Skip conventional wisdom, new books advise


by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (Crown Business, $22)

Disdaining drinking the Kool-Aid of conventional wisdom, Fried and Hansson mix a counterintuitive business cocktail that makes sense. Here’s some of their bizdom:

“Find a judo solution — one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort.” Complex solutions take more time and money — and usually come with unforeseen consequences. The price of perfection comes with diminishing returns. “Good enough” doesn’t mean cutting corners; there are no shortcuts to success. “Good enough” keeps you moving forward.

“Fire the workaholics.” They don’t accomplish more than employees who work smarter and actually have a life. Workaholics just stretch out tasks to make it appear they work harder than others. Often, they occupy their extra hours with “fixing inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task.”

“Planning is guessing.” With the business world changing in dog years, improvisation, not a 5-year plan, leads to adaptability. If you want planning to be less of a guess, focus on this week, not next month or next year. Case on point: Who could have predicted the events in Libya and their effect on gas prices, food prices, Beltway politics, etc.?

“You can’t be all things to every customer.” Be true to a type of customer. Doing so let’s you build a business that while narrow, is deep in expertise and understanding of the market. “Let your customers outgrow you.”

“Don’t copy.” If you’re a copycat, it means your business lags behind your competitors. You can try rationalizing that copying saves the investment in R&D, but being second, third, etc. means you capture less market share. Also, see benchmarking for what it really is: Your competition is smarter. It found ways to innovate and improve processes before you did. Continuous improvement doesn’t mean adopting what exists.

“They’re not 13. When you treat employees as children you get children’s work.” Micromanagement shouts: “I don’t trust you to make the right decisions.” It creates non-thinkers.

It’s 271 pages of pearls of bizdom.


“Make Your Own Rules: A Renegade Guide to Unconventional Success”

by Wayne Rogers with Josh Young (AMACOM, $23)

Rogers, who died recently, used a cue from his Trapper John character on TV’s “M*A*S*H*,” creativity and leaps of faith to build a career that included bridal boutiques, convenience stores, a vineyard, commercial real estate and film distribution. Ultimately, he bet himself that he could succeed.

Here are some highlight takeaways:

“Opposites should not attract.” You need people on the same page to bring ideas into reality. Once you reach reality, those same-page people should look for “what’s next.” If they’re content with reality, convergent thinking sets in and you’ll need contrarians to get out of the comfort zone.

“If you’re a slave to conventions, you’re just following a plan set by someone else.” And that someone’s plan was developed when? In the past. When the past dictates your present and shapes your future, stagnation trumps creativity. When you stop asking the how, why and what-if questions, your business is doomed.

“To thine own self be known.” You can only hone your people skills if you know who you are. It’s about your expectations and limitations because “you have to make judgments about yourself in relation to others. Knowing what really makes you tick improves your ability to know others, too.

“Ask questions and shut up.” You learn when others do the talking. Ask open-ended questions; play sponge. You’ll find yourself immersed in information — most of which you can use.

Rogers applies these takeaways and more as he takes you through his varied ventures.

— Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated reviewer of business books.

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