Nordic Track Book Club Review: Mavericks at Work

Mavericks at Work by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre has been around for a while now and I know several of you who’ve read it.  In case there are folks who haven’t, here are excerpts for the first 100 pages. Lots of good excerpts in the remaining 200 pages, so worth a look.  A-okay [NordicTrack] read.  3.5-out-of-5 stars.


p.xiv The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.

p.7 So much of strategy has been about mimicry.  Big companies in most industries have been content to compete from virtually identical strategic playbooks and to view for advantage on the margin.

p.11 Southwest flourished because it re-imagined what it means to be an airline.  Indeed, as Spence insists, Southwest isn’t in the airline business.  It is, he argues, in the freedom business.  Its purpose is to democratize the skies. Sartin and her team went so far as to identify the 8 freedoms that defined the working experience at the airline.  “It’s your efficiency and ingenuity that allows us to offer low fares and keeps our planes in the sky.”  What ideas are you company fighting for?

p.14 In many respects, ING Direct USA is to banks what Southwest is to airlines. Employees leaving the building see a sign posted right before the exit.  It reads, “Did today really matter?”

p.17 Companies that compete on a disruptive point of view are defined as much by the opportunities they choose not to pursue as by the businesses they do enter.

p.19 Every year ING Direct “fires” more than 3500 customers who one way or another don’t play by the bank’s rules.  It agitates the customers that don’t belong, but we want to sort them out.  The customers who are right for you, they love you.  They become evangelists.

p.33 At Netscape the competition with Microsoft was so severe we’d wake up in the morning thinking about how we were going to deal with them instead of how we would build something great for our customers.  Basically we mooned Microsoft, and man, did we pay for it. Even in the face of massive competition don’t think about the competition.  Literally, don’t think about them.  Just think about the customer.

p.54  Do you have a distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose that sets you apart from your rivals?  Do you have a vocabulary of competition that is unique to your industry and compelling to your employees and customers?  The companies that think differently about their business invariably talk about it differently as well.  What language does your company speak?

Are you prepared to reject opportunities that offer short-term benefits but distract your organization from its long-term mission?  If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you, and why?

p.59 One vital constituency would suffer irreparable harm if HBO were to disappear from the small screen.  The ever-growing collection of writers, directors, actors and producers who feel they have no other outlet on television for their most daring work.

p.73 It’s no longer just about who has the most gifted scientists or the best equipped labs.  It’s who has the most compelling “architecture of participation.” In a world being reshaped by massively networked innovation, the strategic challenge is to design products that get smarter the more people use them and to design companies with which smart people want to interact.  The companies that are most likely to dominate their business are the ones most adept at harnessing the collective intelligence of everyone with whom they do business.

p.91 In the 21st century one of the ways that companies are going to compete–and this goes beyond software–is to compete for the attention of outside brain power.

p.93 When you look around the world you see that there are 1.5 million people outside of P&G with training that is equal to or better than our 7500 R&D people.  In other words, for every one person we have in a particular area there are 200 people on the outside of equal minds or better.  Now its pretty obvious that 200 can invent better than one.  You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out.

p.100 That’s why open source is about more than a new model of innovation.  It’s about the art of the deal.  If you want to tap the best brains in the world you’ve got to create compelling reasons for smart people to work with you.



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.