Guy Kawazaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries, bottom line:
If you are in business, chances are that you keep asking yourself how to beat the competition, right? Well, here is another interesting book on creativity and business leadership: Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki.
So what’s so special about that book? In Rules for Revolutionaries, Kawasaki gives you the basics of product-building. Because there are basic rules! Where do you get your ideas? when do you launch a product? How do you test your ideas? How do you keep improving?
Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries are precisely about that. Read my book review and see for yourself!
Book review & suggestion: Rules for Revolutionaries – Guy Kawasaki.
Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki isn’t a very recent book, but what Kawazaki had to say at the time is still very relevant today. Because creating revolutionary products and services hasn’t become easier over the years. So, how do you create something revolutionary? Well, read on!
I first discovered Kawasaki’s book Rules for Revolutionaries several years ago. I was following a business course at the time and working on a business project of mine… and I was looking for a model to follow, for inspiration.
People were talking about Kawasaki a lot at the time because he was the ‘Evangelist’ for Apple. The term was new and original because this way of talking about communication was very unusual. So I read the book. I found it inspiring but I put it on a shelf and forgot about it pretty fast.
But Rules for Revolutionaries caught my attention again very recently. Why? Because I read another book which reminded me of it.
That book was about Originals and it talked about creativity (see my review of Adam Grant’s book Originals, How Non-conformists Move the world here), which is also the topic on which Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries focused. So, I went back to my shelves, found it, and read it again. Here is my book review!
As usual, here is what you get on this page:
- A brief overview of the book (that includes my SMART takes).
- A much more comprehensive commentary of what the book is about, with the author's main topics explained in detail.
- The book's main themes, questions and conclusions in bullet points.
- Why the book was worth my time, why it will be valuable to you, and additional reading suggestions if you are interested in the topic!
Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries: a brief overview (for starters).
As I wrote in the introduction of this book review, Rules for Revolutionaries is not a recent book (1999) but it is a book totally worth a read nonetheless. Why? Because time won’t affect the author’s message.
Guy Kawasaki is a reputed businessman who clearly is a thought leader in his field. As the former evangelist of Apple, he has a strong background (to say the least) when it comes to convincing users and letting them spread your word. But he is also a well-known investor fund writer) involved for instance in the development of the Canva.com tool that many use on a daily basis.
In Rules for Revolutionaries, Kawasaki elaborates on what it takes to create and develop “revolutionary” products and services that clients will want to have and talk about. For you, that is…
Overall, the style is very approachable. The book is very short (less than 200 pages in my paperback version) and it is packed with advice, exercises and practical examples. That’s both very easy to read and very practical, you have no excuse.
Now, I’m getting into the details with a much more comprehensive book review below (keep reading!), but to finish the brief overview here is what the book is about:
Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries: the comprehensive book review.
The key topic in Rules for Revolutionaries is the necessity to create products and services that change the rules of the game. In fact, this book is one of the references on the market when it comes to creating revolutionary products and services.
The interesting thing is, though, that Kawasaki doesn’t just explain why you need to change the rules. He gives his own recipe and methods to do just that.
The book in bullet points
Kawasaki explores these major themes
- Creating revolutionary products
- Leadership methods
- Working efficiently
He also asks a variety of questions, including:
- What does it take to create revolutionary products?
- what does it mean to “think different”?
- Should you try and change the rules?
- Is perfection a goal?
- How to create with a team?
- What are the best design practices?
- How to deal with barriers?
- What do you mean by “evangelist”?
- How to avoid traps?
- Where to find your intel?
- How revolutionary are you?
To put things simply, the book mainly looks at three big themes. As just mentioned, the first theme relates to creation. Then come leadership and working methods. Let’s explore those themes now. Keep reading!
Rules for Revolutionaries – Theme #1: Creation.
Creation is a big theme here. The big theme, actually. And Kawasaki deals with it through the famous “think different” motto long relied upon by the Apple company.
Change the rules
The main idea here is to “create like a god”, which requires changing the rules in order to gain in terms of supremacy. Kawasaki does that by exploring the idea of “thinking outside the box” and provides his own “revolutionary thought process”.
In short, don’t think for too long but try to think smart and efficient. Get rid of stereotypes and defy the status quo. Why? because defying the status quo on the established order is the best way to create a new framework on which to build your revolutionary idea!
So, ask questions differently.
Add a context. Find out why things work as they work and consider how you could reshuffle the cards because unframed thinking is the basis of creativity. Once this framework is set, look for new solutions. Look for frustration. Identify the various reasons for this frustration and deal with them, one by one. Think about interaction and usage as well, as this will help you shape your product or service to match real needs.
[By the way… as suggested before, for more creation and defying the status quo, make sure to take a look at my book review of Adam Grant’s book Originals, this book is absolutely worth your time.]
Kawasaki is interesting here because he writes about mindset. He explores the importance of talking to people who have no idea of what you are talking about. And he insists that you should always seek the unexpected because there is much more to learn from surprise.
This mindset point is key and very practical. It pushes you to rethink perfection. Should you wait and release the perfect product? Or should you go, wait and see? Kawasaki goes for “crappy” and fast revision because in his opinion immediate feedback is more valuable than perfection which never comes. But wait, there’s more. Your goal as a creator is to enhance life. So this process can also start from existing products that others have built. what matters is to shake and see. what others think of your ideas does not matter, just shake the status quo.
On this issue, Kawasaki also explains how to extend this mindset to a team and his vision is, again, interesting. Get the book and see for yourself!
Rules for Revolutionaries – Theme #2: Leadership.
The second main theme in Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries is that leadership matters. Therefore, in his words, any creator should “command like a king”. And commanding like a king implies various things.
First, kings and creators must know how to deal with barriers. What matters for a product to become revolutionary is to break down constraints capable of limiting adoption by users. As a creator, your role is to let people know about the supremacy of your product. Hence, you need to make usage simple and mandatory. You also need to find supporters and allies. In short? You must ensure that people support and promote your product.
Oh. And when this is done, you need to build other barriers, to make sure that no competitor or adversary will steal your throne. In other words, your customers must stick with you at all times, your expertise and authority must be undeniable, and your product must be an obvious solution. Think about the “google it” reflex and you’ll have a clear idea of what that means.
Kawasaki talks about his own reality throughout the book. And, of course, one particular aspect of his reality is evangelism. Simply put? Creators should not focus on finding clients. They should focus on identifying evangelists. That is, emotionally convinced users who will spread your word because they believe that your product is THE product everyone should have and use.
Again, he identifies a series of traps you clearly want to avoid. If you want to find out, get the book. Here is a hint though. How to deal with demanding adopters? How to deal with budget and innovation? Or, how to deal with price and competition, etc. This is worth a read, go on!
Rules for Revolutionaries – Theme #3: Efficiency.
This part of the book is called “work hard” but here Kawasaki elaborates on efficiency more than on quantity.
Produce and share
Interestingly, one of his rules is “eat like a bird, poop like an elephant”. Understand… keep searching, eating and consuming and share as much as you can learn.
There is a major point here, which is that you should process and research yourself. Kawasaki (like Adam Grant, in fact) says that you shouldn’t leave your creative process to pros. In his words,” market research is a pathetic catalyst”. In contrast, amateurs have a more pragmatist approach to things. They react depending on their own perception… That point is very interesting but way too long for this book review. So, again, get the book…
The second major point (the elephant) is that creates must pay attention to the way they poop (understand distribute). Kawasaki talks about the importance of establishing a product as a standard. He also writes about the difference between high price and small price for big volume. And he explains how information sharing should be organized for more efficiency. Again, his point is to create standards capable of catalyzing attention and authority.
Community ideas + empowerment
Also worth noting, Kawasaki talks about the importance of “catalyzing a virtual community”. The point would seem obvious nowadays, but it wasn’t that obvious at the time so the argument is worth reading.
Last but not least, Rules for Revolutionaries deals with efficiency in terms of empowerment. Here, Kawasaki talks about ways to involve teams in a creative process, and he explores the role to be given to the users. On this, his view is that for a user to act, a creator must” underpromise and overdeliver”. Because satisfaction plays an important role in making a new product revolutionary.
Kawasaki’s main conclusions
Kawasaki comes to the following conclusions.
- Creating revolutionary products requires challenging the status quo, therefore thinking-outside the-box is essential.
- “Thinking different” implies breaking the barriers to create a new framework on which the revolutionary product can be built. Barriers need to be destroyed, but creators must build new barriers behind them to preserve the supremacy of their revolutionary products.
- Perfection is the enemy of creation. Instead, creators should start from “crappy” and improve in real time.
- Evangelists are more important than buyers because they will support your product and spread the wool that it is truly revolutionary.
- Intelligence and feedback must come directly and you should never delegate your research, empowerment and creation.
- Don’t leave the process to professional market analysts as these won’t operate within your newly set-up framework and parameters.
Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries: Food for Thought
As usual, let’s finish this book review with some food for thought! To conclude my book review, I would overall say that Rules for Revolutionaries is a motivational book that should be read by those interested in creativity and in entrepreneurship and startup creation.
As I mentioned before, this book is one of the reference books on creating a revolutionary product or service.
The revolution here is not to be seen in terms of ideas (in my opinion). The book is not about giving you tips as to what products to create or not. Rules for Revolutionaries is a method, a creation guide on how to focus and get things done for the startup world. Its goal is simple: giving creators and innovators a technique, an effective and constructive method to develop products and services that will last over time and answer customers expectations.
In short, Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries is certainly not a recent book but it is nonetheless very relevant. A must-read book that all entrepreneurs ought to open at least once before creating. Talking about creation, and as already mentioned, I also suggest that you take a look at my review of Adam Grant’s book Originals as this book also deals with creativity in very common (and exciting) ways.
Still on creativity, I am also reading and reviewing two other books at the moment. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (Founder of the Pixar Studios) and Zero to One by Peter Thiel (Founder of Paypal). Both are also very relevant, so I’ll update this article as soon as the book reviews are released!
In my opinion...
… a very-easy-to-read book for those who try to create kick-ass creative products or services, or simply for those interested in good creativity or business books.
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