Small Is The New Big: And Other (Little) Ideas That Change Everything Hardcover – 2 Sep 2006
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About the Author
Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, a sought-after lecturer, a monthly columnist for Fast Company, and an all-around business gadfly. He's the bestselling author of Permission Marketing, Unleashing the Ideavirus, The Big Red Fez, Survival Is Not Enough, and Purple Cow.
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Godin himself warns you not to read this from cover to cover because that’s now how he imagined you reading it, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t if you had a long flight and had nothing better to do – the subject matter is riveting, but there’s still a lot to take in and so you might not manage it all in one go. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try, though – as always, Godin’s advice is sound and easy to apply to your own business, and the great thing about his converted blog articles is that they’re often written on location when a particular brand or product has inspired him.
Take the manufacturers of marshmallow fluff’s idea of creating a recipe for fluffernutters, for example – for those of you who live in the UK like myself, who might not be familiar with the concept, it’s simply a sandwich made with a mixture of marshmallow fluff and peanut butter, which is apparently delicious. Godin explains that the creation of this recipe gave people a valid reason for always keeping marshmallow fluff in their cupboards, increasing sales in the process.
Perhaps I’m biased because I first read this when I was in the waiting room of the BBC studios in London, getting ready to make my TV debut on Pointless, the quiz show. I know I shouldn’t be biased by when I first read it, but I am.
1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why should I care?
As my reviews of Seth Godin's earlier published works indicate, I think he is one of the most thought-provoking business authors whose insights (especially those provided in Small Is the New Big) can provide substantial assistance to answering the aforementioned questions.
Whenever I read or re-read any of Godin's books, I view his insights as "acorns" or "mustard seeds," any of which - with proper nourishment - can be developed into substantial results such as increased recognition and a higher level of awareness, a better understanding of a given market segment, a clearer sense of how to position and then promote one's offering more effectively, or perhaps overcoming what James O'Toole has aptly characterized (in Leading Change) as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
Godin encourages those who read Small Is the New Big not to read it all at once. "It took eight years to write, and if you read it in one sitting, it'll give you a headache." Contrary to my normal approach, that is what I did, after checking out the table of contents. I skimmed through the first 276 pages and as I did so, ideas seemed to "fly off the page" and demand my attention. I immediately highlighted them for future reference and then continued on until arriving at "Special Bonus!! $243 Worth of Free E-Books, Reprinted Here at No Extra Charge to You, My Faithful Reader." I then carefully read each word until the narrative's conclusion on Page 310. One man's opinion, the "Special Bonus!" section provides the most valuable material in the book as Godin shares his thoughts about Web site design, generating traffic, the importance of "telling a story," the three components of "your best audience," why a home page is unnecessary (indeed counter-productive), three questions that must be answered when building each Web site page, how to overcome clutter, and three basic "truths" and four "laws" that defy conventional wisdom.
With regard to "acorns" and "mustard seeds," here are a few representative examples:
"If your target audience isn't listening, it's not their fault, it's yours." (Page 14)
"What makes you remarkable is being amazing, outstanding, surprising, elegant and noteworthy. (Page 112)
People who think like a pigeon "assume a cause-and-effect relationship that doesn't really exist. That's what a superstition is: "a compulsion to take an action that has no actual influence on the desired outcome." (Page 163)
"No one `gets' an idea unless: the first impression demands further investigation, they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea, [and] they trust and respect the sender enough to invest the time." (Pages 249-250)
"In a world where things are viral, you're more likely to succeed with passive networking (strangers recommending you) than the old-school, active kind. In other words, make great stuff, do your homework, build your audience, and when you've got something worth talking about, people will talk about it." (Page 263)
Seth Godin constantly generates ideas of his own and has an insatiable curiosity about breakthrough ideas from others, all of whom he duly acknowledges as their source. As he would be the first to point out, however, it would be a fool's errand to attempt to take direct action on all of the insights in any of his books, especially this one. "I guarantee you'll find something that won't work for you. But I'm certain you're smart enough to recognize the stuff you've always wanted to do buried deep inside one of these riffs. And I'm betting that once you're inspired you'll actually make something happen."
Its purpose (which it achieves admirably) is to kick start the reader into doing something to move with the enormous changes sweeping the business world.
There is no logical thread to the book. It consists of almost 200 short pithy chapters loosely organised in alphabetical order. This makes it easy to read at numerous short sittings which I found to be an advantage.
A few of these chapters frankly did nothing for me. The majority were interesting and an enjoyable read. A few others were deeply thought-provoking (and obviously these were the most valuable for me). I don't know but I suspect that other readers will have a similar experience but that each of us will gain from different chapters.
Don't be put off by the title of the book "Small is the new big". This is not just another small is beautiful manifesto. It covers loads of topics that should matter to just about any individual or organisation trying to build a career or a business.
All in all it is a book well worth reading, as are Seth's earlier books (particularly Permission Marketing, Unleashing the Idea Virus, Purple Cow, Survival is Not Enough and All Marketers are Liars).