Annie Duke is best known as a professional poker player and author of poker oriented books, but in “Thinking In Bets” retraces her academic history — it’s a business book, a strategy book, a behavioral psychology book, an organizational effectiveness book and of course has residual elements of a poker book at its core. It is, quite simply, one of the best business books and actionable management books I have read in years — it’s up there with Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” If you’re wondering what Pete Carroll’s pass play call at the end of the 2014 Super Bowl, Steve Bartman’s interference in the Cubs playoff game that eventually forced him out of Chicago, legal strategists, poker professional Phil Ivey and corporate planning have in common, buy and read, then re-read Duke’s book.
I digested an advanced reader’s copy of the book, and it’s one of the few things I’ve annotated as I went, making notes that I’ve used in staff meetings and 1:1 discussions in the last few weeks. The whole thing reads the way you’d expect and want; it’s like talking to Annie Duke in your living room with the right blend of snark, deep insights wrapped in powerful examples, and force. I’ve read several dozen business and strategy books, and most of them paint generic pictures of leadership or organizational behavior – “Thinking In Bets” actually lays out a map for where your decision making processes (and as a result, leadership and organizational acumen) are deficient, and how to build a self-improvement plan to address those shortcomings. It’s a bit of personal coaching in a purely positive direction, which is as rare as it is helpful.
Here are just some of the things I took away:
Sound like a lot? It is. It’s a dense book. I read it in parallel with a some “lighter” science fiction because I found I had to turn over some of the ideas in my mind and think about both how I’ve personally exhibited some of the impairing behaviors, and how I could better use these strategies in my professional and personal domains.
Full disclosure: My group in my day job has paid Annie Duke as a speaker, an event at which I first heard some of these ideas, and I have played in her How I Decide Charity Poker Ball in previous years, but I received no compensation or remuneration for this review other than a hardcover copy of this book.