Jump Start Your Business Brain: Win More, Lose Less and Make More Money, by Doug Hall (Brain Brew Books, 2001)
This new book by innovation guru Doug Hall has the tone and production values of an infomercial. "I bring you good news! Success is not random. There are patterns to the universe of business." Give Hall a few minutes of your time, and he'll show you how to: Design your product for power profit! Triple the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts! Multiply your brain's ability to craft winning ideas!
If you can get past the overheated pitch, you arrive at a decent payoff. Hall, who runs Eureka! Ranch, an innovation camp for top execs, is a master at making the connection between great ideas and market success. He plots a simple but compelling argument: When it comes to introducing new products, services, and business ideas, most executives play a game with low odds of success. His "humble" aim is to improve those odds with his six laws of marketing and creativity.
Hall's laws won't attain Newtonian status, but they do offer lessons based on real-world practice: innovation sessions with 6,000 client groups. The most compelling idea is the concept of "dramatic difference." Writes Hall: "All businesses exist on a continuum between 100% commodity and 100% monopoly." The best way to overcome the gravitational pull of commodification (and its low margins), he argues, is to cultivate the boldest, most disruptive, even "theatrical" ideas. Hall seems to have taken his own advice with the performance of his book, and it works.
1. One of the rallying cries in business over the past 10 years has been, "We've got to get smarter about knowledge." And Thomas A. Stewart has been one of its most vocal champions. In The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization (Currency/Doubleday Books, 2001), Stewart cuts through the knowledge-management rhetoric to reassert the simple, revolutionary notion behind intellectual capital: True value in this economy is not the stuff that companies own and sell but the information, capabilities, and culture behind that stuff.
2. The knowledge economy may revolve around intangible assets, but success still depends on the hands-on work of making decisions day by day. In Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time (Currency/Doubleday Books, 2001), J. Edward Russo and Paul J.H. Shoemaker provide a robust and realistic guide to doing that in an uncertain, fast-paced, information-saturated world. The authors offer lots of new ideas about how to make decisions. Even more important, they submit each tactic to a crucial test: How does it work "under fire"?
3. What happens when a novelist trades in the drawing room for the checkout line? That's the concept Ben Cheever explores in Selling Ben Cheever: Back to Square One in a Service Economy, (Bloomsbury, 2001). Unable to sell his latest novel, Cheever submitted himself to the indignities and epiphanies of service work with gigs as a sidewalk Santa, tax preparer, CompUSA salesperson, security guard, and Cosi Sandwich Bar crew member. His high-concept desperation produces a genuine, poignant, and hilarious portrait of work.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.