Book Summary: The Growth Gears

I have set myself a goal to read at least 25 books this year, which roughly translates to about a book every couple of weeks. I also did not just want to read these books but also absorb and internalise the content of these books.

What better way than to recollect what I learnt and share it with my friends here on my blog as a summary.

So, here is the first book that I finished reading this year –

The Growth Gears.

Authors:

Both Art Saxby & Pete Hayes are executives at Chief Outsiders. Chief outsiders is an agency which helps mid-sized companies hire executive talent, specifically CMO’s who can help them grow, without actually taking them on their payrolls. Both of them have a lot of experience as CMO’s themselves and have helped many companies script good growth.

Target Audience:

If you own or are CEO of a mid-sized business, then this book is for you.

Main Concept of the book:

Art and Pete use the analogy of gears to illustrate the point that in order to grow your business, you need to follow the following three steps:

Gear One: Gain insights

In this section, the authors focus on three main areas of insights, which they  call the Three Cs.

  • Customers: One needs to know a lot about the customers that one is serving, their needs, their wants, why do they buy from us and why dont they buy from us.
  • Competitors: One also needs to understand who are our real competitors. How are they competing with us? Where are they winning and why?
  • Company: It is equally important to understand our own company culture, strengths and weaknesses.

The book gives a lot of tactical advices on how to go about gaining insights about each of these levers.

Gear Two: Define a Strategy

Once you have enough insights about your customers, competition and your own business, it is time to define the strategy for growth.

The quality of your growth strategy will be dependent upon the quality of your market insight.

In this section, the book explores the different strategies that one has access to growth.

  • Market (existing or new): Your target customer  and how you will sell to them.
  • Offerings (existing or new): Your products, services, features, and pricing.
  • Positioning (existing or new): How you talk about your product and compare to competition.
Gear Three: Execution excellence

In this section, the book explores the fact that coming up with a great strategy is easy, its is executing on the strategy well that matters. And this is a change management challenge rather than anything else. So, the book goes on to explore how to communicate this change in destination to the employees, how to ensure alignment at all levels and then shares the three levers for execution excellence which are:

Resources:

  • Money or budget
  • People and their time, which means not just the cost of the people but also the amount of time they’re going to put in
  • Systems and technology that will be deployed to support your strategy

Tactics: Answers to the following questions would help defining the actual play in the market.

  • How do we want to be perceived? (That aligns with gear one, Insight.)
  • What do we stand for? (That aligns with gear two, Strategy.)
  • Are we able to communicate those things in how we look, in how we describe things, and in the voice we use in our digital media?
  • Is our website talking about the things we do or how we do them? Or are we talking about the types of problems we solve and the value a buyer can get?
  • Can buyers get the information

Metrics: The book shares the importance of identifying and tracking lead metrics to track progress.

Whether or not you’re already evaluating your marketing effectiveness, there are two dimensions to consider:
(1) Are you getting a return from the investment you’re making?, and
(2) do you have access to leading indicators that will demonstrate the effectiveness of your marketing before the end of your sales cycle or before the ability to measure an actual dollar return?

What is Great about the book:

The best part about the book is that this is a tactical how-to guide about what could business owners could do and in what order to find growth for their business. It is simple to read and easy to follow. I also believe that the advice given to business owners is good.

What could have been better:

What would have made the book really a class apart is for them to have one or a few case studies of how a real life business owner used these tactics to find significant growth for their business. I think this could have been possible simply because both the authors are practitioners and had access to this information amongst their clients.

Final words:

I think that this book would be a good read if you are looking to grow your business – irrespective of the fact that you own the business or you are just someone in an organisation responsible for a small part of that business.

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I would rate this book 7.5/10.

Best Among What I Read Today – The Innovation Edition, Jan 5th 2017

In this edition of Best Among what I read, I would like to share some of the best content that I came across this week, on the topic of Innovation.

Use Design Thinking to Build Commitment to a New Idea

In this blog post, Roger Martin shares how the concepts of design thinking can be used not just to create new products or services but can be used for a much more important activity – to build commitments to the ideas that the design thinking team is working on. Innovation we have seen is not an idea problem but is a resistance to change problem. By keeping everyone involved in making a go/no-go decision for an innovation project, through the fundamental principles of design thinking, the resistance can be broken and innovation can flourish.

You can read the full blog post here.

Create a Structure for Unstructured Innovation

In this short video, Soren Kaplan, author of the best selling book – Leapfrogging talks about how adding structure to allow unstructured innovation to flourish. He talks about the Intuit Innovation Catalyst model, the Adobe Kickbox and the FedEx days (now called ShipIt), first pioneered by Atlassian. He also explains how these structures help innovation flourish in organisations.

You can watch the full vide below:

Why Your Corporate Culture Matters

In this short post, futurist and author of the best selling book Flash Foresight, Daniel Burrus shares his perspective on the importance of culture in an organisations transformation journey. He talks about how organisations can identify, what he calls hard trends and use these trends to shape their innovation pipeline and decision making.

You can also find a list of hard trends that he has identified for 2017 here.

You can read the entire blog post here.

Your Turn

Its now your turn. Pls do share articles that you have enjoyed reading about innovation here as comments.

Best Among What I Read Today, The Personal Development Edition – Jan 3rd, 2017

In this edition of Best Among what I read, I would like to share some of the best content that I came across this week, from a personal development perspective.

Focus Is the New Currency of Success

In this post, Anthony Iannarino (who was on the podcast earlier) talks about the importance of where we focus and spend our attention and the impact that this can have on our lives. If there is only one thing that we could improve upon to make the biggest impact in our lives, it would be our ability to focus and do deep work.

You can read the full post here.

Your Body is Your Brain Too

In this post, the author of the Dilbert comics, Scott Adams argues that we dont just think with our brains but also with out body. He goes on to say

I realize that the concept I’m explaining is both obvious and radical at the same time. On one hand, you know from experience that your thoughts are directly influenced by what your body is experiencing. But because you also believe your brain is the special vessel of your free will, consciousness, and soul, you might believe the brain can also make its own independent decisions. It can’t. It is a computer that responds to inputs. Give it the right inputs and you’ll get the right outputs. And your body is the user interface.

You can read the entire post here.

Why You can Change the World

In this short video, the wonderful people who run “The School of Life” YouTube channel share a different perspective on History and share how each one of us, armed with the right perspective has the potential to create history.

You can watch this short video below.

Book recommendation of the Day:

I recently finished listening to the audio version of Cal Newport’s latest book – Deep Work.

We live in a constantly distracted world and are losing the ability to do real deep work. Cal shares with us the importance of doing such deep work and also shares tactics around how we can set ourselves to do deep work. Highly recommended.

Best Among What I Read Today, The Corporate Edition – Jan 2nd 2017

This is a collection of posts that I loved reading today and I hope that you will like as well.

How Starbucks’s Culture Brings Its Strategy to Life

In this HBR post, Paul Leinwand & Varya Davidson share the importance of the alignment of culture and strategy in the success of an enterprise. It is clear to any leader who has tried to create and execute on a new strategy, how difficult it is to get people to change the way they do things (culture).

I strongly believe that the culture comes ahead of strategy.

So, if you have a strategy that requires your teams to behave in ways different from how they behave now, you need to first find ways to get them to behave in a way that would be congruent to what your strategy expects them to behave, before the strategy is implemented.

You can read the entire post here.

Embracing Bad Ideas To Get To Good Ideas

In another HBR post, John Geraci shares his perspective on the secrets of fostering successful innovation in large corporates. He argues that large corporates need to embrace the method that successful entrepreneurs use while working on ideas (Good or Bad). 

Engage with so-called “bad” ideas in order to find their way to the positive outcomes

He also argues that

While sometimes bad ideas are necessary stepping stones to good ideas, sometimes they are in fact actually good ideas — just ones that nobody else understands yet.

He then goes on to list his suggestions on how people responsible for innovations in large corporates can embrace bad ideas as much as good ones and improve their odds of a big success.

You can read the full post on HBR here.

While we are on this topic there is another HBR post that has quantitative data to prove the large corporates are much more probable (1 in 8)  to build a successful business (reach a revenue of 500 Million USD) than entrepreneurs (1 in 500). You can read this post here.

Your Turn

Pls do share any interesting article/post/book that you have come across recently in the comments section.

 

 

Best Among What I Read Today, The Leadership edition – Jan 1st 2017

I read a lot and on diverse topics. I used to share all the interesting stuff on Twitter and Facebook, but realised that searching for them at a later point (in case someone wants to find out more or I want to connect with someone) became extremely difficult.

Also, my friends said that it is easier for them if they can find all the interesting stuff that i find in one place so that they can visit one single post and decide to read something that they find interesting as well.

Hence, going forward, on days that i read and find interesting articles, blog posts, books, podcasts and any other piece of content, i will share them in a blog post titled – “Best Among What I Read Today” and publish on my blog.

Here is today’s content that i found interesting. You can look at all the past posts here.

The 5 Skills That Innovative Leaders Have in Common

In this HBR blog post,Katherine Graham-Leviss, shares 5 skills that leaders who lead the most innovative teams exhibit. The skills that she mentions are:

  1. Manage Risk
  2. Demonstrate Curiosity
  3. Lead Courageously
  4. Seize Opportunities
  5. Maintain a Strategic Business Perspective

One further skill that I think that should have made the list was the ability to maintain contradicting views and still function well.

You can read the detailed post here.

The Best Leaders Let Go Of Control

In this blog post, the strategic coach, Dan Sullivan talks about the difference in being in control vs being in charge.

This is in my opinion, very critical as this tells you your own leadership style and has an impact on the culture of your organisation as well.

You can read the post here.

When your phone uses you

In this short but insightful post, best selling author Seth Godin talks about perspective. Do you let your phone (and everything/everyone who is on the phone) use you or if you use the phone to do your bidding.

This is true not just for your phone, but also for everything else in our lives. Do we live our lives on our terms or do we allow things/people around us dictate how to lead our lives.

Being a leader at times could feel very lonely and as leaders, we create our own heuristics about making decisions and build a team of people, who become our go-to-people to bounce off our thoughts. We need to question if we are in control of these conversations or are they controlling the conversation by only sharing things that we want to know or what they want us to know – both of which will lead to our failing as a leader.

You can read the post here.

Best Leadership books of 2016

In this blog post, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi shares his list of best leadership books of 2016. I truly respect him and his opinion and this list comes very close to my own list as well.

I would recommend that you check out the list and try and read these books. If you are pressed on time I would definitely recommend that you read at least Deep Work and Pre-suasion at least.

You can read the entire post here.

Your Turn

Pls do share any interesting article/post/book that you have come across recently in the comments section.