Over the last decade, I’ve spent a pretty good chunk of my time reading business books. I’ve covered everyone from Peter Drucker and Dale Carnegie to Steve Blank and Brené Brown. Looking back through my records – I’ve covered over 100 business books in total. Quite a sum of material. It’s also not uncommon for me to write about business lessons I’ve learned in this blog. However, last week when I was writing about Fitness Functions, a technique for performance tracking pioneered at Amazon by Jeff Bezos, I had an unusual epiphany:

There are hundreds (or maybe thousands) of people who have written books touting their successful business techniques. Observing their success, people (like me) buy those books and look to put their business lessons into practice. However, as evidenced by all of the different books that exist – there are literally hundreds of different techniques that can be used to run a successful business.

What if the key to running a successful business isn’t copying the successful techniques of others – but rather pioneering innovative techniques of your own? What if all of the innovative and quirky business techniques that have made so many business leaders-turned-authors into best sellers actually have limited relevance and applicability outside their own business?

Take for instance HP’s famous “MBWA” or “Management by Walking Around” method or Amazon’s 2-pizza rule, or Apple’s trademark secrecy, or Zappos famous customer service, etc, etc –

What if these very same methods, executed flawlessly, or in the wrong combination, by a copycat company actually led to suboptimal results?

What if the real secret to business success is creating your own innovative techniques that inspire your employees and create a unique culture?

An interesting thought for sure.

Well – I for one, certainly hope that’s not the case, because if it is – then I just wasted a ton of time reading business books.

Quirky Business Techniques
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  • bokelley
  • Nice – looks like Seth and I are on a similar wavelength this week.

  • >What if the key to running a successful business isn’t copying the successful techniques of others – but rather pioneering innovative techniques of your own?

    Depends how you mean that. There are very few new ideas around, but then again some of the most innovative stuff is taking something that worked in one area, and cross-applying it to a new area.

    > What if all of the innovative and quirky business techniques that have made so many business leaders-turned-authors into best sellers actually have limited relevance and applicability outside their own business?

    Well, that’s obviously true. They’re anecdotes. One issue is that the books are presented as cosmic truth, and the authors rarely discuss the environment that drove either the selection of their approach or why they think it was appropriate. Still, that’s easy enough to work around.

    > What if the real secret to business success is creating your own innovative techniques that inspire your employees and create a unique culture? […] Well – I for one, certainly hope that’s not the case, because if it is – then I just wasted a ton of time reading business books.

    Hardly. Reading ideas gives you ideas, which reduces the cognitive load of adopting ideas (since you no longer have to invent those ideas on your own, in a vacuum).
    _____

    I tend to think that each business book has one idea it. Perhaps two. The truly excellent ones have 5 – 10 really great ideas (e.g High Output Management, which I’ve been delighted to see get so much attention recently). The bad ones have perhaps half an idea, or a half baked idea.

    Then there’s the point that @bokelley:disqus made – that doing the reading is important, so you can communicate with other people if for no other reason. Explaining “why” your idea is great is more important than just coming up with the idea. And doing the reading might make it more likely for you to see weaknesses in your own idea and strengthen them, or be more open to talking about your idea in that framework.