Books and Me: Disrupt Yourself

Title: Disrupt Yourself – Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work

Author: Whitney Johnsondisrupt-yourself

Most of the book reviews I post here contain the cover image, but today’s image is special. This is because I am reviewing a book I received as a gift from the author for New Year 2017. Hence I post the signed page from the inside of the book instead of the cover!

Thanks Whitney Johnson for sending me this signed personal copy.

I have always found ‘Disruptive Innovation’ an interesting concept. But the phrase remains muddled in colloquial usage. And now that I research in the area of ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ I understand the grave misuse of the term by professionals and novices. This is one of those books which does not distort the meaning.

While many books relating to this topic are written with the firm / organisation in mind, this book is clearly intended for the individual. The principles of ‘Disruptive Innovation’ are powerful and can be applied to one’s individual life. The author uses number of cases as well as anecdotes from her personal life to show us how we can all lead a life full of disruption.

I made a lot of notes and also during the process shared much of this knowledge with my students. In fact reading the book so fascinated me that by the time I completed it, I had almost created two new courses for my students on entrepreneurship – but ones which hopefully, will disrupt the way I teach. I think I will enjoy teaching these new courses as much as I enjoyed reading this book.

The book’s principles are so simple and straight that if I summarise them here, you will feel that you know it all. That is after all the beauty of good writing. The challenge is to put these simple principles to practice. I hope many more will read the book, put its principles to practice, deliberately, and enjoy the fruits of a disruptive life.

Happy Reading!

Books and Me: Strategy Rules – Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

Book Title: Strategy Rules – Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

Strategy Rules Book Cover
Strategy Rules Book Cover

Author: David B Yoffie and Michael A Cusumano

‘How To’ books in management are aplenty! Over time one tends to grow tired reading them. Rightly so – but this book may be an exception. There are many reasons for this:

  • Because you are a fan of either of the three CEOs mentioned in the title
  • Because you believe strategic thinking as a skill can be learned
  • Because you are a fan of strategy as a subject

Whatever be the reason, you are bound to find something of interest. While the five lessons (timeless according to the authors) may seem obvious, the better part of the book is how they link it to specific actions one can take to strengthen them. The five lessons are:

  1. Look forward, reason back
  2. Make big bets without betting your company
  3. Build ecosystems and platforms – not just products
  4. Exploit leverage and power – play judo and sumo
  5. Shape the organisation around your personal anchor

Every lesson has a dedicated chapter that provides number of examples from the lives of these master strategists. It then distills them into four principles each (20 principles in all) that one can ‘learn’ and ‘practice’. The authors’ having tracked these CEOs and their companies over time have an advantage in presenting this subject. It is also very different from the usual books on strategy that makes everything look so abstract. The book is good reading for entrepreneurs and business owners. Aspiring leaders will find number of tips and techniques to practice strategic decision making skills.

Overall an easy to read book, with simple to understand and easy to learn principles (distilled) which can help every one of us to learn and practice strategy. While it does look easy, on close study, one is bound to find contradictory lessons and practices. It is in digesting them that one can become a good strategist. The easy looking lessons have simple yet profound principles to learn and practice. It requires the same amount of courage, presence of mind, perseverance, and passion like the CEOs studied.

Every entrepreneur will find some definite take aways from this book. The last chapter also highlights that while all of the CEOs were strategic and successful, each of them had their own method. Their strength was in finding out their method early and aligning everything else to it. It is probably the biggest lesson every entrepreneur must learn and do: Find who you really are? Find what your method to business is? Find what your method to leadership is? Align all your activities around it. Then you will find success and happiness!

Isn’t that what people aspire for, eventually! Entrepreneurship is after all living your dreams. Try it. I am sure reading this book will inspire finding yourself, at the very least.

Happy Reading!

Books and Me: Why now is the time to crush it!

Book Title: Why now is the time to crush it! Cash in on your passioncrush-it-cover

Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

This book is not really about how to build a firm, but it is very close to that. It talks about how to build a brand. While the entire focus is on building a personal brand, I think the fall out of the efforts can really help transform your start-up venture. The case-in-point for this is the author himself. Apart from having created a fan following for himself, he has also built up his family business and taken it to great heights. How? By using social media correctly.

The author is famous for the Wine Library TV that he runs online. He comes from a family business in the liquor business. But I am sure there are so many with similar backgrounds! What makes him different is the passion that with which he built and spread knowledge about wines. Doing this correctly has also led him to become a personal brand. This personal brand building has enabled him launch himself into related businesses, gain book deals, hit the lecture circuits and most of all: enable him live doing what he loves!

I think that’s one big point that the book makes. Today there are enough tools and enough freedom to enable one to channelise their passion. They can use the power of the internet and spread their passions, find others who relate to them, enable others who want to know about them, and even become a celebrity in their own right. One can then actually make a living doing number of related activities around the identified passion. All of this is today possible – thanks to the internet.

The book speaks about how one can do this. Right from selecting the right area, choosing the medium that is most suitable for us, and creating content that can spread like fire – the books covers good ground. But it is not a how to book. It does not talk about how to actually shoot a video or how to write a blog, it does however deal with the thought process behind it, the intent behind how to leverage the social media tools, and exposes one to how it has worked in the case of the author.

There is enough inspiration in the book, directions to get started, and where to head to get started too. But as the author says, it is up to us to make use of this wonderful opportunity that has been provided to our generation and live a fulfilling life. What more can one ask? Make money (more than what one can imagine or at least need) doing what one always wanted to do (life’s task).

If you are an entrepreneurial mind, then this book can quickly show you how to get started. If you are in the advisory / consulting / training space, these can be used by you to establish yourself as a thought leader in your domain. If you are a start-up, you can use these to help your start-up benefit by leveraging an existing shared passion.

Find yours now!

Books and Me: Creative Confidence

Book Title: Creative ConfidenceCreative Confidence Book Cover

Authors: David Kelley and Tom Kelley

I think that every single person on earth wants to live a full life. A full life which will enable them go to the grave empty. This means they should have used their talents to the fullest. But almost every one of us, feels bad that we could not really live to our fullest potential. We could not utilise out immense creative potential. After blaming all the external factors for not allowing us to live a creative life, we finally blame it on ourselves – saying we are not creative enough to live it!

The Kelley brothers have produced a very inspiring book for all those who want to lead an entrepreneurial life. They dispel the myth that creativity is for the few. They give enough examples from their extremely creative and entrepreneurial life to showcase how creativity can be learned and developed as we go along with life. There does not seem to be an age to start as they share stories of people who came into their workshops pretty late in their careers and blossomed their inner creativity. The brother dispel this misunderstanding using examples from their lives, their client work at IDEO, and their experiments with the d.school.

The brothers then go on to clarify how to develop and bring these creative abilities within us to life. They provide specific tools, techniques and methods. These are all based on their human centred design courses that they run at the d.school. These are the same methods they use at their famous design firm IDEO to solve some of the enterprise challenges creatively. They also inspire us to live our lives where our interests lie. They constantly remind us that it is not worth looking back at life wondering why the most personal interests could never be pursued.

They draw on existing literature pretty generously for all related reading. The references provided to various books, academic literature and trade articles give us enough further reading. Cases provided show us how the techniques are applied in practice.  The last chapter gives us access to various exercises that can be used by us within our firms and workshops. The exercises are provided with details of how to run them too which makes it usable directly.

We have to thank the Kelley brothers (authors of the book) for their generosity in sharing their learnings from life so elaborately so that many of us who may not have access to them or their courses can also draw from their experiences. Thanks for that.

Creativity is an important aspect of a life lived well. This book is definitely one that will urge us to keep the faculty alive, have courage to take steps to put it to use, apart from giving the approaches of how to channelise this faculty / energy for optimum use.

Happy Reading!

Books and Me: BRAG – The art of tooting your own horn without blowing it

Book Title: BRAG – The art of tooting your own horn without blowing it!

Author: Peggy KlausBRAG Book Cover

When you give a man a horn, he will blow it or toot it! Whether it sounds like cacophony or music will depend on how he does it? If the “horn” meant talking about yourself, then you must ensure the resultant sound is like music to listeners.

Peggy Klaus is a definitive communicator. She gives her message to the reader loud and clear. Her book “BRAG” is a recommended read in today’s hyper competitive world and attention deficit community. She clearly elucidates the need for self promotion and also the negative meaning attached to the phrase. At times to someone who realizes the need for the skill at self-promotion, the repetition of reasons against or obstacles may seem redundant.

The book details a lot on the excuses people give themselves for not tooting their own horn and why one needs to convince themselves about the need for doing it. Another thing is also to ensure that doing it anyhow is dangerous and can seriously backfire. If not done correctly it can also assume wrong connotations.

Preparation as the key (using the take-12 questionnaire) has been rightly given its due place. Especially in the case of such a sensitive skill, preparation and practice can help avoid embarrassing moments and failure in self-promotion.

The book elucidates numerous instances where self-promotion is much needed. The detailing using examples makes it amply clear “how-to” and “how-not-to” –toot your own horn in all of these situations.

Amongst the many situations where the bragging skills can be applied, I found “When you’re out on your own” chapter to be the most relevant for an entrepreneur. In my role as a researcher, teacher, author, writer and entrepreneur I think this skill is much needed. All entrepreneurs will need to perfect the art. The book’s inherent message that self-promotion is not bad when done right is a basic input to all entrepreneurs. Selling is an inherent part of entrepreneurship and the salesman / saleswoman (entrepreneur in this case) is the most important in the sales process. But most entrepreneurs never learn this skill – they try to hard sell their way or don’t sell at all. While it may come as a surprise to many, it remains the reality. One of the reasons why entrepreneurs (especially in India) don’t naturally tend towards selling is their cultural upbringing of being advised not to ‘brag’ about oneself. While the intent of the advice is noble, its practice requires skill. If one learns the art of ‘tooting’ one’s own horn without sounding like ‘bragging’ – it could bring attention and eventually open the potential for future sales.

The best parts of the book include take-12, brag-nags and the chapter on bragging for the self-employed or entrepreneurial variety. This topic was / is and will be very important. In today’s attention deficit world, the art of subtly promoting oneself is very important and is slowly becoming a necessity. This book is important for entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to establish oneself in a group. The book is an easy read, easy to carry around, has excellent binding, printing and is almost devoid of any English error. It does not have distractions except for the often-repeated reason of why one should not detest tooting. For more information on the book you can look up at www.bragbetter.com

Happy Reading!

Books and Me: Tribes

Book Title: Tribes – We Need You To Lead Us

Author: Seth GodinTribes Book Cover

This is a book whose subject is so common that it is so easily missed. Ironical as it may seem, every human being inherently seeks connection. It is very difficult for a normal human to stay alone and avoid human interaction. The difference lies only in the quantity and quality of connections. So what gets people connected?

From time immemorial till recently people have always attempted to group, be it for hunting or for launching a rocket to the Mars. In each of these cases we can notice that the word “crowd” is conspicuously missing. Seth Godin in this little book attempts to codify this inherent need amongst people.

Every tribe seems to be a group of people with a shared interest and a way to communicate. Every tribe has a leader whose only job is to enable people who share similar interests to join, connect and communicate. With huge reductions in communication costs and the internet destroying geographical boundaries, we are now seeing the possibility of forming tribes who have no limits. Today we have tribes around people, around causes, around common interests, around products, around companies, around artists, around brands, and every possible way in which we can belong. Belonging is such a longing for every human being (social animal). The book also shares characteristics of a good tribe, what makes a good tribal leader, and how to make tribes thrive. It is very clear the tribes do not form around commercialization or personal benefits of the leaders or sponsors.  Real tribes have a far greater shared interest, want to share their uniqueness, and are willing to let go of those who don’t belong. Tribes are becoming voluntary and they are getting easier to start, sustain and scale. Trust, honesty, transparency enable the creation of tribes and evangelists within them. Tribes grow by members bringing more members. The leader just strengthens the platform and amplifies the voices of the members.

Creation of tribes is an interesting activity especially for entrepreneurs.  Every start-up essentially should be a tribe. It must be in Seth Godin’s terms a purple cow (remarkable) which intends to make change happen and hence difficult to ignore. Tribes are also a great way for start-ups to find fans and evangelists for their radical ideas. The book contains the usual dose of challenging questions, interesting quotations, numerous cases and examples and a bunch of further readings. Thanks Seth Godin for triggering in me to think deeper around tribes in my domain of work (Entrepreneurship and Small Business).

What Should Entrepreneurs Read?

In recent times a number of entrepreneurs who started their businesses in late seventies and eighties have begun to reap fortunes for their hard work. This is quite visible from the number of companies that have sold their operations for tremendous valuation, whose operations have been valued dearly by world famous investors and the numerous biographies and autobiographies that are hitting the shelves. Interestingly many young businessmen also seem to look up to biographies for reference and learning. Please don’t think I am against biographies of businessmen. Personally I collect and read this genre as well.

What struck me recently while listening to someone make reference to reading such works , is that there is a fundamental mismatch in what is to be taken and what is being taken from such reads. While every honestly written biography or autobiography is worth reading to understand the story of the individual, in the case of entrepreneurs, this is considered to be equated to lessons about the evolution of the company as well.

In almost every entrepreneur’s case the person and the firm are almost seen as inseparable. The extreme case of this can be Apple and Steve Jobs. Hence when aspiring and young entrepreneurs listen and read these works they receive useful guidance for their personal growth as individuals, which are then mistakenly extrapolated and applied to the ventures as well.  The result of such application does not seem as stunning as what was showcased in the reading.  Disheartened by this, some of them even go to the extent of recommending non-reading of books as a useful tip.

The real gap is that the biographies and success stories do not showcase the growth challenges of the institutions at various stages to the required detail.  They deal more with the entrepreneur’s evolution and not with the challenges, the tribulation, the demands that was experienced and expressed by the venture at hand.

Does this actually suggest that there is lacuna in the available literature about the growth of firms? One would think so. Though there are some works worthy of mention, they are sporadic. However, even these are not consumed by entrepreneurs with a desired level of enthusiasm and interest.

I once again would like to reiterate, this is not to say autobiographies or biographies are to be avoided. As institution builders entrepreneurs must use biographies and autobiographies for personal growth and look up material that is from the business growth perspective for utilization in their journey of enterprise creation.   Hence I reiterate that entrepreneurs must not just stop with reading biographies but must go beyond and pick useful studies on business growth and enterprise creation.

Happy Reading!