5 inspiring reads for entrepreneurial leaders.
A little new thinking can go a long way. If you’re leading a startup or a team in an organisation to create change and challenge the norm, don’t do it alone. There are some great things to be learnt from those who came before you. Here are our essential picks on new thinking, high-impact tools and confidence inspiring pragmatism.
1. Work smarter, not harder: ReWork
Jason Fried is the founder of Basecamp, an agile project management platform. Now a multi-million dollar software company, he’s shaped his company through strong ideals that not only run against typical corporate thinking, but the startup thinking that often comes from the ‘Valley’. He starts with belief. In picking fights with the big boys (he gives hints on how to win thankfully). In honest, personal marketing. And not working so hard that you don’t live past 40 (this is not another productivity guru book). Read it for a refreshingly different approach to building new things: with love, ideals and without getting out of bed at 4am.
2. How to thrive in uncertainty: Zero to One
Peter Thiel. What can we say? Founder of Paypal. Investor in Facebook. Billionaire. Kind of a big deal. Zero to one gives you his perspective and an insight into the mind of a true entrepreneur. The key theme in this book is uncertainty, and how entrepreneurs take advantage of it (but big companies often don’t). That by embracing the unknown, and great things can happen. That no one got famous from making something just a little better than the last thing. You have to dare to do something different. And you have to have a vision to do so. Shape that vision and you at least have a chance of getting from ‘zero to one’. Read it for bravado-inducing startup goodness.
3. Get things done: Little Bets
Wondering how you’ll ever make a dent in the world? This is the book to read after Zero to One. Peter Sims doesn’t think that innovation has to be big, risky or expensive (we agree). He believes that no matter whether you’re leading a startup or a team in a large organisation, big ideas lead to big projects. Big risk and big cost. Ultimately in paralysis, and very little output — or a costly failure. Little Bets is the Lean Startup for grown-ups. It shows you how to question everything. Learn from mistakes and small experiments. By understanding your customers. And to grow really big things from very small beginnings. It’s the ethos right at the centre of what we do too. Read it to get more things done inside companies big, small, high growth and no growth (yet).
4. Find uncontested space: Blue Ocean Strategy
Love it or hate it, Blue Ocean Strategy has become the ‘other’ handbook of business consultants across the world.No doubt, Kim and Mauborgne put together a great resource on finding different positioning for your product, service or business. Use these tools right, and they claim it can create ‘uncontested market space’ (we would say ‘less contested’). But what this book does more brilliantly than almost any other strategy (or startup strategy) tome is provide highly practical ways to map alternate and differentiated strategies. It shows you how to understand and cater to customer needs, and shape a product that services them better than other products on the market. Here’s where we think the gold lies… In customer understanding. In developing products that do just a few things. In experiences that delight. Read it for the great case studies and the ‘ERRC Grid’. But don’t even consider including that ‘Value Curve’ in a presentation. No matter how pretty you make it, no one ever understands it, trust us.
5. Shape an idea: Business Model Generation
Having an idea isn’t enough.To make it possible to execute on it, you need to consider the most crucial elements to its’ existence and success. Your unique value proposition. Your customers, suppliers and partners. Your approach to market and the conditions that you’ll face within it. The ‘Business Model Canvas’ is a variant of the Lean Canvas (keep with me) that is a simple way to express some of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup ideas. What makes the ‘Business Model Generation’ method great is that (unlike the Lean Canvas) it can be easily applied to existing businesses and problems, in organisations big and small. It will not only help you to create strong new ideas, but improve existing ones too. Read it for in-depth explanations on each component of a canvas. Use it to create a compelling case for doing something new with little bets and lean, startup methods.
A few last thoughts.
This is just a small selection of the wisdom and insight that people who have come before you can offer. But we know that building an idea or business can be overwhelming, no matter if you’re doing in inside or outside a business. Our advice: start small. Start simple. Test things, and iterate. If you need a little help, give us a call.
Drop me a line with your questions. Let's grab coffee and a natter or book a free one-on-one advisory session. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jared is a partner at Think Plan Thrive, a London based Strategy company. We help organisations to build from strong foundations, seize opportunities and get results, fast.