15 things I learned from "The Big Moo"

*** Updated ***: I’m closing out comments on this post because a high google page rank plus comments equals tons of spam.

I recently finished reading “The Big Moo“, edited by Seth Godin. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s a collection of short blurbs for an assortment of authors, all centered around the theme of “how to become remarkable”. It’s a quasi-followup to Seth’s other book, “The Purple Cow“, which was about coming up with something that consumers think is worth remarking about in the first place.

I wonder if this is similar to how Jim Collins came out with “Good To Great” as a follow up to “Built To Last“. “Built To Last” is one of the best business books you could ever read, because it describes the the habits that extremely successfully companies have in common, regardless of what their actual business is. It does this by comparing 18 “visionary”

companies against a control group of 18 “successful, but second rank” companies. For example, Disney Pictures vs. Columbia Pictures, Ford vs. GM, etc.. While the results are fascinating, the one knock on the book is that it’s useless unless you’re starting a company, and since the vast majority of companies out there are already in business, there was little value. That’s why Jim Collins wrote “Good To Great“, to provide information for those companies that yearned to transition to the “visionary” status.

Perhaps people found “The Purple Cow” to be too “pie-in-the-sky” ?

Anyway onto my moo’s:

1. Real security comes from growth ( Page xiv ) – To me this is the best statement in the book and it’s right there in the preface.

2. Wanting growth and attaining growth are two different things ( Preface xv ) – Companies usually end up paralyzed by trying to focus on how they’ll grow instead of actually growing.

3. Those who fit in now won’t stand out later ( Page 5 ) – It’s difficult to change once you get into a rhythm of mediocrity.

4. If you name something, you get power over it ( Page 18 ) – Ever try to change a bad nickname ? When a name catches on, it becomes very powerful.

5. Don’t concentrate on making a standard. Once you create the standard, you’ve created a commodity and your customers will seek something like it, but cheaper ( Page 23 ) – *cough* Netscape *cough*

6. Being efficient is not as good as being robust ( Page 52 ) – There’s such a thing as “good enough”. Being flexible is better than trying to squeeze out a few extra performance cycles.

7. You can’t predict the future ( Page 55 ) – I already talked about this.

8. Everything is version .9, waiting for just one more upgrade before it’s done ( Page 86 ) – Releasing something stable, but not complete is better than waiting it’s “perfect”. It will never be perfect.

9. Betting on change is always the safest bet ( Page 91 ) – You can’t constrain change. People have scars from trying to.

10. Creativity is made up of iteration and juxtaposition ( Page 95 ) – Mash things together enough times, and something interesting will happen.

11. Compromise kills. Doing something half-ass is worse than doing nothing ( Page 97 ) – If you don’t have enough information to implement something, ignore it and move on. It’s better than trying to guess. Remember #7.

12. Novelty for the sake of novelty is risky and a recipe for irrelevance ( Page 100 ) – Solve a problem. I’ve written about this again and again

13. The energy isn’t in the idea, it’s in the execution ( Page 101 ) – Everyone wants to sit around and think up cool stuff. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to actually build something.

14. A product is what the customer thinks it is ( Page 131 ) – How many times have you gotten pissed at a user of your software for “using it wrong” ?

15. Don’t let the seeds stop you from enjoying the watermelon ( Page 134 ) – The world is grey. Every solution, product, feature is the result of several trade-offs.

Good book for anyone out there who wants to become an agent of change.