David M. Scott
Many say you shouldn't give away your work for free if you wish to sell it. Nonsense. Seth Godin has got a big idea with his new book Small is the New Big. This entire book of riffs already exists for free in places such as on Seth's blog or via his Squidoo lens. I've read most of the stories in the book already. Yet I pre-ordered the book on Amazon for overnight delivery because I wanted the content, again, in the new package. I want to take it to the beach. I want to have it on my desk and pick it up now and then.
"you're smarter than they think"
Yes, I'm a Seth Godin fan. Reading his stuff contributed to a life change for me. Back in the late 1990s, I had ideas about how content drives action on Web sites. As the VP Marketing of several reasonably large public companies, I realized that I had "power" and "a good job." In most people's eyes, I was successful. But I just didn't have the right platform to tell the world about my ideas. And I was not fulfilled.
Seth Godin's writing always focuses on getting people like me, those with a fire in the belly to take action. "I've been betting on the intelligence of my readers for almost a decade," Godin writes on the back cover of Small is the new Big, "and that bet keeps paying off. They just don't get it. Now you, you get it... And I'm, betting that once you're inspired you'll actually make something happen."
For me, the big moment was when my company was acquired by a huge organization and I was shown the door. I chose not to take the "safe" route and find another VP Marketing job, but instead to strike out on my own. The "I dare you" messages from Godin were an important part of my life changing decision.
I work much harder than before, but fewer hours. I attend very few meetings. I choose the terrific companies I want to work with and tell the idiots to take a hike. I've never missed one of my daughter's swim meets because of work. I have dinner with my family most evenings. I'm helping people make a difference because of my ideas rather than saying "I wish I had..." or "I could, but...".
Read Small is the New Big.
It is an important book. And no matter what you want to do to make a difference, listen to Seth's advice. Just get out there and make it happen.
Those who now struggle to create or increase demand for whatever they offer (products, services, or a combination of both) must be able to answer three basic questions. All are important but the first two are much less important than is the third:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why should I care?
As my reviews of Seth Godin's earlier published works indicate, I think he is one of the most thought-provoking business authors whose insights (especially those provided in Small Is the New Big) can provide substantial assistance to answering the aforementioned questions.
Whenever I read or re-read any of Godin's books, I view his insights as "acorns" or "mustard seeds," any of which - with proper nourishment - can be developed into substantial results such as increased recognition and a higher level of awareness, a better understanding of a given market segment, a clearer sense of how to position and then promote one's offering more effectively, or perhaps overcoming what James O'Toole has aptly characterized (in Leading Change) as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
Godin encourages those who read Small Is the New Big not to read it all at once. "It took eight years to write, and if you read it in one sitting, it'll give you a headache." Contrary to my normal approach, that is what I did, after checking out the table of contents. I skimmed through the first 276 pages and as I did so, ideas seemed to "fly off the page" and demand my attention. I immediately highlighted them for future reference and then continued on until arriving at "Special Bonus!! $243 Worth of Free E-Books, Reprinted Here at No Extra Charge to You, My Faithful Reader." I then carefully read each word until the narrative's conclusion on Page 310. One man's opinion, the "Special Bonus!" section provides the most valuable material in the book as Godin shares his thoughts about Web site design, generating traffic, the importance of "telling a story," the three components of "your best audience," why a home page is unnecessary (indeed counter-productive), three questions that must be answered when building each Web site page, how to overcome clutter, and three basic "truths" and four "laws" that defy conventional wisdom.
With regard to "acorns" and "mustard seeds," here are a few representative examples:
"If your target audience isn't listening, it's not their fault, it's yours." (Page 14)
"What makes you remarkable is being amazing, outstanding, surprising, elegant and noteworthy."
People who think like a pigeon "assume a cause-and-effect relationship that doesn't really exist. That's what a superstition is: a compulsion to take an action that has no actual influence on the desired outcome." (Page 163)
"No one 'gets' an idea unless: the first impression demands further investigation, they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea, [and] they trust and respect the sender enough to invest the time." (Pages 249-250)
"In a world where things are viral, you're more likely to succeed with passive networking (strangers recommending you) than the old-school, active kind. In other words, make great stuff, do your homework, build your audience, and when you've got something worth talking about, people will talk about it." (Page 263)
Seth Godin constantly generates ideas of his own and has an insatiable curiosity about breakthrough ideas from others, all of whom he duly acknowledges as their source. As he would be the first to point out, however, it would be a fool's errand to attempt to take direct action on all of the insights in any of his books, especially this one. "I guarantee you'll find something that won't work for you. But I'm certain you're smart enough to recognize the stuff you've always wanted to do buried deep inside one of these riffs. And I'm betting that once you're inspired you'll actually make something happen."
As I read this book, I thought "Seth Godin is like a red rubber ball." You know, you throw a ball against a concrete wall and it just bounces off. It looks pretty and makes a nifty noise. But the wall doesn't move.
And that's Seth Godin. A lot of action, but no real impact. This book is a big idea without a next step. A complaint without a solution. Seth is the guy who stands up to start a standing ovation, but does it so awkwardly that no-one joins him. This book is a celebration of everything Seth abhors about marketing and business and management, written with the luxurious smugness of someone who cannot suggest a practical alternative.
I can understand why Seth's rant seems to be "everyone is afraid of change". That's what my rant would be if I had a lot of ideas, but couldn't actually convince anyone to follow my suggestions. I'd think "it's them! They're all stuck in the status quo!"
To illustrate the point, Seth recalls a time a salesperson tried to pin an executive down to make a yes or no decision. The exec was non-committal, and then showed the pushy salesperson the door when she asked the exec to sign a document giving her permission to take the offer to a competitor. Seth uses this as evidence that some people are afraid to make a decision. I say, if a salesperson tried to force me to make a decision on the spot, they'd get shown the door too. But this just proves the point. An inability to influence is somehow the other guy's fault.
Actually, I think it's Seth who is stuck. His book "Small is the New Big" reads like it was written by a 14 year old boy - where everything is black and white (you change or you die) and he's discovering things other marketers have known for a long time (it's not about needs, it's about wants).
On the positive side, Seth has some creative ideas and a lively writing style. He's obviously an observer and a collector of little marketing nuggets. But after reading about 50 pages it all became very monotone and self-aggrandizing.
Judging from the reviews on Amazon, it looks like Seth has touched some people's lives for the better. So there must be something there. But for me, this is like listening to a first-year MBA student fumbling through a bad business plan. Bounce, bounce, boing, boing.
Susan F. Heywood
Small is the New Big is full of challenging what if questions and inspiring examples of remarkable ways to answer them. It would be hard to imagine anyone lacking inspiration after reading the riffs in Seth Godin's latest book, unless he or she were a little short on common sense, paralyzed by fear or drunk on the corporate Kool-Aid (r).
This may be because of the way that the content in this book was created. Tapping into several years worth of blog posts and magazine columns, Seth Godin has gathered a collection of the kind of ideas that make good things happen, presented with a depth and breadth of coverage that I think make it his best yet.
Among included selections are favorites that brought back memories, like the What Did You Do in the 2000's? Fast Company column that, like the magazine itself, inspired me to transform the work I did then into the work I do now.
The book (starting on page 93) includes a great description of Seth and team's latest Online project, Squidoo, a social interaction site I personally find fascinating.--Visit my Squidoo lens susan_reads to see what else is on my radar in marketing and current news.
I hadn't read Seth's blog, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I've had reading a business book.
First of all, there are some great ideas in the book. Most have to do with marketing and product development. Even better, however, is that many essays teach you how to think up your own ideas.
Second, Seth is an extremely talented and funny writer. I found myself laughing out loud several times as I was reading. Like all great humor, it was never gratuitous and served to support the point he was making.
Third, the individual essays are short enough so that you can pick it up and start reading without making a huge time commitment. Each essay is self contained, so you can stop just about anywhere without interrupting a long chain of logic. (This is manna to an "agile project manager" like me.)
Finally, I find it truly inspiring. After I read some of it I feel renewed and excited about working.
Don't miss out on this informative, inspiring and entertaining book.