Graham Duncan

Investor, Co-founder of East Rock Capital

Graham Duncan is the Co-founder of East Rock Capital.

Book Recommendations

Changing on the Job

by Jennifer Garvey Berger

“For people interested in learning more about the model [of adult development], I recommend Kegan’s graduate student Jennifer Garvey Berger’s more recent and less academic book Changing on the Job.”

Graham Duncan, Excerpt From: Timothy Ferriss. “Tribe of Mentors.”
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Making Sense of People

by Samuel H. Barondes

“Sam Barondes’ book Making Sense of People has had a big impact on my thinking, and I sometimes give a copy to people in the midst of hiring someone or even deciding whether to get engaged. As part of my role as an investor, I interview 400 to 500 people a year to decide whether to hire them or invest in their various startups or investment funds, and the most useful mental model I have found to help understand what makes people tick is the one Barondes describes in his book.”

Graham Duncan, Excerpt From: Timothy Ferriss. “Tribe of Mentors.”

Finite and Infinite Games

by James P. Carse

I like Finite and Infinite Games which has been going around a lot.

James Carse is really good. I had him to an event, a hedge fund retreat we had a couple years ago and spent some time with him. And I think he’s a very profound guy. He was observing that – I asked him how he came up with the concept of finite versus infinite games, and he said he was watching his kids play. And he noticed that there were some games like card games or baseball, etc., where their whole motivation and intent was to have the game end and get the trophy. And then he noticed there were other games they were playing where they were more fantasy games, where their goal was to recruit other people to play in that game with them, such as him, as their dad. And the goal was to keep the game going as long as possible. And I think it’s a super profound insight of the different ways you can relate to games in your life if you can see the game you’re playing.

And I asked him for examples of infinite games which he doesn’t give in the book. He mentioned, as a religious studies scholar, he thinks Buddhism and Judaism are two infinite games. I guess in religious studies, neither of those has a central authority or a central army. So it’s unlike Catholicism. They have difficulty making sense of why it persists over time. And so the framework of, “It’s an infinite game,” Buddhists and Jews are recruiting, to various degrees, people into their game and wanting to just keep playing the game for its own sake. I thought that was an interesting framing.

Graham Duncan, source

The Tools

by Phil Stutz, Barry Michels

I also like The Tools. I give that out sometimes. That’s by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. And they have a bunch of good hacks in there that I like.

Graham Duncan, source

The Culture Code

by Daniel Coyle

Culture Code by Daniel Coyle I give people. He’s looking at a bunch of different cultures. Pixar, Navy SEALs. He’s got three others or something. And he’s looking for patterns among what makes people disproportionately effective as a culture. And I think he captures some of the nuance that if you’re trying to set up teams, it exposes you to that.

Graham Duncan, source

Tribal Leadership

by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright

On the culture side, of somebody starting a firm – I’m looking over your shoulder because I’ve got a bunch of them on the bookshelf here. Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan. Dave Logan has looked at thousands of organizations and puts them into categories. And Phil Jackson, the former coach of the Chicago Bulls has observed that that framework that Logan discusses in Tribal Leadership is the best framework for understanding world-class teams that he’s come across.

Graham Duncan, source

The Aspirational Investor

by Ashvin B. Chhabra

So in financial markets, I really like this somewhat obscure book called The Aspirational Investor by this guy, Ashvin Chhabra, who runs Jim Simons’ family office. Jim Simons started Renaissance Technologies, which is the dominant quant fund. And one thing I like about Renaissance and Jim Simons, he has this line in a New Yorker profile of him that he thinks what he has is really good taste in interesting problems. And he uses the word taste. And it’s a similar – and this guy runs his family office. Used to run the endowment at the Institute for Advanced Study. And in the book, he identifies what he sees as the flaws in modern portfolio theory, which have totally dominated prevailing beliefs about investing for decades. And Ashvin suggested a totally different approach to portfolio construction based on how people actually behave and what they actually care about. And so that’s a book I give out a lot.

Graham Duncan, source