Feb, 2017

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Last year, I planted my first ever square root, raised bed vegetable garden with my girlfriend and had no idea what I was doing.  This year, I’ll read up on it first.  Brilliant, right?

The Big Idea: Square foot, raised bed gardening will give you more vegetables with much less work, money, and space. For the home gardener, smaller is better. 

Why square foot gardens?

  • Makes your work easier since there is less soil and less garden to take care of
  • Makes water faster since there’s less garden to water
  • Makes weeding easier since there’s less garden to weed
  • Creates living mulch which helps create healthier soil and keep weeds away
  • Is more pleasant to look at, which makes you more like to spend time caring for your garden
  • Makes vegetable garden more practical for urbanites, since you can have a productive garden almost anywhere
  • Makes protective plants from the weather or pests with a cage or box possible since the garden is smaller
  • Gives the soil the right texture since you will never be walking on the soil.

How do you get started?

  • Build or buy a box with sides about 12″ high.
  • Place the box in an area with lots of sunshine.
  • Fill the box with good soil and compost.
  • Divide the box into 12″ x 12″ squares.
  • Each 12″ x 12″ square should get one type of vegetable.
  • Decide what you want to grow (look this up in a reference book or web site.)
  • Some vegetables (peppers) require the entire 12″ x 12″ square.  Other vegetables (carrots) can fit 16 to a 12″ x 12″ square.
  • Keep tall-growing plants on the north side of your garden.
  • Support your tall-growing, vining plants like tomatoes and cucumbers with stakes, cages, or trellises.
  • Look up which month to plant which vegetables.  (The average growing season is May to September.)
  • Water with a bucket of warm water and a cup.  Daily, when they are just starting, then weekly, or more, if you live in a hot climate.
  • Weed your garden once a week.
  • Remove pests by hand if you can, or use natural pest deterrents.
  • Fertilize as needed.
  • Harvest when ready (look this up in a reference book or web site.)

Made in America by Sam Walton

The Big Idea: Walmart succeeded through a combination of unique culture, very effective strategies, and lots of hard work. Nadine West’s two favorite role models are 1) Southwest Airlines and 2) Walmart, for their shared focus on affordable prices, lean operations, and Texas/Arkansas authenticity.

Wal-mart Culture

  • Building a great team is a given. Hiring only people with good attitudes is a given. Hard work is a given.
  • The whole point of retailing is to service the customer.
  • It’s always been more important for Wal-mart be the best than to be the biggest.
  • Wal-mart looks for action-oriented, do-it-now, go-getter types — not brilliant intellectuals who can’t get anything done.
  • Consider yourself lucky if you are short on cash early on.  It’s the best to build frugality into your DNA.
  • We’ve always tried not to take ourselves too seriously. Let’s have some fun.
  • Constant change is a vital part of the Wal-mart culture.
  • Wal-mart is not about big mansions or fancy cars.  We’re about serving our customer.
  • Wal-mart loves competition.  It only makes us better.
  • Big egos have no place at Wal-mart.  They tend to lead to bureaucracy and myopia, followed by decline.
  • Think small to grow big.  Remember what got us to where we are.

Wal-mart Strategy and Tactics

  • Always buy direct.  Using a middleman means you’re paying for their inefficiencies.
  • Don’t rely on third-party.  It’s harder to build your own logistics and distribution systems, but once you do, it’s a huge competition advantage.
  • Build stores in small towns that retailers are ignoring.
  • Use technology to improve the quality and speed of information.
  • Study your competition and copy what’s working.
  • Try lots of different things. Learn from the failures. Double down on what works.
  • Talk to everyone. The best ideas usually come from the front-lines, not headquarters.
  • If everyone else is going one way, think about going the opposite direction.
  • If you can, fly under the radar until you’re too far along to catch.
  • Share profits with employees and they will reward you with effort and loyalty.
  • Happy customers = word of mouth, which saves you a ton on advertising.
  • Be transparent about financials and share store financials with the people who work there.
  • When in doubt, over-communicate.
  • Focus on one store at a time – what they are getting right and wrong. Solve it for them and you can apply some of those solutions everywhere.

The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

The Big Idea: Happy employees are a competitive advantage.

 Chapter 1: Success is Overrated, Why Great Work Places Reward Failure
  • make it okay to try new things and fail
  • learn something from every failure, always
  • reward attempts, not just results
Chapter 2: The Power of Place, How Office Design Shapes Our Thinking
  • office design matters
  • eg. red invokes attention to detail, but also anxiety
  • eg. silence invokes focus, but also anxiety
  • optimal: caves + campfires
  • caves are quieter spaces where people can focus and think
  • campfires are interactive spaces where people can collaborate and communicate
  • good to have: safe and warm environment, nice views, scenes of nature, sunlight, lots of plants, aquariums,
  • use your workspace to convey what your company is about: Apple Store = simplicity, framed pictures, employee artwork,
  • let the team design their workspace
  • don’t forget about nice bathrooms (art, plants, magazines)
  • if possible, let people telecommute
Chapter 3: Why You Should Be Paid to Play
  • to improve problem solving and creative thinking, go on a walk
  • exercise improves your mood, triggers chemicals that reduces stress, and improves thinking
  • napping also improves problem solving and creating thinking
  • a careful balance of work and recovery is vital
  • late nights and burnout culture lower long-term productivity
  • disconnecting is important
Chapter 4: What Happy Workplaces Can Learn from a Casino
  • small, frequent pleasures can keep us happier than large, infrequent ones
  • perks communicate on an emotional level and provide a motivational boost
  • on-the-job rewards are significantly more motivating than cash bonuses
  • variety increases happiness
  • variation of activities make the workplace more enjoyable
  • unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill
  • unexpected events have greater emotional weight
  • a constant flow of surprises keeps you engaged (movie, massage therapist)
  • experiences are more rewarding than objects; they involve other people, the memories improve with age; they can be relived
  • we don’t always know why we’re happy
  • color/scent/music can give an unconscious happiness boost
  • a grateful mind is a happy one;
  • gratitude: gratitude journal; ask staff to share what they are most proud of since last meeting; ask staff to thank someone else for a contribution made
  • excessive/extreme happiness can increase tendency to make mistakes, reduce motivation; people who don’t have negative emotions are called psychopaths
Chapter 5: How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Community
  • the strongest predictor productivity: friendship at work
  • how to create workplace friendships: proximity, familiarity, similarity
  • how to accelerate friendship: share personal information
  • shared group activities (sports) >> happy hours and cocktail parties, because of interaction
  • a shared purpose (or common enemy) can unite factions
  • friendships at work help people stay emotionally and physically healthy
  • gossip can be a problem but it can also be useful to establish company culture and norms
  • gossip tends to happen when people are feeling powerless or insecure
  • identify strategic and persistent gossipers early
  • gossip tends to be a problem when leaders gossip
Chapter 6: The Leadership Paradox, Why Forceful Leaders Develop Less Productive Teams
  • intrinsic motivation > extrinsic motivation
  • emphasizing rewards reduces intrinsic motivation
  • the more emphasis placed on salary and bonuses, the more employees are going to focus on them
  • autonomy increases intrinsic motivation
  • let your team set their own calendar
Chapter 7: Better Than Money, What Games Can Teach Us About Motivation
  • the only thing that sustains happiness is status, respect and admiration among friends/family/peers
  • being recognized feels good
  • recognition feeds our need for competence
  • competence increases intrinsic motivation
  • being ignored is often more psychologically painful than being treated poorly
  • undeserved positive feedback is demoralizing to others who actually deserve the recognition
  • feedback is more effective when it is provided immediately
  • feedback is more effective when it is specific
  • compliment the behavior, not the person
  • public praise is more powerful than private praise
  • reward high performers with more responsibility
  • encourage peer-to-peer recognition
  • find a way to give meaning to the work (eg. nonprofit fundraisers)
  • to experience flow, work needs to be not too easy and not too hard
  • consider making on-the-job learning a requirement
  • acquiring new skills releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine
  • consider peer-to-peer coaching (pods of 3)
Chapter 8: How Thinking Like a Hostage Negotiator Can Make You More Persuasive, Influential, and Motivating
  • good communicators listen much more than they talk
  • good bosses listen much more than they talk
  • good listeners do a lot of paraphrasing and repeat backs
  • resolve workplace conflicts by understanding there is a task channel and a relationship channel
Chapter 9: Why the Best Managers Focus on Themselves
  • attitudes, emotions, and behaviors are contagious
  • leaders attitudes and habits are adopted by the members of their teams
  • culture comes from the top, so be aware that someone is always watching
Chapter 10: Seeing What Others Don’t, How to Eliminate Interview Blind Spots That Prevent You from Reading People’s True Potential
  • first impressions persist
  • referrals from your high performers (with no referral bonus) is the best strategy for hiring
  • interviews that involve a work assignment are optimal
  • cultural fit matters but too much similarity can lead to groupthink and impair innovation
Chapter 11: What Sports, Politics, and Religion Teach Us About Fostering Pride
  • pride in one’s company matters a lot
  • pride is fundamentally about status
  • share your company’s history with the team
  • share your company’s mission and vision with the team
  • being different is good (company culture)
  • include altruism alongside making a profit
  • emphasize everyone’s contribution: decision making, recognition by name
  • express appreciation directly to family’s for the person’s contribution
  • avoid inflated job titles