Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading for Team Leaders, Project Managers, and Studio Heads

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t

The business book du jour, but don’t let its trendy popularity turn you off. It’s a brilliant and exhaustive study of probability across fields ranging from seismology to gambling. My biggest takeaway is that there is a difference between “accuracy” and “precision”, and that the way to make your forecasts more accurate is to calculate them probabilistically, and accept and account for your unknowns and your own biases.

The Power of a Positive No by William Ury

A great primer on how to manage and move past intractable debates within your teams, within your larger organization, with publishers, or with anyone else who might provide a point of obstruction. It is a bit over-saturated with anecdotes from Ury’s carreer, but the central logic of his method is sound: respect yourself, respect your counterpart, and do not make the dialog personal.

The Art of War: The New Illustrated Edition by Sun Tzu (Translated by Samuel B. Griffith)

I know, I know. This probably sounds pretentious. What I like about Sun Tzu’s seminal work is that he was focus is conflict philosophy, not tactical pedagogy. He felt that the tools of espionage, terrain, and training could be used to minimize bloodshed, or avoid it outright. His principles apply just as easily to the modern business setting: perform your due diligence, know your limits, pick your battles, and treat your people well.

Thinking Strategically by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff

The classic tome of game theory wisdom. Its age gives it an anachronistic feel: it speaks about the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War as current events. It has a cold, almost Machiavellian pragmatism when describing the possible scenarios that could lead to or avoid a third world war. But its brilliance is in describing monumental decisions in terms of simple cost/benefit analysis. I think the true value of this book, for the game developer, is not so much in managing competition with other studios, but in managing relationships with publishers and other project stakeholders.

The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley

An exhaustive exploration of the prisoner’s dilemma and the value of reciprocity and self-regulation, this book is a great resource for exploring how human beings behave in virtuous manners not because of selflessness, but because of selfishness. Its value to the developer is in understanding how to leverage another party’s self-interest to establish cooperation. The book takes a somewhat jarring (though, arguably, not inappropriate) diversion at the last minute into proselytizing for libertarianism. But it’s an eye-opener.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The grand-daddy of self help books. It should be mandatory reading for anyone who is in charge of anything. If you want to understand the difference between a “manager” and a “leader,” start here. This book does not consist of psychological triggers that induce compliance (that would be the book Influence). Its chapters focus on simple ways to approach people and win them over by making them feel important and respected, and emphasizing what you can do for them.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

An easy to understand exploration of the triggers – what Cialdini refers to as  “weapons of influence” – that salesman and marketers use to induce our compliance.  The book covers a range of these triggers, from reciprocity to social proof, and offers both historical and commonplace examples of them in action. You’ll never look at advertisements the same way again. And you’ll want to nut-punch the next solicitor who rings your doorbell.

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