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April 12th, 1999

Rules For Revolutionaries
by Guy Kawasaki

Reviewed by Lisa Hamilton
This little book's less than 200 pages are packed with information for any entrepreneur creating or marketing products and services. It could also be a valuable handbook for small and large business owners, managers, or anyone looking for new ways to think about the business world. "Rules for Revolutionaries" is not a book for the person who is content to buy a McDonald's franchise and follow all the corporate rules. Kawasaki insists that the reader thinks out-of-the-box, and thinks different. This book will get the reader on the right track to escape from confined, two-dimensional thinking.

There are two main strengths to this book. First is Kawasaki himself who shares his personal mistakes and triumphs with the reader. He isn't afraid to mention companies he lost money on, or judgement errors he has made. He emphasizes the lessons he has learned, good and bad from his experiences. Without bitterness, he'll tell you about the company he lost $110,000 on, and then he'll tell you everything he learned from the experience.

The second strength of the book is the many relevant examples. Each example works well with the main points of the text and serves as another explanation of the original idea. The examples help the reader understand the concepts being presented in real life situations. Kawasaki uses illustrations from his own life, history, nature, and many different industries from Lockheed Martin to Disney World. All the major points in the book are reinforced with actual examples. When the book instructs NOT to do something, there is an example of a company or individual that did it and failed. When the reader is given a rule of what they should do, there are examples of those that did it and succeeded. The examples transform the book from an average business information text to an entertaining and informative read. Obviously a lot of research was done finding examples for this book, and that research helps prove the legitimacy of Kawasaki's ideas.

With Kawasaki being a former evangelist and fellow for Apple, it is no surprise that there are many examples from his experiences there in the book. Since this is not a book about Apple, I was relieved that the examples were kept to a minimum and when they were used they were relevant to the topic being discussed. Not that I have anything against Apple, I was just pleasantly surprised that the book stuck to its purpose and provided examples from many different areas and not just one company.

Lesser strengths include things like the book's organization. It is divided into three main sections with smaller chapters within each section, and sub-headings within the chapters. This should make specific points easy to refer to in the future if the book was kept as a reference source. The clear format and the lack of unnecessary words make the book extremely quick and easy to read, but don't rush through it or you will miss a lot of valuable information. "Required not recommended" readings are at the end of every chapter, providing sources of further insights on the subject matter in each individual chapter. Chapter titles like "Eat Like a Bird, Poop like an Elephant" keep up the readers' curiosity and interest, while being surprisingly relevant.

The biggest weakness of this book is information overload. There is tons of information packed into every page. It would be impossible for a reader to read this book once and absorb all the information in it. The best use for this book would be to read it cover to cover once, twice or even three times, and then to save it as a reference and refer to the individual sections as they apply to the business decisions you need to make.

Another weakness was the exercises found throughout the book. I'm sure the purpose of them is to stop and make the reader think about the newly learned information in a practical situation. Some of them were quite thought provoking, but they always distracted me from the actual reading. I believe they would be better used at the end of a chapter or even at the end of the book where they wouldn't interrupt the readers' focus on the main text quite as badly.

This little book's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. It should become one of those rat-eared, well-worn references on every good revolutionary's shelf. This is a book to read and refer to over the years. Don't let it sit and gather dust. Overcome the information overload by reading the book slowly, maybe reading a section at the time, and going back to use it as a reference source. The exercises can be easily skipped if you decide you don't like them, but don't skip this book. That would be your first mistake on the road to becoming a revolutionary.

Helpful Links

Rules for Revolutionaries - US$17.50 from Barnes & Noble

Other Books by Guy Kawasaki - From Barnes & Noble

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