During the Boise Idavation event a couple of weeks ago, someone asked Brad Feld to recommend a good book for entrepreneurs. His answer was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. Definitely a good read. I first read it over 35 years ago while in high school, and have read it several times since. (Hmmm… may be some insights here as to why the Japanese so successfully embraced and implemented the Total Quality Control principles.)
It got me thinking about some of the best business books that I have read. As I thought about it, I realized that I have rarely (if ever) read a business book cover to cover. Most seem to be based on one or two key insights, followed by dozens of examples and pages and pages elaborating on the same point. Don’t get me wrong. There are business books that really taught me something (even though I didn’t read them cover to cover). For example, I really liked the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Conversely, there were some very popular business books that I thought were somewhat bogus. For example, I thought Crossing the Chasm was over rated (sorry Geoffrey, just my opinion).
One of the most interesting and engaging books about business that I have read, is not about business, at all. The book is called The Beak of the Finch, by Jonathan Weiner. It chronicles the work of Dr.’s Peter and Rosemary Grant as they study evolution through the Finches on the Galapagos islands. To me, it reads like a book on business basics. A few quick examples:
- Natural selection - evolution doesn’t happen in periodic, large jumps. Species are in a constant state of “jitter” and respond quickly to their changing environmental conditions. Those that respond to environmental changes – survive.
- Principle of divergence - species can evolve out of each others way in the competition for food. If there is no way to diverge to another niche, then one species drives the other to extinction. A process of competitive differentiation.
- The adaptive peak – species develop characteristics that work toward maximum fitness for their environment. If they move to a new and very different environment they won’t be well suited for it. If the environment is too different, they will die.
- You get the idea……
This book, I read cover to cover. I am always looking for opportunities to learn. It is especially fun when the learning comes in unexpected ways or from unexpected places. What are you reading? Where have you found sources of new insight that have helped you in building your business?