Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book review: Better and Faster by Jeremy Gutsche

This compelling book by Jeremy Gutsche begins by outlining the three common neurological traps that not only may block any successful person but may also render the person to soon become irrelevant. Visit the accompanying website.

Using the analogy of the farmer and the hunter, these three traps are:
  1. Complacency - an inward focus that kills curiosity and innovation. As elucidated by the author, all too often we shape our careers around superficial, short term goals only to find ourselves stupefied by the rewards and rigid structures. Success breeds a form of complacency by sticking with the status quo. Antidote: Insatiability. As the author puts it: in a fiercely competitive world, the dictum is: "eat or be eaten".
  2. Repetition - taking the cues from a farmer, the author describes the annual routine that the farmer has to go through - seeding, tending, harvesting, seeding, tending, harvesting, seeding, tending, harvesting, etc. This rigid repetition dampens the capacity for creativity and adaptation. To quote the author: "As individuals, we, too, can easily blunder into the trap of repetition. Once you find an industry that pays you well, you'll tend to stick with it." Antidote: Curiosity.
  3. Protectiveness. As the author puts it so well: "Every strong culture contains seed of its own destruction. A culture is a defined set of behaviors that develop over time.  But when  new opportunities arise, the culture holds you back." Bill Gates, in his book, The Road Ahead, says: "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose." This trap causes people to hang onto past success, cling to one career too long and resist trying new technologies and different ways of getting work done." Antidote: Willingness to destroy. To avoid falling into the trap of protectiveness, we need to be willing to destroy - destroy the old mold, to abandon the relative safety of normalcy. Be willing to scrap away past and current successes and try something bolder. A bold refusal to rest our laurels. As Eric Ripert, the famous French chef, one of the youngest chefs to have received four stars from the NYT, said that signature dish is an accomplishment, a past accomplishment. It means that our success is in the past. If customers walk to his restaurant and ask for a specific entree that they heard was his specialty, he would tell them that it is already out of stock and removed from menu before it ends up becoming a "signature" dish. He said: "All that care you've put into the old dish dies because nobody cares anymore.
Having highlighted these three traps, the author then describe six patterns of opportunity with each of these in a single chapter, namely
  1. Convergence
  2. Divergence
  3. Cyclicality
  4. Redirection
  5. Reduction 
  6. Acceleration.
Watch a keynote talk by the author here:

This is the process of creating a product by combining multiple products by mixing, product integration, social integration, bringing people together, adding value through layering, drama, multi-function and co-branding.

Adversity (whether due to an illness, economic pressures, lost jobs, etc) when looked from the positive angle, can present with tremendous opportunity. This is because when our security is threatened, complacency is not a realistic strategy. As the author describes it, on the surface, a positive confident attitude may seems most beneficial. However, this sense of confidence may suppress the feeling of urgency, inhibiting adaptation. It results in a celebration of past successes and focuses on optimizing tried-and-true strategies. In contrast, desperate people or companies know that status quo would not save them. Slipping sales or fast-declining market share can spark a fervor that boosts innovation. To fight success-bred complacency, one needs to be insatiably curious, open to intentional destruction and just be a little bit paranoid.

This refers to the process whereby products are designed to oppose or break free from the mainstream. This opportunity pattern extends beyond rebellion to include personalization, customization, status and luxury.

Know the difference between "popular" and "cool". Too often, people mistakenly pursue that which is already popular. Popular is mainstream. Popular is hot. And if it is hot, it means that somebody has already done it. It is crowded with competitors. Cool is not hot. Competitive advantage comes from searching for something cool. In order to pursue that which is cool and potentially radical, the first step is not to fear the outcome. And that is the leap of faith with divergence.  And sometimes, as the author says, your greatest weakness can be your greatest strength.

This refers to the predictably recurring opportunities and it include searching for the retro, nostalgia, economic cycles, seasonality, generational patterns and repetitive cycles. As the author puts it, everything old is new again. As the author explains it, expect repetition. Many people fail to adapt to cyclical patterns, but if you expect repetition, you can open your mind to the clues that will lead to opportunity. But in order to do so, one needs to act fast because cyclical opportunities are fleeting.

Redirection is the process of re-channeling or skillfully re-framing a product to your advantage, instead of fighting it. And the way to do this includes rationalizing, refocusing, re-prioritizing and reversing.

This is a process of simplifying a concept or product or focusing it more on a specific idea. This also includes removing the layers and steps from a product. In fact, as the author describes it, niche ideas today have a far greater reach because the internet helps you find similarly minded people. Launching a niche community can be done in the half hour it takes to start a Facebook fan page. The author also advises the readers to find little ideas. We do not need to find a big idea. We can find a little idea that can be made big.

This is a process of identifying a critical feature of a product and dramatically enhancing that element. This includes perfecting it, aspirational positioning and doing exaggerated features highlighting. To do so, we need to first pinpoint exactly why and where something is great and then to create something remarkable out of it.

I personally find this book to be informative, full of anecdotes and highly motivational with a lot of creative ideas that one can work on, regardless of the fields of work one is involved in.

This is the one book everyone should read and not just those involve in businesses and advertising.

I received this e-book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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