Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: Montessori from the Start

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age ThreeMontessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a practical guide for parents interested in quite famous Montessori's approach to children's education (this particular book focuses on the youngest age - from 0 to 3 years).

Its basic principles are: involve your child into your everyday activities, treat your child as a future adult helping him/her to develop independence and self-esteem, do not treat your child as a puppy or a doll to be taken care of, give your child place and time to focus on specific tasks without distructions, do not try to entertain your child so that he/she has "fun" at all times, provide patterns and predictability for your child, be consequent in your behaviour.

One quote to illustrate one of these principles:
“No” must mean no every time. “No” cannot mean “Ask me again and maybe I will give in.” Or “Scream loud enough, hit me, break something, tell me, ‘I hate you, you’re mean,’ embarrass me in a public place or at my in-laws and I might give you what you want.”
It is a lot of sensible principles in this book. However, as the quote above illustrates, this book can also make you as a young parent somewhat depressed - "Am I not a good parent then if I am not doing it all like that?" It is written as if raising a child would be the only task in the life of a parent. It solely focuses on what is good for your child and does not soften up this message by accepting that parents have their own wishes, they are sometimes (often) exhausted and need room for themselves, a child might have a younger/elder sibling which might make all the nice Montessori-like environment rather difficult to create at home etc.

Although authours say several times that "the brain research supports that...", they do not quote any specific studies. Instead, a lady called Montessori (who gave the name for this movement) is referred to many times - as if she were an ultimate expert in everything concerning children education. That was a bit too religious to my taste.

The frequent references to "monumental task of raising a child to make him or her a better human-being" seemed a bit too pathetic perhaps.

All in all, if one takes pragmatic approach to this book, tries to learn the new insights and treats it as one potential philosophy towards raising children (without stressing about potentially not being able to do it all "by-the-book"), it is a very nice and useful read for any parent.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Professional Service Firm

Professional Service FirmProfessional Service Firm by Mark C. Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very good book, outlining some of the basic principles that one managing a (unit in a) professional service firm should remember, such as:
"If there is one single thing the professional service firms must do right it is attracting and retaining the highest-calibre individuals"

"Differentiation in the form of intellectual human capital is a barrier to new entrants"

"The highly competitive professional service firms will typically have a very low degree of client churn, as it becomes an indispensable part of the client’s value chain."

“The choice of client may dictate the professional development of the firm - it has to be made in full understanding that whatever else happens, the professional life of the firm will not be the same afterwards”

"The client relationships have “time economies”, the counterpart of industry’s “scale economies”. The firm does not need to incur acquisition, learning and start-up costs every time as with a new client."

"It is better to have an excellent general understanding of the issues facing a client and fashion the the professional service firm’s services to meet those needs rather than continuing to sell them the same solution to different problems. The power of the professional service firms is to customise, not to mass market."

"Most healthy PSFs compete on quality and not price. Their focus is achieving high enough levels of value added to sustain higher salaries that competitors and hence maintain the best professional talent."

I liked the systematic approach of the book: most of the principles (some of which are outlined in the quotes above) are substantiated by underlying economics, supported by charts or spreadsheet calculations.

The style of the book is rather dry, there are not that many examples - and those that are mainly come from the advertising industry. Many of the chapters are written with the focus on corporate finance, rather than company management - which might be too detailed if one is not concerned specifically about M&A.

All in all, a really good read and recommended for anyone willing to study economics of the service industry (as opposed to product-based companies / industrials that traditional economics focuses upon).