an entrance.  The aftermath of the invasion creates unexpected bonds between hostages and terrorists, and it unfolds cross-cultural friendships between people from different cultures.This book was the perfect read for a three-day getaway, and I definitely recommend it.

giltDuring Week 10 I read By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founders of the Gilt Groupe.  The book gives a storyline of how the Gilt Groupe went from hosting two to three sales per week to now hosting more than forty sales per day (including newly added sales for home, city, and travel).  Maybank and Wilkis Wilson boil down their success to two things: relationships and execution (which the book goes into with greater detail).  Maybank and Wilkis Wilson grew up together, and because of their existing relationship, they believe that helped them succeed as they launched their fashion/e-commerce site (especially while other fashion based e-commerce sites were also launching).  They write that “we believe that our relationship helped us execute better than our competitors.”  The book is insightful, and I read it in one day.  I foresee myself re-reading this book, and using it as a resource.

twitter4goodA few months ago, I attended a simulcast of The Justice Conference in Bellevue.  One of the speakers at the conference was Claire Diaz-Ortiz.  Claire (@claire) has worked at Twitter since 2009 and manages Twitter’s social good initiatives, including the Twitter for Nonprofits and Twitter Ads for Good programs.  She is also known as “The Woman Who Got the Pope on Twitter” (Wired). Her book, Twitter for Good, references the T.W.E.E.T. model that Claire uses all around the world to teach organizations how to excel and be effective on Twitter.

T (Target): Why Tweet?
W (Write): Why You Should Tweet Like Kanye
E (Engage): Tools to Win
E (Explore): Finding Everybody, and Bringing Everybody to You
T (Track): Making Sure You’ve Hit You’re Mark

Claire believes that “it is not the obligation of an organization to engage in social change, but rather the opportunity an organization has to innovate in extraordinary ways, with this unique real-time information network.”  I love Claire’s perspective that social media can not only be a tool for non-profit organizations and “change the world” causes, but that it provides an opportunity for more to engage and respond.  This book is an advocate for strategic tweets.  Especially the ones that matter.

What else have I read during my yearlong reading project?
–> Week 1  –> Week 2  –> Week 3  –> Week 4  –> Week 5  –> Week 6   –> Week 7