I was talking to my dad this morning about how it’s difficult for me not to watch the World Cup. It’s also difficult to sacrifice half the day in front of the television, so I try my best to multi-task. I told him I can’t just not watch a World Cup match because it’s once every four years, so the opportunity cost of not watching it is four years of my life. It got a laugh out of him, so I felt my job was done.
Anyway, I was multi-tasking by reviewing Jim Collins’ Built To Last. For those who haven’t read anything by Collins, I highly recommend you do. His content is easily digestible; he offers tangible advice to follow, and his research goes back over a century in some cases. It’s an excellent baseline for someone in any stage of their business to build off.
A lot of the advice is stuff most of us sort of know on our own but always need a reminder about. Like who knew the companies that encouraged innovation amongst its staff would be more successful than those who stifled it to focus on a single goal, and who knew a fervent belief in the ideology of a company would create an efficient workforce and be more productive than one built on the support of a single charismatic individual? See what I mean, stuff we all sort of know already but when we read about it, we go “oh yeah, that’s right.”
What really stood out to me though was what I included in my cover image for this article. The battle of conjunctions. Companies that struggled to reach the same level of growth as iconic ones (like HP, Disney, 3M) saw the conflict as this OR that. They fought with sticking to their core values vs. creating an atmosphere for innovation. They were nervous to experiment or potentially stray from the vision they saw for the company.
While companies that surpassed all their competition encouraged innovation. They saw it as a battle for this AND that. They wanted their company to grow. They wanted an environment full of energy and experimentation, understanding that a company is never done growing or evolving. They operated within the boundaries of what Collins coined BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to give them some cardinal direction then gave freedom of thought to their staff to create and build.
One may think this counters what Collins writes in Good to Great about the importance of keeping a hedgehog concept and not just growing for the sake of growing, but as long as you are operating within some cardinal direction (an over the top wildest fantasy dream of where you see your business going in twenty years) then you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and change; or include new branches you never thought to include. If ideas come from within and are built on dialogue within the company, then the growth will all be authentic and organic. It won’t be growth for the sake of growth because its endogenous factors that spur the opportunity.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Why Indie Authors Should Read Business Books
I am finally pursuing my lifelong passion of becoming an author, and writing is a business, so I needed to invest in myself. I figured “the bible” of the business world would have some interesting things to say. After all, a business of one is still a business and who wouldn’t enjoy the leap from mediocrity to longevity? The book made it clear that building a great business isn’t just about a great leader who exits the company, only to have it fall apart. What makes a great business, and leader of the business, is someone who is able to build something that will last long after their lifetime.
That should resonate with authors. I don’t know any authors that want their books to disappear without their presence? We have the benefit of creating products that at the very least will never go out of style. Innovations may change the way we read but they will never eliminate books altogether. What we write will last and it’s our responsibility to build something from it so people actually give a damn about our work long after we are gone.
The lessons in this book teach a person how to develop a strategy, how to build a team, the importance of being disciplined, and the importance of managing expectations.
The Hedgehog Concept is something creatives should be able to maneuver to their advantage. It’s all about finding what you can be best at, passionate about, and quantifying how to measure your success. For an author maybe that’s finding a niche and having the discipline to stick with it rather than chasing the latest genre fad.
For building a team, again think about how many people it takes to make a book. You don’t just write a draft and publish it on KDP. If you do, and are successful than I am jealous but most of us can’t write perfection the first go around. You need beta readers to give you general feedback on what’s working and what’s not; you need an editor (or two) to make sure it’s readable; you need a top-notch book cover (some authors can make their own, some need to add a graphic designer to their team) and finally you need to build your audience, because they’re the most important part of the team.
Though there are a lot of lessons in this book the final thing I’m gonna touch on is the Stockdale Paradox. It’s all about managing expectations. You can truly believe you are going to find success, while also managing that expectation. Stockdale was a POW in Vietnam who knew he would return home but kept his sanity because he knew it would be a while, while other soldiers in the camp were overly optimistic, thought they would get home by Christmas, only to be heartbroken when their expectations failed.
Pursuing a creative endeavor is still a business, and today it’s never been easier for someone to enter that business It’s my educated guess that it’s in order for creatives to educate themselves on traditional business practices if they hope to sustain long-term growth and success in their field.