Dec 16, 2011

Two Must Reads From 2011

I found myself referring 2 books over and over again this year: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and We Are All Weird by Seth Godin.

I don’t usually write about the books I’m reading. I try to read a couple books a month, and I don’t dwell on what I read too much. It’s just what I do. But this year two books really captivated me. I’ve gone back and re-read them each a few times. I’ve thought about them a lot. And I refer them whenever I can.

The Lean Startup

If you’re building something new The Lean Startup is a must read. Every now and then I read a book that captures the simple, obvious truth. Ries distills what it really means to innovate and build a business, and he gives clear-cut guidance on how the process unfolds.

Talk to any entrepreneur about Ries’ model, and they’ll say, “Yep, that’s what I did to build my business.” For some The Lean Startup model is intuitive, but for others it’s completely foreign.

Ries gives a language, and a process for innovation:

  1. Define a hypothesis or assumption of what your customers want and need.
  2. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to test that assumption as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
  3. Measure and learn from the experiment, adapt and do it again.

The most profound idea is what happens when your business or venture plateaus or hits a wall. Ries provides two options: pivot or persevere. He doesn’t tell you to work harder or smarter. Rather he suggests you can either keep on course or change directions, but make a purposeful decision either way. This is such a powerful idea, because too often entrepreneurs hold onto a belief or a strategy for far too long, often at the peril of the business.

My copy of The Lean Startup is dog-eared and scribbled on. It’s got me re-thinking some of the projects I’m working on, and how I’m testing my assumptions. If you haven’t read this book already, put it at the top of your list. It should be the next book you read.

We Are All Weird

This year Seth Godin launched The Domino Project as an experiment and a project to challenge the traditional publishing industry. They’ve published 10 books, and all have achieved bestseller status on Amazon. But more importantly, the works The Domino Project released this year were all amazing. Short, engaging books that were easy to digest and easy to share.

My favorite book of the bunch is We Are All Weird. It was like Seth came back to his roots in this book, and shared another marketing book. But I found it so much more than that. It was a book that brought together ideas he was developing in Tribes, Linchpin, Poke the Box and even back to Permission Marketing.

Seth argues that mass marketing, mass merchandizing and even mass manufacturing are all coming to an end. Over the past 50 years we have been fed options that appeal to the masses: the same cereal, the same furniture, the same cars, the same politics. But the Web is changing all that. It’s allowing the development of personalization, and enabling true choice to flourish.

Seth writes, “Human beings prefer to organize in tribes, into groups of people who share a leader or a culture or a definition of normal. And the digital revolution has enabled and amplified these tribes, leaving us with millions of silos, groups of people who respect and admire and support choices outsiders constantly consider weird, but that those of us in the tribe realize are normal (our normal).”

We Are All Weird is short, impactful and it really gets you thinking about not only your business, but your life. What choices are you making? Are you compromising yourself since that’s what big companies, mass merchandizers and manufacturers, want you to do?

I first picked up the Kindle edition of We Are All Weird, but after reading it a couple times I realized this was a book I needed on my bookshelf.

What books inspired you?

What books influenced you in 2011? I’d love to hear your recommendations, and get some more ideas to add to my reading list for the New Year.

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