Rules for Revolutionaries (Book Review)
by Sharon Flemings

Rules for Revolutionaries, by Guy Kawasaki, is an interesting and entertaining manifesto on becoming a revolutionary in the business world. In this no-nonsense approach to changing the rules of the game, he provides some very simple and practical insights on innovation.

“Create Like a God” – in this section, Mr. Kawasaki discusses the necessity of innovation in creating and modifying new products. He shares a number of experiences from his days as Chief Evangelist at Apple Computer, and the mistakes they made along the way. There are three principles presented in this chapter: “think differently”, “don’t worry – be crappy” (get the product to market, then listen to your customers), and “Churn” (fail quickly, and last long through constant revision and enhancement of your product). For example, he points out that while the initial product was good and well targeted, Apple failed to watch and listen to what its customers (particularly its early adopters) had to say about the product. The end result is that (obviously) they lost market share.

“Command Like a King” and thou shalt rule the market place – Mr. Kawasaki discusses the importance and some practical suggestions for carving out a piece of the marketplace, and how to keep it. First, he discussed the barriers to transitioning a product or service from the early adopters to the general target user population. From there, he suggests how to create evangelists for your product or service so they will, in turn, convert others. The last section, and most interesting to me personally, is his discussion of “death magnets”. These are the traditional habits and patterns of thinking that cause companies to remain with the status quo. Here are some examples: “First, pick the low hanging fruit”, “the budget is king”, and “the kiss of yes”. It was interesting, while reading this section, how many of these death magnets I see in the organizations with which I’ve worked over the years. Most are even taught in our business schools!

“Work Like a Slave” – in this section, Mr. Kawasaki focuses on the importance of understanding the industry, customers and competition. He offers some humorous, but practical suggestions on how to do just that. For example “Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant”. Okay, sounds pretty disgusting, but his point is that the bird consumes a very large percentage of his body weight. So, too, should one constantly consume what is going on in the world. Similarly, you should “spread it around” – a lot, like an elephant. Another point made in this section, is that while our world is becoming more digital, the “analog” (personal touch) is still very important. Mr. Kawasaki gives several great examples of how important this is to customers and results. Lastly, Mr. Kawasaki implores us not to ask people to do something that we wouldn’t do ourselves. I think this is self-explanatory, but still worth the review.

Sprinkled with humor, and examples and exercises to reinforce his points, I found this book to be a very practical and useful for stimulating different thinking. It’s worth the read and periodic review.