Review of All You Need is Kill

I was 13 years old in 1993 when Groundhog Day was released in theaters. 5 years later, I started writing a looping screenplay of my own called “Breeze Way”. In 2009, Hiroshi Sakurazaka published All You Need is Kill, a looping war action drama, which was released as Edge of Tomorrow in 2014.

I was so excited when I first saw the trailer. I was like, “Yes, Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds – starring Tom Cruise!”, but when I found out it was based on a book, I was like, “I can’t wait, I’m just going to read it.” I ended up reading it in one evening and found it very riveting. The ending of the book is much different than the movie, but I won’t ruin it here. There are no spoilers in this post.

Quotes from All You Need is Kill

The book is, at times, more insightful than the movie (emphasis mine):

What if someone who had the potential to discover a formula to unlock the mysteries of the universe wanted to become a pulp fiction writer? What if someone who had the potential to create unparalleled gastronomic delicacies had his heart set on civil engineering? There is what we desire to do, and what we are able to do. When those two things don’t coincide, which path should we pursue to find happiness?

This one covers talent vs. deliberate practice and self improvement:

I didn’t possess any extraordinary talents that set me apart from my peers. I was just a soldier. There were things I could do, and things I couldn’t. If I practiced, in time I could change some of those things I couldn’t do into things I could.”

There are some technical explanations for how the looping is happening, which the author, Sakurazaka, attempts to explain and wrap up the story, but I found them a little bit of a stretch. However, it’s much more of an explanation than what you get from Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day.

The ‘Science’ from All You Need is Kill

In the book, the alien fighters use “tachyons”, theoretical particles that can travel faster than the speed of light, to travel backwards in time. Tachyons were also used in Watchmen (2009) where Dr. Manhattan’s ability to see into the future is blocked by tachyons generated by Adrian Veidt. In All You Need is Kill (2009), alien terraformers use tachyon pulses to send information back to themselves to win a battle.

Tachyons Research in Reality

In 2012 the Higgs Boson particle was confirmed, which is a particle in “tachyon condensation” meaning it is in a quantum field with “imaginary mass” (whatever that means). In 2011, before the Higgs Boson particle was confirmed, scientists theorized that Higgs “singlets” may be traveling back in time and sabotaging the discovery. I guess that wasn’t happening since they were able to discover it eventually, but who knows?

Organizational Habits

The Power of HabitI recently read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg after Zac said, “I have a book recommendation for you, and I won’t take ‘No’ for answer.” It came out in February of 2012 and is both timely and historical in it’s references. There seems to be a bit of bias towards events of the 1980’s, which leads me to believe the author was probably born in the 1960’s. In fact Charles Duhigg was born in 1974 and is a reporter for The New York Times who studied history at Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. The core ideas in this book center around the habit loop, which contains a “cue”, “process”, and “reward.” The scary part is that no one ever really loses a habit – they can be re-instituted at any time with the right cue. The hope is that the middle process can be reprogrammed to take advantage of an existing habit.

Habits are good. We need them to free up our thinking so we’re not always having to figure out how to put our shoes on or brush our teeth. But most of the time you hear about habits is when they refer to something bad. Obviously not all habits are bad and in an organization, they can help employees to do their jobs faster or be used to get along in the “secret hierarchy” that often exists within an organization. When an employee is first hired, their brain hurts because they are having to learn so much information so quickly. This is because nothing they are doing has become a habit yet. This startup area of work has been a focus of mine for a while and so learning more about this process helps me to understand how better to create employee manuals, corporate intranets, and business process design.

Organizational Habits

One term used over and over again in the book is “organizational habits”, which are like unwritten business processes. My twitter bio says I’m, “an IT business analyst in Indianapolis..I’m a Organizational Development and Leadership Consultant,” and I’m currently working on developing a new company centered around how people and technology work together. The socioeconomic effects of people and technology in business is really my core focus and so this book really intrigued me in several ways. As I learn more about Business Process Management and it’s subsequent tools of business process mapping, monitoring, and engineering, I can’t help but think how to integrate this new type of organizational hierarchy that exists in the form of organizational habits into my field of study.

An Evolutionary Theory of Economic ChangeThe Power of Habit references a book called An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) by Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter where their central conclusion was that, “Much of firm behavior is best understood as a reflection of general habits and strategic orientations coming from the firm’s past rather than the result of a detailed survey of the remote twigs of the decision tree.” In other words, it may seem like most organizations make rational choices based on deliberate decision making, but that’s not how most companies actually operate. Instead, companies are guided by organizational habits, patterns that emerge from employee’s independent decisions.

Duhigg goes on to give examples of how companies do not act as a single organization moving towards a singular goal of ever-increasing profit, but are more like a group of internally-fighting factions all vying for more power and responsibility. I have seen this with my own eyes while working at two large, regional banks. At each bank, I was not allowed to talk to another department unless I first talked to my supervisor and then the other department’s supervisor. The trouble was hardly ever worth it even though the knowledge transfer may have helped the company as a whole. Although no one died as a result of the lack of internal communication, Duhigg cites examples from Alcoa to a Rhode Island hospital to a London subway where lack of internal communication between workers resulted in deaths. More recently I have witnessed, at one of our biggest clients, people moving offices simply because a bigger one becomes available. What does the size of an office have to do with that employee making the company more money? It has only to do with power and prominence.

Probably the most well known example of failures in intercommunication between departments was highlighted in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Government agencies were not able to communicate with each other because they either didn’t have the same radios or access to the same databases. They couldn’t talk to each other because before then, they weren’t supposed to. That was the primary reason behind the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the reason you see new radio towers all over the Interstate System in the United States. But one other suggestion came about after 9/11 that hasn’t came to fruition – at least not how it was proposed. The thought was that maybe big cities were a bad idea and that maybe we should have several smaller cities separated by distinguished, un-populated areas. The idea was that maybe bigger isn’t better.

ReworkI would argue that companies may be better off to not grow, but to peel off, keeping the groups small, like the smaller, walled off cities suggested after 9/11. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson certainly argue for this in their book, Rework, which I also recently read and may write about in the future. they believe smaller companies can be better companies because they are more nimble and responsive. It has nothing to do with profitability as a small company can be as profitable or more profitable than a bigger company. Instagram had 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for 1 billion dollars. However, even in groups as small as 12, there are still those looking to be the greatest. In the Bible, at the Last Supper when Jesus was telling his 12 disciples that he was about to die, “A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” Luke 22:24.

Successful Organizations

As I learn more about human behavior I get discouraged that there may not be anything that can be done to change things – for people to think less of themselves and more about each other for everyone’s benefit – but Duhigg offers a possible solution. He states, “Creating successful organizations isn’t just a matter of balancing authority. For an organization to work, leaders must cultivate habits that both create a real and balanced peace and, paradoxically, make it absolutely clear who’s in charge.” The “peace” alluded to here is in response to an earlier claim that businesses act more like they are at civil war with themselves – each division vying for more power and responsibility. And it’s from this truce that is part of the solution as well as making sure that when someone needs to be in charge, there will be someone. In this way, it’s more like business continuity planning where you have event-based hierarchy established before things go wrong so that when they do, everyone knows who is in charge. Daily habits get us by and can help us along, but when the cue, reward, or circumstances change, habits break down and so a clear path to leadership helps at these times. The key is that when the leaders are established for the one-off event, there are trickle-down effects that ripple throughout the whole organization, causing them to be more successful all of the time, not just during special or hectic events. Duhigg calls these “keystone habits”.

Keystone Habits

In Success by Management I share that The E-Myth Revisited and Good to Great are both excellent books for those wanting to grow or manage large companies, which you can read more information about in 13 Books for Every Entrepreneur. In Goals as a Function of Success, I wrote, “All team members must buy into the goal. If they don’t then they shouldn’t be a team member.” In other words, the company must have a central goal, like Alcoa had when Paul O’Neill championed “SAFETY”, and those that don’t buy into this goal get fired, like the Alcoa executive in Mexico who didn’t report the safety incident. Once a company has a central goal, the processes inside existing habits are changed. The cues and rewards stay the same – only the middle process is changed. You cannot change a habit, you can only change the process inside it. You cannot change a company, you can only change the people inside it. That is because companies are not whole, they are made up of parts – human and technological – and they all have habits and routines. A strong leader + a strong cause + changed processes = a successful organization.

More to the Book

The Power of Habit BookThere is much more to this book than business topics and if you are interested in learning about how to lose weight or stop smoking, this book may be beneficial for you too. I took from it what I wanted based on my experiences and my topic of interest, which is human behavior in business and how technology can be used by these people to make more successful organizations. It also talks about how habits are used in advertising, which helped me learn things like how suds are not really necessary in toothpaste, shampoo, or laundry detergent, but they are the “reward” people are looking for in a habit and if you don’t learn anything else, just remember that all habits have a cue, process, and reward and that you can’t change the habit, but you can change the process in the middle by hijacking either the cue or the reward.

13 More Books for Every Entrepreneur

Master the fundamentals of entrepreneurship at every stage in your career

Previously, I wrote about 13 books every entrepreneur should read, but if that was the baseline, this is the update: 13 more books every entrepreneur can benefit for reading:

The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

Reid Hoffman, (entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of LinkedIn) together with Ben Casnocha (entrepreneur and author) have created a revolutionary new blueprint for thriving in today’s fractured world of work. Traditional job security is a thing of the past. Hoffman and Casnocha show how to accelerate your career in today’s competitive world by managing your career as if it were a start-up business: a living, breathing, growing start-up of you. The same skills startup entrepreneurs use, professionals need to get ahead today. This book isn’t about cover letters or resumes. Instead, you will learn the best practices of Silicon Valley start-ups, and how to apply these entrepreneurial strategies to your career. Whether you work for a giant multinational corporation, a small local business, or launching your own venture.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of the popular blog Startup Lessons Learned, co-founded and served as CTO of IMVU, his third startup, and has had plenty of startup experience along the way. The Lean Startup is a new approach to starting a business that is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. Ries defines a startup as, “An organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” This is just as true for one-person company to a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. The mission is to discover a repeatable, successful path to a sustainable business. The Lean Startup approach encourages companies to leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, and a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress with significant metrics, and learn what customers really want. It’s what makes a company agile, regardless of it’s size, by altering plans inch by inch and minute by minute. Businesses are asked to test their vision continuously, adapt, pivot, and adjust – before it’s too late.

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Jim Collins (student, teacher, and author) and Morten T. Hansen (a management professor at University of California) have teamed up to write Great by Choice, which asks, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?” Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Collins and Hansen, explain the key principles for building a great company in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times. As with Collin’s prior work, he uses a team of researchers to study companies that rose to greatness by beating their industry indexes by a minimum of ten times over fifteen years. That would be a feat in and of itself, but these businesses also had to do it in environments that experienced rapid shifts that leaders could not predict or control and other extreme environments. The best leaders were not more risk taking, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons; they were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid. Another surprise: Innovation is not as important as the ability to scale innovation and to blend creativity with discipline. Contrasting to Ries’ agile movement, Great by Choice states that, “Leading in a ‘fast world’ always requires ‘fast decisions’ and ‘fast action’ is a good way to get killed.” The great companies, Collins and Hansen argue, changed less in reaction to a radically changing world than the comparison companies.

Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership by John Hamm

John Hamm, author and leadership expert, explains why leadership can’t be mastered as a single concept or tool. Instead, excellent leadership is composed of actions, ideas, emotions, cultural forces, history, and expectations that work together in an interconnected system. This system forms the core of the winning combination of superb character, skill-based competence, and professional reputation. Hamm demonstrates that any leader can excel by consistently putting into action the Necessary Nine skills: being authentic, trustworthy, and compelling; leading people, strategy, and execution; communicating, making decisions, and making an impact. Unusually Excellent offers powerful, unforgettable leadership lessons, reinforced empirical evidence, and logical analysis. Treat it like your personal coach – one that will prepare you for the lifelong and ongoing journey towards exceptional leadership.

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and The War of Art, asks, “What is this terrible thing called Resistance — and how can I overcome it?” Do the Work probes further, “Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start?” The answer is to do the work. It’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work. Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance – a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door. “There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours.” When I used to be in Amway, I used to ask how to make money. The response was, “Show the plan.” When I’d ask how to show the plan, the response was the same, “Show the plan.” Sometimes you just have to do the work. Read this when you’re feeling resistance. I did.

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims

Peter Sims, author, speaker, and entrepreneur, found that successful people in different industries achieved breakthrough results by methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas. Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan a whole project out in advance, trying to foresee the final outcome, they make a series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning from lots of little failures and from small but highly significant wins that allow them to happen upon unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes. This is similar to Ries’ agile method in The Lean Startup. Based on extensive research, including more than 200 interviews with leading innovators, Sims discovered that productive, creative thinkers and doers (Do the Work) from Ludwig van Beethoven to Thomas Edison and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos practice a key set of simple but ingenious methods. Fail quickly to learn fast, tap into the genius of play, and engage in highly immersed observation to free minds, opening them up to making unexpected connections and perceiving invaluable insights. These methods also unshackle them from the constraints of overly analytical thinking and linear problem solving that our education places so much emphasis on, as well as from the fear of failure, all of which thwart so many of us in trying to be more innovative.

Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts

Duncan J. Watts, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, and a former officer in the Royal Australian Navy, holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University. He is the author of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age and in Everything Is Obvious he asks, “Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Did the surge in Iraq really lead to less violence? How much can CEO’s impact the performance of their companies? And does higher pay incentivize people to work hard?” If you think the answers to these questions are a matter of common sense, think again. As Watts explains in this book, the obvious explanations we give for life’s outcomes are less useful than they seem. Drawing on the latest scientific research, along with a wealth of historical and contemporary examples, Watts shows how common sense reasoning and history conspire to mislead us into believing that we understand more about the world of human behavior than we do; and in turn, why attempts to predict, manage, or manipulate social and economic systems so often go awry.

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen

Jeff Dyer (Professor of Strategy at the Marriott School, BYU), Clayton M. Christensen (Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, co-founder of Innosight, a management consultancy; Rose Park Advisors, an investment firm; and Innosight Institute, a non-profit think tank), and Hal B Gregersen, (Professor of Leadership at Insead; a co-founder of The Innovator’s DNA, a leadership consultancy; and a Senior Fellow at Innosight, a management consultancy) wrote The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. The book proposes that you could be innovative and impactful if you can change your behaviors to improve your creative impact. By identifying behaviors of the world’s best innovators—from leaders at Amazon and Apple to those at Google, Skype, and Virgin Group—the authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting. The authors state that once you master the core competencies (ability to generate ideas, collaborate with colleagues to implement them, and build innovation skills throughout your organization to sharpen its competitive edge) innovation advantage can translate into a premium in your company’s stock price—an innovation premium—which is possible only by building the code for innovation right into your organization’s people, processes, and guiding philosophies.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award, and in 2005 he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, both of which were number one New York Times bestsellers. In this stunning new book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of the best and the brightest, the most famous, and the most successful people. Gladwell asks the question, “What makes high-achievers different?” His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the author of ten international bestsellers that have been translated into over 30 languages, and have changed the way people think about marketing and work. His Unleashing the Ideavirus is the most popular ebook ever published, and Purple Cow is the bestselling marketing book of the decade. If you’re stuck at the starting line, you don’t need more time or permission, to wait for your boss’s okay, or to be told to push the button; you just need to poke. Poke the Box is a call to action about the initiative you’re taking-–in your job or in your life. Godin knows that one of our scarcest resources is the spark of initiative in most organizations (and most careers)-–the person with the guts to say, “I want to start stuff.” Poke the Box just may be the kick in the pants you need to shake up your life.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers, entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life, went looking for ways to sell his own CD online and ended up creating CD Baby, once the largest seller of independent music on the web with over $100M in sales for over 150,000 musician clients. Since 2008, Derek has traveled the world and stayed busy creating and nurturing creative endeavors, like Muckwork, his newest company where teams of efficient assistants help musicians do their “uncreative dirty work.” Derek writes regularly on creativity, entrepreneurship, and music on his blog. In Anything You Want, Derek Sivers chronicles his “accidental” success and failures into this concise and inspiring book on how to create a multi-million dollar company by following your passion. In this book, Sivers details his journey and the lessons learned along the way of creating CD Baby and building a business close to his heart. “[Sivers is] one of the last music-business folk heroes,” says Esquire magazine. His less-scripted approach to business is refreshing and will educate readers to feel empowered to follow their own dreams. Aspiring entrepreneurs and others trying to make their own way will be particularly comforted by Sivers straight talk and transparency -a reminder that anything you want is within your reach.

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman, an independent business teacher, education activist, and author, brings a multidisciplinary approach to business education that has helped hundreds of thousands of readers around the world master foundational business concepts on their own terms. His work has been featured in BusinessWeek, Fortune, and Fast Company, as well as by influential websites like Lifehacker,, Cool Tools, and Seth Godin’s Blog. Getting an MBA is an expensive choice-one almost impossible to justify regardless of the state of the economy. Even the elite schools like Harvard and Wharton offer outdated, assembly-line programs that teach you more about PowerPoint presentations and unnecessary financial models than what it takes to run a real business. You can get better results (and save hundreds of thousands of dollars) by skipping business school altogether. Learn the essentials of entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, negotiation, operations, productivity, systems design, and much more, in one comprehensive volume. The Personal MBA distills the most valuable business lessons into simple, memorable mental models that can be applied to real-world challenges.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Ken Robinson (an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources) and Lou Aronica (author). Robinson has worked with national governments in Europe and Asia, international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit organizations and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. He was knighted in 2003 for his contribution to education and the arts. The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most like themselves, most inspired, and achieve at their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility. Drawing on the stories of a wide range of people, including Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Bart Conner, he shows that age and occupation are no barrier and that this is the essential strategy for transform­ing education, business, and communities in the twenty-first century. The Element is a breakthrough book about talent, passion, and achievement from one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and self-fulfillment.