Archives for Brian Dick

All Business Books are Bunk — well almost all of them

I used to like business books…but then I read a bunch of ’em.

I recently found a really cool resource — or at least it seemed so at first glance. It is EBSCOHost’s collection of business book summaries. Awesome right? Over 3000 business books distilled down to ~9-11 pages! Now if someone mentioned a book, it would be quick to run and get a general rundown of the content and sound like I was in the know. Well, okay that part is cool…but, what I determined about business books overall was not.

For the most part, most “business” books that aren’t say textbooks, or biographies, etc. typically boil down to the same forms of nonsense:

  1. The author makes some fairly clever claim, and then sites every instance where that claim has proven itself out, and then they uses those examples as “proof” that their claim is the “truth”.
  2. The author takes one topic, that could be adequately conveyed in one chapter, and they let it ooze out repeatedly in minutely different formats throughout. For example, Hernando De Soto’s Mystery of Capital … don’t get me wrong, the general concept covered in the book is incredibly thought-provoking and interesting — but — it’s about 250 pages too long…and the book is only ~290 pages.
  3. The book is a hodge-podgery of business buzzwords, that says very little of substance…but the author will throw in a few of their own phrases/terms to try to be quotable in everyday business parlance.

This is why I feel the vast majority of my future reading will be outside of the business genre. In fact, I’ve given some thought as to why I would ever read a business book in the future.

This is my list of “reasons when it seems worth it to actually read business books” …

(at least so far — please feel free to add your own in the comment section below)

  1. I’m changing jobs and I need to learn new commonly used vocabulary in that field.
  2. One of the leaders in the organization recommends the book — and career advancement is at stake if I don’t read it
  3. I’m going to interview for a job, and I’ve seen a given book on my future interviewer’s bookshelf or in their social media list of favorites.
  4. It discusses some new form of technology that no one knows a lot about yet, (or at least I don’t, and I’m the odd one out.)

 

Outside of these factors my reading is going to consist of fiction, biographies, history, and other non-business non-fiction.

 

Fun Way To Make Your Presentation Interactive

Recently I was asked to put together a presentation on content I was very unfamiliar with, yet the asker wanted it also to be interactive. After I suppressed my surge of nervousness, I got to work trying to come up with interactivity ideas. The problem I kept running into was that my lack of knowledge of the content would shine through the more I interacted with the crowd — a crowd who was very familiar with the content. 

I started asking around the office for ideas, and that’s when I was recommended MentiMeter.com . And this software/website in the free trial version saved the day! Menti allows you to ask the crowd a question and the audience responds through their phones or computers. The results are presented real time on the administrators portal, which you can project to the crowd. What’s especially cool is that you can have the audiences results in a variety of ways. Their submissions can pull up in word cloud form, where the most common responses are given a larger text size, or you could have the audience place their response within a two dimensional matrix, or along the spectrum. Or you can ask a survey question with defined answers, or leave it open ended.  There are many other options but these were the only ones I looked into for my use case.  

The one drawback I found was that the free version only gives you freedom to use these cool formats for two slides. After that I believe you are forced to ask multiple choice questions on your remaining slides. You can increase your slide count if you invite others to use the service via email,  or I supposed if you had multiple email accounts you could set up a few two slide presentations on multiple accounts.  But cough, cough I have no idea who would do something like that.  Of course there is also a paid version, but not knowing how it would all work out, I didn’t look into the cost or the additional features you get from paying.  But based on my last experience, as long as it’s not outrageously expensive I think it’s definitely worth considering. 

This presentation software (Menti) enabled me to engage and interact with audience without having to let on that I want that familiar with the content. Instead I simply asked authentic questions I was interested in learning and let the audience loose. With the real time feedback of the audience in an anonymous setting sparkled a ton of conversation.  This is especially important if you have a very hierarchical audience where once the highest ranking person speaks everyone else in the room simply tries to support/uplift their leader’s commentary. With Menti that’s an added benefit — the audience doesn’t know who wrote what. And finally, one additional feature I liked was that you could email the deck or individual slides to the audience members so they have quick reference to the topics that were discussed and important on the day. No more need to compile white board or poster paper notes and send them off to the audience. Their responses (i.e., the audience generated) notes are all captured real time. 

Overall, I loved the Menti experience and would recommend it to others looking for a cool way to make their presentation interactive.  My only word of advice is to pasty around with it for a few days before the presentation…everything is pretty intuitive but some of the response modules can take awhile to think how you want to set them up to incite the most conversation. I had an wesome experience, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others

Gantt Chart

If you need a simple Gantt chart table template that is customizable for your own project, then you can download the chart below. I’ve also included a how-to video so you can see its capabilities and limitations.

 

 

 

Gantt Chart (Template)

What is De-doop or De-dupe

I was asked today to help someone dedupe their data…since I was, “good at excel”. I was flattered by their compliment, but also embarrassed because I’d never heard the term in my life. After being told it meant de-duplicate, I knew I was the man for the job! (because it literally requires a single button… the “remove duplicates” button under the data tab). And I also learned a new term: de-dupe.

So hopefully this explanation of my short-lived embarrassment helps save you from a similar situation. Meanwhile I’m going to keep calling it: remove duplicates.




Pivot Table Crash Course

Do not be intimidated! You can learn how to pivot with only a few minutes of basics!

Don’t be intimidated! Learning to use pivot tables proficiently will take only a few minutes of basics!

I vividly remember my first business experience with pivot tables. My boss did (what seemed to me) advanced wizardry to show me some interesting trends in our shipping frequencies. He apologized about how clumsy he was in re-creating his pivot table through trial and error, and conceded that I probably knew far more than him since “I just graduated from college, and he was just an old-timer.” Haha, he couldn’t be more wrong…I literally had no clue what heck was doing, but I did know what he did was spectacular. My brain started churning through all the ways I could use it — if I only knew how! So I played around with an excel file I had, and I….immediately got frustrated and gave up! It wasn’t until a few years later, through the MBA program and an analyst job did I force myself to learn more about pivot tables, and ultimately attain extreme comfort in using them.




In actuality the learning was quite easy, didn’t take that long, and really just required one person to sit down with me for ~15 minutes to get the basics. From that point on, with the basics in my back pocket, I could confidently trial and error my way through any future challenges. And when the going got really tough, all I had to do was Google, word-for-word my problem…and whammo…a full search page of tutorials and YouTube videos explaining exactly how to perform my precise request. The video below is my attempt to give everyone the benefit of the 15 minute sit-down I had with my friend in learning the basics. Please feel free to comment if you have any further questions on things I didn’t explain fully or you would like more details on. You are fully capable of learning pivot tables really quickly…all you need is this video, a few forced trials and errors in your own data set, and access to Google for specific challenges you face. You truly can become quite proficient in pivot tables within a day, you just can’t get intimidated and keep grinding. You can’t mess anything up playing around in a pivot table, so don’t sweat it! Get to learning!





How to Make a Color Coded U.S. Map from Excel Data

Map With Labels Thumbnails

If you want to create a color coded U.S. map based on your excel data, it’s a very do-able task — but to be fair it’s quite time consuming. I have a YouTube video below that explains how to make this map — generally speaking — because it would take at least an hour to go into full detail. However, I’ve also put it up for sale on this site for only $5 (click here: Customizable U.S. Map.) There is also a $3 version if you don’t need labels on each state. You can check out the product picture to determine which version is right for you, if you so choose to purchase…otherwise, you can find the how-to video below. Even though it is time consuming it’s really fun to make, when you get to see the results of your efforts in action!

Business Buzzwords That Irritate Your Colleagues

You may recall my earlier post about overused business words and phrases that a wrote a few months ago. It was a list of irritating words and phrases that I’ve kept note of throughout my career and during B-School. Therefore, the list was my own, and I did very little outside research in concocting my list (I was hoping you all would help add to the list!) Meanwhile, GetVoIP has done a similar analysis of over hyped biz words, but they’ve put in a bit more research into their list! They’ve created an awesome infographic (below) that lists overused business buzzwords and their increase in usage over the last 30 years. It’s really cool, and quite funny to see which words/phrases have skyrocketed in usage like “take to the next level” and “unpack”…it’s also weird to me that “ideate” hasn’t increased in usage more than it has. People must have used ideate a shitton in the past 30 years, cause it seems like I hear it all the time now!
As promised, you can find the article and business buzzword inforgraphic from GetVoIP below. Enjoy!




Prepared by: GetVoIP
Everyday we hear business buzzwords, cliches, and idioms. They’re those overused or overcomplicated words and phrases that seem to be embedded in business speak. Most of the time they are vague or meaningless and take away from the actual conversation.
To poke fun at these words and phrases, GetVoIP created an infographic with 25 of the most irritating business buzzwords. They also calculated how much usage of each word has increased in print over the past 30 years. Can you believe the use of “knowledge transfer” increased 1077%? Explore the rest of the buzzwords below!

25 Business Buzzwords that Irritate Your Colleagues

How to Use Excel to Forecast Using Exponential Smoothing

Exponential Smoothing sounds complicated, and the formula also looks very complicated, but in fact it’s really simple. I’ve created a tutorial video below to help explain how to perform an exponential smoothing forecast using Excel. Hopefully this helps you either at school or at work when a forecast is needed!






 

How to Do Exponential Smoothing Forecasting

Exponential Smoothing Forecast

How to Make a Visual Gradient Chart in Excel

Excel percentage block chart

Excel Gradient Block Chart

A gradient block chart can add a little change to your next presentation. Below you will find a downloadable gradient block chart template, along with an accompanying tutorial video. If you have any follow up questions please contact me at: brian@condensedmba.com or brianleedick@gmail.com …these can get a little tricky if you’re unfamiliar with conditional formatting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

to download this template, click on the file with a down arrow icon in the bottom right of this window.

Excel Thermometer Template

Download this ↓ customizable thermometer chart below…use the excel template to change the thermometer to your needs — simply and easily:

Excel thermometer chart

Thermometer download below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve come to download an excel thermometer template of your own, you’ve come to the right place! Below you will find not only a downloadable version of the thermometer template, but also a how-to video on how to customize it to your own needs. Hope this helps…and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at brian@condensedmba.com or brianleedick@gmail.com.