A fresh approach to development

Developing a brand new Product from scratch can be [or is] a daunting task. Especially when you have a big vision that you know is going to take significant time to develop but you need to get something to market quickly to ensure your idea has potential.

Nearly every development decision is a catch 22, where you know you can either do things the right way or the quick way but not both. You constantly need to juggle building good foundations while also delivering features that advance the product. No one likes to know they will need to rebuild things in the future but sometimes that is the trade off that needs to be made.

When you try to couple all of these requirements to a development approach there is no single perfect approach and what works for some won’t work for others.

It was therefore refreshing to read Shape Up – Stop Running in Circles and 
Ship Work that Matters by Ryan Singer

Anyone who has followed Basecamp will know that the founders are quite opinionated and always challenging the status quo. For example the following is an excerpt from the forward of the book:

For one, we’re not into waterfall or agile or scrum. For two, we don’t line walls with Post-it notes. For three, we don’t do daily stand ups, design sprints, development sprints, or anything remotely tied to a metaphor that includes being tired and worn out at the end. No backlogs, no Kanban, no velocity tracking, none of that.

Shape Up Forward by Jason Fried

The book makes some bold statements and a lot of their ideas can be challenged but overall it was very thought provoking and has a very constructive approach to product development. Based on the success of Basecamp the approach has certainly worked for them.

The approach won’t suit everyone and we for one have adapted some of their concepts and will continue to do so as we get a feel for how the process works.

One of the big things for me is that it empowers the developers and demoralises a lot of the decisions. At the same time giving them “uninterrupted time” and “longer cycles” means they have time to research, investigate and weigh the benefits of how to implement intended features. If they feel that solid foundations are required that’s up to them, but they are also clear on the deliverable expectations in ‘exchange’ for this freedom.

Time will tell how well it works for us, buts many of the concepts resonated with my personal experience and the start of a new year is a great time to try something new.

Understanding BIM – The Book

Building Information Modelling, or BIM, as a concept has existed in architectural design software since the 70’s and 80’s though the term itself wasn’t defined until 2002. Originally described as Virtual Building the concept focused on creating a digital representation of a building prior to construction.

A few months back I had the privilege to receive a new book – Understanding BIM – written by Dr Jonathan Ingram.

Understanding BIM documents why we need BIM, the history of BIM, early case studies in wide ranging disciplines, modern BIM, and the future of BIM. It also documents how BIM works. Dr Ingram is still involved in Information Modelling, AI, AR, VR, language understanding and  other contemporary technologies.

From https://www.understandingbim.com

As I previously wrote, Murray the founder of Cadimage, worked with Jonathan in the 80’s testing the Sonata System being developed by Jonathan. Murray explained a lot of the history and events during the early days when I was first working with him at Cadimage and it was great to read the history and remember how all the threads were pieced together.

The book is extremely comprehensive and has been very well put together. It is great to look at all the ‘cutting edge’ (in their day) images and see how far we have come over the last few decades. Anyone who wants to understand what BIM is, those who want to hear thoughts on where it is going or are interested in the history of BIM should really purchase a copy – its a great read.

2014 Reading

With 2014 almost at an end I was reviewing the books that I had read to remind myself of any stand outs.

My Top 3 for the year which I’d recommend were:

Others I read and [mostly] enjoyed/found useful were:

  • Startupland – Mikkel Svane
  • Things A Little Bird Told Me – Biz Stone
  • Hatching Twitter – Nick Bilton
  • Cloudonomics – Joe Weinman
  • Killing Fairfax – Pamela Williams
  • John Key – John Roughan
  • Big Data – Kennet Cuklet and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
  • The Virgin Way – Richard Branson
  • Zero to One – Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

I recently received a book celebrating 75 years of Air New Zealand which was a good look back on the development of a world-class airline and also read a couple of dozen novels which I won’t bore you with here.

Jason Fried – Get Real – Inc.com

I have written before about the book Rework and also Getting Real by the same authors.

One of the authors, Jason Fried, also has a column on Inc that is well worth a review.

Articles I really enjoyed include:

Don’t Exaggerate Your Size

Why I Run a Flat Company

Go Ahead, Raise Your Business’s Prices

I find the way Jason writes is very straight forward and to the point – much like the software his company 37Signals creates!

Recent Reading

This time last year I was about to embark on an MBA. While I enjoyed the course initially very quickly it was showing signs of not delivering to my expectations so I made a tough decision to withdrawal.

One thing I highlighted when I withdrew was that I have always read extensively and while I needed to read a huge amount during my studies what I was reading was being dictated to me – while not essentially bad I didn’t have time to read what I really wanted to.

Anyway to cut a long story short, while I have occasionally posted about the books I have read I haven’t posted about them all so I thought I’d list my recent reading – excluding a dozen or so novels!

I don’t necessarily recommend you read all the books below but I have certainly found all of them quite interesting, even some that weren’t quite what I expected (Global Citizens for example)

Every Bastard Says No – The 42 Below Story

– Justine Troy & Geoff Ross

Trade Me – The Inside Story

– Micheal O’Donnell

What the Dog Saw

– Malcolm Gladwell

A simpler Time – A memoir of love, laughter, loss and billycarts

– Peter Fitzsimons

The Brand Gap

– Marty Neumeier


– Marty Neumeier

Fletchers – A Centennial History of Fletcher Building

– Paul Goldsmith

The Design of Business – Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage

– Roger Martin

Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles between Vision and Reality

– Scott Belsky

Getting Real

– Jason Fried, Heinemeier David Hansson, & Matthew Linderman


– Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

The Fry Chronicles – An autobiography

– Stephen Fry

Global Citizens – Our vision of the World is Outdated

– Mark Gerzon

Think Twice – Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition

– Michael J. Mauboussin

Wired for Thought – How the Brain is Shaping the Future of the Internet

– Jeffery M. Stibel

Think Twice also reinforced my own thinking with regards specifically to business books. You can’t simply read a book and follow the steps outlined to become successful. Successful people take what they read/learn and apply it with their own thoughts and ideas. I enjoy reading what has wokred (and not worked) for various people and companies but I don’t attempt to apply these ideas verbatim.

New Xero Investor

From the Xero Blog today:

US Technology Guru Peter Thiel to Invest in Xero

Leading online accounting software provider Xero Limited [NZE:XRO] today announced that Peter Thiel, the San Francisco based investor and Silicon Valley authority, has agreed to invest NZ$4 million to support Xero’s expansion into the US market. He will also join Xero’s US Advisory Board.

This is a really good step forward for Xero and provides a great investment and partner to really have a great crack at the US market.

On a side note, earlier this year I  read the PayPal wars book one of Peter’s earlier investments. While the stroy is a number of years old it was still an interesting read and always interesting to see the different tactics employed by companies when threatened by a competitor with deep pockets.

Trade Me – The Inside Story

This recently released book is a great history of one of New Zealand’s most successful businesses – Trade Me.

Originally I planned to read this on my flight from Auckland to San Francisco on Sunday night, however I ended up sitting next to Sam Morgan and almost felt embarrassed! We did share a joke about it and as it turned out I mostly slept or talked to Sam about one of his new ventures, Pacific Fibre (which incidentally is turning from an idea into realitiy very quickly!)

I ended up reading the book on my flight from San Francisco to Houston and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book has been well thought our and Michael “MOD” O’Donnell has done well to provide insights into how different aspects of Trade Me developed. The chapters on the purchase by Fairfax were especially interesting, not only from the point of view of the $ involved, but how Fairfax dealt with Trade Me after the purchase. You just need to look at the numbers since 2006 to see that to a large extent Trade Me have been left to do what they do best.

That said. it was interesting to read the current CEO’s (Jon MacDonald) take on what has internally been called “Trade Me’s Secret Sauce” Originally ten principles that Sam developed in 2005 for the company, Jon has updated these 5 years on, the underlying theme remains the same, however with staff numbers having increased by 87 (from 60 to 147) since 2005 it is not surprising the principles are a little more ‘corporate’ – in a good way!

If you are interested in the original principles you can jump over to Rowan Simpson’s blog where he wrote extensively about this topic – though don’t use that as an excuse not to buy the book!

At the end of the book Michael outlines a series of statistics about Trade Me on the assumption the book took the reader a week to read. I managed to read it in less than 3 hrs but even still during my flight from San Fran to Houston the following would have happened:

27,000 Items have been listed on Trade Me

5,000 Items have sold to some of the 72,000 people who visits the site

250,000 Automated emails have been sent to members “on everything from confirming buyer addresses for an iPod to automatic searches for twin carb Fiat manifolds.”

5,800,000 pages have been served to New Zealanders

In 3 hrs! In Micheal’s own words “That’s a lot of love in anyone’s language

PS: For additional reading on my current trip also keep an eye on http://blog.cadimageworld.com


Yesterday I read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – the guys behind 37signals and products such as BaseCamp and Highrise.

While controversial is probably too strong a word to describe the book it certainly is not your standard business guide. When you boil it down the book could almost be described as common sense though I expect there are many who would disagree!

Some of the section headings that show this non-conventional approach to starting a business include:

  • Ignore the real world
  • Learning from mistakes is overrated
  • Planning is guessing
  • Build half a product, not a half-assed product
  • Throw less at the problem
  • Good enough is fine
  • Underdo your competition

I could go on and on but you can see the theme. As book it was certainly an easy read and I was surprised how quick I got through it.

That said I think I will read it again soon as there was an enormous amount to take in – though as with all my reading I take all the ideas and concepts with a grain of salt and adopt aspects that I feel will benefit my business and me most.


It is a common myth that success is built on great ideas. While it is important to have an idea to begin a business, true success comes from execution and actually making the idea a reality.

I have recently read Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky that is all about the execution side of ideas. You’ll notice the book is from a website called the 99 percent – highlighting that the ideas is only the first 1%.

The book gives a number of good pointers as to how to turn ideas into reality while at the same time highlighting why in many cases ideas never see the light of day. It talked about the challenges in team building and leadership that also hinder many ideas.

The recent issue of Idealog had an article on the Casualties of coincidence which looks at plagiarism and how many ideas emerge at the same time from different places. At the end of the article there was a link to a Malcolm Gladwell article that talks about the fact that many of histories great inventions were actually invented by more people than receive credit.

The article is a great read and it talks about a firm that has been set up simply to invent ideas which reinforces the theory that the idea is only the start.

If you enjoy Gladwell’s article then I also recommend his latest book What the Dog Saw – a collection of articles he has written for the New Yorker.

MBA Diary #3

Time is racing by and the last week is a case in point!

Last Friday at our lecture on Quantitative Methods we had a two-hour test on confidence intervals, hypothesis testing and regression. Then on Saturday we had to hand in our 3,000 word essay for Managing People and Organisations. The essay covered a personal case study using the four frames from Bolman and Deals Reframing Organisations.

However, to really indicate how fast time is flying by, yesterday I received the course outlines for our next two papers:

Operations and Supply Chain Management

Financial Reporting and Control

Within 15 days our first quarter will be wrapped up and we’ll have a brief break before launching straight into quarter two!