Guy Kawasaki's Rules for Revolutionaries isn't just about high-tech. It's not even just about business. At its most inspirational, it's a primer for living, a kick in the pants that screams "don't let Bozosity grind you down."
Advice like this is the author's stock in trade. Kawasaki is the former chief evangelist for Apple and is now the founder of Garage.com, a Silicon Valley-based firm that helps start-ups find seed money.
His book is less a how-to manual than a how-to-think guide, sprinkled with such "exercises" as: "Access your Web site via a 28.8K modem. Extra credit: Access your Web site via America Online and 28.8K modem."
Some of Kawasaki's ideas ("churn, baby, churn"; "think digital, act analog"; "eat like a bird, poop like an elephant") may seem off-the-cuff, but they are heavily referenced, gleaned from keen observation and illustrated with examples that range from the Wright brothers to the Grateful Dead.
Even if you have no interest in revolutionizing anything, Rules for Revolutionaries is worth the price of purchase for these tidbits alone. After all, they just might come in handy at your next VC cocktail party.
Rules For Revolutionaries
As if revolutionaries really followed rules, Guy Kawasaki puts
forth a top 10 list for aspiring entrepreneurs in his book Rules
for Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and
Marketing New Products and Services. Still, the result is a fun
combination of counter-intuitive advice (Rule #2: Don't Worry,
Be Crappy) and rather obvious advice (Rule #9: Don't Ask People
To Do Something That You Wouldn't).
Kawasaki writes with humor and irreverence, drawing on his own
experiences and the experiences of other companies and individuals.
Elaborating on Rule #2, he describes how he helped ship what he now
calls a crappy product in 1984, the first Macintosh Personal
Computer. He writes that the Mac had a host of shortcomings, notably
only 128K of RAM, no hard disk, and no color display. But
Kawasaki's point was don't stay crappy. He writes that
"revolutionary products don't fail because they are shipped too
early. They fail because they aren't revised fast enough."
In a later chapter, Kawasaki holds up Microsoft as a company that
has mastered the art of revision.
Regarding Rule #9, although obvious, revolutionaries still need to
be reminded of it. Kawasaki relates how a California bank took
telemarketing beyond rudeness; it would automatically dial people at
home, but when they picked up, they would be put on hold until a
sales representative was available.
Kawasaki's thesis is based on the acronym "DICEE." It
describes great products and services as "Deep, Indulging, Complete,
Elegant, and Evocative." The Breitling Aerospace watch is an example
of a DICEE product (pages 24-25):
"Great products are deep. Their features and functions
satisfy desires that you didn't know you had at the time of
purchase. The mark of a deep product is wishing it had a feature
after you've used it for a while and then discovering that it
"Deep products grow with you, so you don't have to buy
another product soon thereafter. Indeed, a savvy consumer will buy
a product or service that, though too deep initially, will allow
for the future growth as the user becomes more sophisticated.
"My favorite example of a deep product is a watch called the
Breitling Aerospace. On one level, it's merely a watch with
hands and numerals, but over time you come to learn of its depth:
the ability to let you tell time with analog hands or digits, see
what time it is in at least two other time zones, determine how
much longer an airplane flight should last, and figure out long
you've been jogging."
Kawasaki adds in a humorous footnote that the watch may be too
"The Breitling Aerospace has one feature, however, that I
cannot figure out when to use. If you press the crown, it uses
four different tones to tell you what time it is. I guess you
could be trapped while spelunking, unable to turn your wrist to
look at the luminescent dial, but able to press down the crown
with your other hand. This feature will then enable you to hear
what time it is before you die."
To complete but oversimplify the explanation of DICEE, indulging
products pamper, complete products have well-rounded post-sales
support, elegant products are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use
despite their depth, and evocative products elicit a strong emotional
response. One thing that detracted from the book was the poor quality
paper. It was thin enough so that I could make out text and images on
the other side. In this regard, the book was not a DICEE product
because it failed to be indulging.
Because Kawasaki also relies on the experiences of others, the
book is heavily footnoted to the point of distraction. For example,
every company mentioned had a footnote indicating its web site. While
useful for lesser known firms, seeing a reference to Disney footnoted
with "http://www.disney.com/" felt redundant. The reader would be better served if these annotations were placed in an appendix. Mercifully, the information
from individual contributors appeared in a "Notes" chapter at the end of the book.
Despite the copious footnotes, Kawasaki failed to annotate his
mention of the Hawthorne Effect. It was a topic I wanted to learn
more about, but he simply glossed over it as a study conducted in the
1920s where researchers believed the mere act of watching workers
made them increase output. As applied to marketing, Kawasaki's
point was that although it is important to watch consumer behavior,
if consumers knew they were being watched, that awareness would alter
Nevertheless, a little research of my own revealed the Hawthorne
Effect to be a flawed study. In the New York Times (12/6/98),
"Scientific Myths That Are Too Good To Die," Gina Kolata writes that
only five workers took part in the study and two were replaced part
way for gross insubordination and low output.
Kawasaki may have misapplied the Hawthorne Effect, but his words
about watching consumers still ring true.
Kawasaki infuses the book with accounts of personal successes and
failures, but he also draws on an equal amount of knowledge from
secondary sources. Thus, this book should appeal to relatively new
revolutionaries like myself, whereas battle-scarred revolutionaries
might see some of the material as rehashed. Still, I give the book
high marks for its perceptiveness, humor, and inspiration.
Dr. Dobb's Electronic Review of Computer Books