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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2000
This is a remarkable book. Remarkable, not in that it tackles a fresh new issue, for the problem of how to stimulate innovation, enterprise and initiative within the staid and dusty board rooms of corporate America has been addressed by many authors, most notably Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her seminal book "The Change Masters (Uniwin 1983)" wrote - "In every sector, old and new, I hear a renewed recognition of the importance of people...Thus, individuals actually need to count more, because it is people within the organisation who come up with new ideas, who develop creative responses, and who push for change before opportunities disappear..."
This is a remarkable book because of its neon-light style delivery of the message that innovation comes from individuals who dare to think differently. Written in the fast paced style of a Jack Higgins thriller, it takes the reader through a breath-taking 314 page journey - from the hellish turmoil of stalled American enterprise to the promise of a framework that when applied in the right way would lead to the dawn of a vibrant new epoch of heroic success. Hamel's style is fantastic. He uses what I call "Marketish" - with banner headline grabbing sound bites and stylised echoes of prophetic messages. He does indeed engage the reader in a manner that many of the more docile writers of management books fail to achieve.
The first two chapters are devoted to a systematic dissection of the failures of corporate America in generating what Hamel calls "new wealth". The fabulous style that grabs the attention starts with the first chapter entitled "The End of Progress". In this chapter Gary Hamel takes the reader through a breathless journey designed to prove that incremental thinking (progress) no longer works, no longer are traditional strategic planning, careful market research and prudent financial plans sufficient, but "rule-breaking" thinking and imagination beyond the impossible are required to survive the break neck speed of the new economy. As Hamel prophesises with assured tones of a speechwriter for Tony Blair, "Somewhere out there is a bullet with your company's name on it. Somewhere out there is a competitor, unborn and unknown, that will render your strategy obsolete." Hamel demonstrates in this chapter that industry revolutionary like Freeserve, IKEA, Charles Schwab, Amazon and Hotmail take the entire business concept, rather than a product or service, as the starting point for innovation. He warns that BPR, TQM and other incremental 1990s methods of improvement will no longer work in the post-industrial landscape. In his inimitable style Hamel writes, "Those who live by the sword will be shot by those who don't."
In the second chapter entitled "Rising Expectations, Diminishing Returns", Hamel incisively exposes how corporations in America and elsewhere have systematically mislead their investors into thinking that the strategies they were following are creating new wealth. Again drawing heavily from examples of failures of strategies like share buy-backs and mega-mergers, Hamel shows the root cause of why CEOs resort to such desperate measures - it is catastrophic strategy failure. He likens mega-merger to dinosaurs mating. Hamel asserts, "While some of these couplings are propelled by truly strategic considerations...many are simply the last gasp of cost cutting CEOs..." The other important points he makes in this chapter is the tradition of industry norms and industry models, this he asserts leads to strategy convergence and eventually strategy death. Following industry norms might be fine until a revolutionary, with a new business model that breaks all the industry rules comes along and blows your company out of the water. Hamel asserts that what is needed is business concept innovation.
Most strategy books are like encyclopaedias, telling you all about how car engines work rather than giving step by step guide on how your skills can be applied to disassembling and fixing a car engine. Hamel achieves this by taking you through a process of disassembling your strategies, your deep held beliefs and shows how you can be the rebel who saves your firm from strategy failure. Hamel provides the tools required to dive into the depths of your organisation and the insight into the skills required to hold your breath long enough to surface with the pearls locked away in its bowels. He provides a framework of creativity, which you can then use to string the pearls you have found into beautiful jewellery that your customers would die for.
The next two chapters deal with the vexing question of how does one become a rebel? Is one born a rebel? Are there examples of industry rebels? Hamel gathers the wisdom of rebels like Ken Kutaragi who fought against all odds to make Sony executives take the PlayStation seriously; rebels like Georges Dupont-Roc who turned Shell from a sleepy fossil fuel company into a renewable energy radical - to provide a handbook for rebels. But one might say so what's new about this book, reams have been written about "skunkworks". Are there no companies that embrace radical thinking and strategy innovation as its central culture? Is there no pragmatics on how to design and construct such organisations?
If you want you can create organisations or change yours where strategy innovation, rapidly out manoeuvring your competitors, creating ways to satisfy customers who did not even know you existed, become the very fabric that holds your organisation together. Hamel shows how this can be done, what are the design rules, what metrics you need to measure yourself when you no longer have competitors, what are the rules when the only organisation you have to compete against is your own.
Although this book may not appeal to the more traditional thinkers among the business strategy community, I think it is a must read for all CEOs caught in the whirlwind of what is now being called the new economy. Hopefully some will put what Hamel is preaching into practice - they are what he affectionately calls the "grey haired rebels."
by Dev Sen, London, UK
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2001
Leading the Revoultion highlights the need for companies to move with the times and make essential internal changes to ensure a competitive edge in the global market place. In this respect, this book is worthwhile reading. It also has a pleasant, eye-catching layout. I agree that revoultionary changes are often needed to energize not only the stagnant visions of many upper management employees, but also some of their attitudes and counterproductive practices. However, what is presented as "innovation" in this book should actually be defined as "the search for management-driven marketing opportunities". A pity, that there is too much emphasis on the importance of innovative marketing/management contributions and far too little mention of the value of technical staff as the "real" innovators. A successful company, which seeks to maintain a competitive advantage on the cutting edge of technology should not focus solely on innovative management approaches. Both technical and managerial branches of an organization would benefit from coming closer together to ensure that future changes are appropriately made. The mess resulting from lack of communication and understanding between these two company segments is very well illustrated in a thoroughly enjoyable, American satire entitled, "Management by Vice", authored by C.B. Don. I honestly recommend that anyone daring enough to implement radical change for the good of a company, read not only "Leading the Revolution", but also the hilarious, true-to-life examples of poor management practices in the book, "Management by Vice". Then one can begin to understand company innovators' opinions and appreciate why it is so important for management not just to "lead" in isolation, but to create a positive, winning partnership with the "real" innovators. Herein lies the means to retain valuable, innovative staff and bring about a truly beneficial, company-wide revolution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2000
A serious business book that reads as a novel. It will inspire management to become more open minded and eager to search for innovative ideas at every level in the organisation. The book gives many useful guidelines not only on how to stimulate innovation but also how to guide the process such that the chances of success are high and risks limited. Gary Hamel thinks that senior management, almost per definition, cannot think of new strategies. They are always prisoners of the past. Are there not many industries that have a core business that needs to be nurtured for many decades? Aeroplane-, aircraft engine-, car and truck companies have been have been around for more than half a century and I would be surprised if they would not be around for another half. The companies in these sectors have gone through a process of consolidation. If their managements had considered their core businesses as old hat, they would have fallen by the way side. Alcoa is a good example as to what happened when for a short period aluminium was considered as the old economy. Returning to the style of the book. Gary Hamel puts the reader in the drivers seat by all the time asking, "what would you do if". I only found a single instance where he uses the word "I" (on the last page 314). For a world famous guru that is real tour de force.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2010
The only positive point is to find a book that is very nicely wrapped up with a nice design, nice layout, and impressive content LIST....BUT with NO content at all (just very vague page filling, very general information and very general models). It is like reading a bad encyclopedia for juniors (the kind of books you pay too much for). Hype, hot air and a lot of blabla...

Really, anyone with some common sense and thinking can write those up such chapters himself. This book is very far to be revolutionary. If this book helped him to be ranked by the WSJ as world's most influential business thinker then something is serious wrong here. I hope he really wrote better books as this book is an oversized and overpriced rip-off.

Enron as case model is unfortunate choice (year 2000 edition). Imagine Enron throughout the content list and you get a pretty good idea.

Contents
I Facing up the revolution
1 The end of progress
2 Rising expectations, diminishing returns
II Find the revolution
3 Business concept innovation
4 Be your own seer
III Igniting the revolution
5 Corporate rebels
6 Go ahead! Revolt!
IV Sustaining the revolution
7 Gray-Haired revolutionaries
8 Design rules for innovation
9 The new innovation solution
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2001
As a true business guru Hamel has a feel for momentum and what people want to hear. Who wouldn't like to lead the revolution ? However, intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs are scarce. The majority of people are business as usual people. The world would be one big mess if everybody was a 'revolutionary'. Clayt Christensen broke the ice here with his book 'The innovators dilemma that instead of getting into how to make everybody more revolutionary goes into the fact that it is best to separate revolutionary stuff from business as usual. That book should be read in combination with Webs of Innovation by Alexander Loudon. Loudon goes on where Christensen stops, he describes how companies can organize and structure revolutionary stuff.
Conclusion, Hamel's book is entertaining but not realistic.
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on 9 January 2010
I bought the first edition of this book way back in 2000 - the version with all the references to Enron in it and the (at the time) funky graphics. Ten years on and I've just read the book again, prompted by the end notes in 'Mavericks at Work'.

This is a recession era book and hence valuable now. It follows the usual B-school approach of setting ideas out on the page and then finding companies that, at the time, were using the same models. The case studies are a fascinating look at recent business history and it's fun to see which organisations made it, and which didn't. Alongside the Enron worship, I found myself raising an eyebrow at some of the claims made for the near future - 'information appliances' overtaking PC sales by the mid 90's was one example. There was almost no mention of the web in this edition either, but this book was published in 2000 and plenty of other people were late to call e-commerce back then. That said, there are some interesting web fulfillment ideas peppered through the book, even if he wasn't realising it'd be the web that did it.

Put the interesting history to one side though and this is an excellent book about the importance of breaking away from conventional wisdom in your company and driving success through innovation and new approaches. Read past the anecdotes and Leading the Revolution sets out some coherent models for running your organisation or team, including an 8-step plan for persuading your colleagues of the value of your ideas.

'Leading the Revolution' is definitely worth another look.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 September 2007
Note: I read this book when it was first published and recently re-read it prior to reading Hamel's latest book, The Future of Management in which he provides a "guide to inventing tomorrow's best practices today." How well have the core concepts in Leading the Revoluton held up? Very well. In fact, they are even more relevant today. Hamel develops several of them in much greater depth in The Future of Management which I also highly recommend.

Hamel is among the most insightful analysts of the contemporary business world. If you and/or your organization needs to be energized (or re-energized), this book is "must reading" ASAP. But a word of caution: The cohesive and comprehensive program Hamel presents is NOT for the faint of heart nor for dimwits.
In his Preface, he tells us "This is a book about innovation -- not in the usual sense of new products and new technologies, but in the sense of radical new business models. It begins by laying out the revolutionary imperative: we've reached the end of incrementalism, and only those companies that are capable of creating industry revolutions will prosper in the new economy. It then provides a detailed blueprint of what you [italics] can do to get the revolution started in your own company. Finally, it describes in detail an agenda for making innovation as ubiquitous a capability as quality or customer service. Indeed, my central argument is that radical innovation the [italics] competitive advantage for the new millennium."

The material is carefully organized as follows:

Part I Facing Up to the Revolution

Part II Finding the Revolution

Part III Igniting the Revolution

Part IV Sustaining the Revolution

Hamel concludes with these remarks: "I began this book with a simple observation -- that for the first time in history, our heritage is no longer our destiny. Our dreams are no longer fantasies but possibilities. There isn't a human being who has ever lived who right now, at this moment so pregnant with promise. Among all your forebears, among the countless generations who had no hope of progress, among all those whose spirits were betrayed by progress, you are the one who now stands on the threshold of -- the age of revolution. You are blessed beyond belief. Don't falter. Don't hesitate. You were given the opportunity for a reason. Find it. Lead the revolution."

If you and/or your organization are in the doldrums, this is "must reading." But be forewarned: As Hamel explains so carefully, being a revolutionary is to be exposed to constant perils. If you are a dimwit or faint of heart, don't bother to read this book because it was not written for you. Rather, it was written for many of those with whom you compete: People with courage and principle. People who are prudent but passionate risk-takers. Those who are determined to make a difference. Those who understand the challenges which the future offers...and will pounce on them with zeal and elan.

leading the revolution is a stunning achievement.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2001
Hamel doesn't disappoint - his writing is first rate and his guru status justified. For the 'how to' of becoming a corporate activist (Hamel stops well short of this) there's a brilliant book called Change Activist written by somebody who has actually 'been there and done it'. If you finished Hamel thinking 'yes but how' it's highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2002
The anecdotal evidence is superb, though it suffers where strongly associated with Enron and a new edition is required to address the recent business events. The step-by-step guide to leading a business revolution within an organisation is superb and some of the ideas seem off the wall at first, only to make perfect sense on reflection. This really is a manual for managers throughout the world.
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2012
Well the first book that I read by Hamel is 'What matters now'. That book gave whetted my appetite for more of his books though I was scared that I may be dissapointed, in case some are not as great. Next I bought 'Competing for the future' and was equally delighted. As a budding Businessman, I am now reading on how I can lead a revolution. The book is full of real world examples of how some companies have lead revolutions and it is that connection to the real world that makes the book easy to identify with. It is really helpful to read the successs and pitfalls of major well known companies. He explains why a company failed or succeded. I like his kind of writing that asks the reader difficult questions that forces one to reflect on what he/ she is doing.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to be at the forefront, in their industry. If you enjoy this book, then you will most like enjoy Everything You Know About Business is Wrong: How to Unstick Your Thinking and Upgrade Your Rules of Thumb
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