Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book Notes: Mavericks at Work

A lot has already been written about "Mavericks at Work" - a new book by William Taylor and Polly LaBarre. I found this book to actually live up to the quote on the front of the advance copy I got: "I didn't read this book. I devoured it." - Tom Peters.

This book confirms much of what I think about business, leadership and strategy - and was the most exciting business book I've read since reading Guy Kawasaki's "Rules for Revolutionaries".

"The only sustainable form of market leadership is thought leadership."

In one simple quote lies my entire success, or failure as a marketer. NPO marketers - think about your own organization for a moment. We ALL have terrific missions. We all do great things. We all strive to make the world a better place. But what makes us distinctive? Why would I give money to ACS vs. LLS vs. MMRF? If I have multiple myeloma, how do I pick?

The authors also make a key point about organizational vocabulary. Years ago when I was a product manager in the for profit world, the marketing, IT and sales teams realized one day that we were all speaking different languages. Even things like "Price" meant something different to each of us. In the NPO space (at least at March of Dimes and LLS) we use words like Budget to mean Revenue Target - it's crazy. I suggest you develop and publish a vocabulary list - and continue to develop unique ways to talk about your business. Being distinctive means talking differently too, doesn't it?

After the set up however, this book took a turn that I believe has changed the very foundation of how I think about leadership, building teams and driving success.

Conceptually, "The Architecture of Participation" is a simple concept to grasp. Open-sourcing everything from IT, development, marketing and Human Resources is on the table. Involving people in the core design isn't about inclusion or politics, it's about leveraging PERSPECTIVE to create DISTINCTIVE solutions.

In the immoral words of Junie B. Jones (my daughter's current favorite book character): "Wowie Wow Wow!" That's powerful stuff.

If you've read this and are scratching your head, do yourself a favor and go buy this book and read it immediately. The case studies completely blew me away - from TopCoder to Pixar to Cranium, there is so much meat here it's staggering.

More concepts the book tosses out:

  • Unfocus groups - bring together diverse and exceptional people from all walks of life
  • Leaders should "walk in stupid" every day - live on the INexperience curve
Personally, as I try to help whatever organization I work for (stay tuned to this blog for news on what organization I actually do work for) succeed this book presents both an opportunity, and a challenge. Conceptually, the ideas are powerful, but it takes grounded mature leadership to execute open source strategies. The politics and inertia of some organizations won't allow it to take advantage fully of the foundations set forth in the book.

To some orgs, the book will read more like a novel than a handbook for the future!

For me personally, I stand in admiration of the leaders who grasp these concepts and are able to execute them within their organizations. I'm headed that way - anyone want to join me?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll try to tag anything good I find with "mavericksatwork" on Delicious. Read the book, find examples and post em up!

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