Here are the things I liked in 2009. I thought they might spark ideas for Christmas presents, or guide others to useful resources. A note about all of this. What I’ve written below are the opinions of one person (me) and do not in any way reflect the research, conclusions, analysis, or survey work of Forrester.
Here’s my list:
1) The Breville Toaster. If Apple designed a toaster, this would be it. Intuitive, easy to use, dependable, smart. Perfect appliance for a nerd like me.
2) The Amazon Kindle. I’ve got two of them, both Kindle 2s. I love them for five reasons: 1) I can get my newspapers in seconds when I travel, 2) I can read on a plane while I eat my bad airline food – it is small enough to fit on my table along with my food tray, 3) I’ve got all my books with me all the time – keeping my underling and notes at my fingertips, 4) My reading time has increased, and 5) My backpack is lighter. Yes, I miss the feel and texture of my books, but the Kindle’s advantages outweigh tradition.
3) The Beatles mono and stereo box sets. I threw away all my original Beatles CDs – they pale in comparison with the new mixes. The music has a new life.
4) Amazing business cycle graphic from the New York Times. Being in the research business I’m always looking for simple but powerful ways to reveal complex data. This graphic was excellent on paper, but even more thought-provoking in its interactive form. The conclusions were sobering — showing that this recession is comparatively severe compared with down turns of the last 30 years. Stunning.
5) Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. My kids all hate Green Day: “…dad, they’re a bunch of no-talent Goths,” The kids are wrong. This album continues the brilliance of American Idiot – these guys can play, write, sing, philosophize, criticize, observe. If you liked The Who, listen.
6) Microsoft Office 2007. Forrester upgraded to it this year. My expectations for Microsoft upgrades are subterranean, so I wasn’t relishing the move. Surprise!! I really like the new “ribbon” metaphor for applications, Outlook 2007 was much improved and faster than its predecessors, and all of it was just easier to use. I was getting more done, faster, with less annoyance. If you’ve got to live in a prison, you appreciate it when they improve the food…
7) The book Younger Next Year. If you’re a guy over 50, this book is a good slap in the face. It outlines the physical misery that awaits if you keep eating crap, drink too much alcohol, and don’t exercise. And it points you toward a much more hopeful future.
8) The A.G. Lafley article in the Harvard Business Review. The best description of what CEOs are supposed to be doing. I know I’ve written about it before, but I’m very taken with Lafley’s simple observation: the CEO is singularly positioned to translate the outside (customers, investors) to the inside (the company).
9) Elvis Costello’s album, Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane. Don’t go near it if you don’t like country music in The Band/T.Bone Burnett vein. I’m not a big Costello fan but his ability to bring clever words and themes to a funky, informal, mandolin/guitar/bass/dobro setting totally grabbed me. This guy can still do it.
10) iPhone. I absolutely loved my Blackberry Curve 8900. I thought it was the perfect phone – light, small, great Outlook synch, great phone software. But for me the iPhone is something different – a great phone + amazing applications. Because of the big screen I can review and edit business documents and use the Web in ways I couldn’t before. For my needs, it’s an amazing personal and business tool.
11) The book Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design. This is not exactly a stocking-stuffer — too technical and dry. The author is an expert on bridges. His thesis is that once designs are accepted, they get pushed too far and eventually fail. The next generation learns from this failure and creates a new, improved design. This theory explains why there is a major bridge collapse somewhere in the world about every 30 years. If you want to find out how the Shuttle Challenger disaster can be partially blamed on the ancient Romans, check out this book.
12) Jeff Immelt of GE and John Mack of Morgan Stanley refusing to accept out-sized bonuses. You can’t buy this one, but you can draw inspiration. When the economy, employees, suppliers, and customers are all suffering, it’s not the time to quietly accept multi-million dollar bonuses, even if the math says you’re owed one. There is no “logic” to this – it’s simply long-term, gut-driven, common sense, emotional leadership. It’s also nudges society to once again believe that capitalism is a fair and equitable system.
13) The movie The Hangover. It’s crude, sophomoric, profane – I non-stopped laughed through it twice and I’m laughing right now remembering my favorite quotations. The funniest guy flick of the last five years. Don’t buy it for any of your kids under 17. And skip the closing credits — that’s when the movie goes too far for any age group.
14) The Financial Times Online. It’s expensive ($290/year) but objective, comprehensive, and well-written. This is a bona fide business tool in a time when many editorial agendas are being polluted by gossip, personalities, and raw partisanship. And it’s a healthy dose of a global view of economics and business.
I hope this is helpful in some way. What’s your favorite of 2009? Got any great gift ideas? I’d love to get your comments.
All the best for Christmas, The Holidays, and the New Year’s.