Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki

(note: unlike Kawasaki's book, "The Art of the Start" which is very dense, this one seems like it can be somewhat compressed/summarized)

Part 1: Create Like a God

Chapter 1: Cogita Differenter (think different)

"..what revolutionaries do: Think different in order to change the rules. By definition, if you don't change the rules, you aren't a revolutionary, and is you don't think different, you won't change the rules."

three stages of the revolutionary thought process:

or, be "lucky". how to increase your chances:

note from bayle: i might also note Drucker's advice from The Effective Executive: "[think] through what is 'right,' that is, the solution which will fully satisfy the specifications __before__ attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable;" (italics are his)

chapter 2: don't worry, be crappy

"More progress results from the violent execution of an imperfect plan than the perfection of a plan to violently execute." -- Hubert Humphrey

"How many times have you looked at the first version of a breakthrough product and thought, "How could they have left off such an important feature?one they had the technology to incorporate at the time?!" But when you first saw it, you and everyone else were so taken with the product and what it could do that its shortcomings were hardly noticeable."

e.g. "Macintosh, the Crappy Computer" "In January 1984, I helped ship a crappy product."

"revolutionary products don't fail because they are shipped too early. They fail because they aren't revised fast enough."

Great products are:

Great teams:

Great practices:

The Order of Magnitude test

"'When do we stop worrying about being crappy and start shipping?'

Two answers, albeit smart-ass ones, are, "When you run out of money," or "When your venture capitalists tell you to." Hopefully, these two conditions are not what are prompting you to ship. And if they are, the situation might be out of control anyway.

Instead, use the order of magnitude test. Your product or service is ready to ship when it promises a commanding new value proposition that pushes the state of the market to the next curse. [when it is >=10x better than the status quo]. "


"A second way to determine if you've passed the order of magnitude test is to see if you and your colleagues have come to depend on the new product or service for your own success.... when your product or service passes these hurdles, you will find that the revolutionary gains so outweigh the minor and temporary crapiness that shipping is a moral obligation."

chapter 3: churn, baby, churn

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." -- Winston Churchill

Launch a crappy product, but you'd better improve it fast in response to customers. (he calls this "churning" but today the word "iterating" is used)

Plan for it

Plan to churn based on customer feedback.

Fail quickly, but last long

Eat your own dog food

Incorporate the means [for end-users] to revise and enhance

"In the computer business, this concept is called an 'open system'."

Build in "redundancy"

This way you will be able to repurpose some parts of your product without their original function being totally lost (because there is redundant support for that function).

Document everything

"Write down the engineering specifications of your product, so that other folks an figure out how to enhance and extend your product."

Churn for buyers, not nonbuyers

Improve your product for people who are buying it, not people who aren't.

Don't hide mistakes [from customers]

part 2: command like a king

chapter 4: break down the barriers

"Not choice But habit rules the unreflecting herd." -- William Wordsworth

"Mazel Tov. You've shipped. Initial sales are good; You're probably extrapolating your early success; Now get ready to fall into The Chasm. \n"credit geoffrey moore for this concept.... a significant gulf, the 'chasm', exists between the market made up of early adopters, and the markets of more pragmatic buyers."

"...crossing the chasm requires breaking down the barriers that prevent widespread trial and then dominating niche markets where your products have attained success. If you dominate enough niche markets, your product will achieve critical mass and become a "no brainer" to buy."

"Your product may be so compelling that early adopters beat down barriers to use it.... if early adopters do the heavy removing, you may get a false picture of the acceptability and attractiveness of your product."

types of barriers

barrier busting 101

Or, do things the old-fashioned way

"Because I have a bias towards pie-in-the-sky product development, much of this book presumes that if you build a revolutionary product, "they will come. I don't even define who 'they' are. However, there are two additional ways to create products and services: Focus on a subset and create a subset: Focus on a subset [of customers] and create a subset [of customers]. \n These two methods...avoid, rather than break down barriers by closely aligning with customer needs from the start."

then erect barriers

ride the tornado

"if you break down the barriers and delight many customers, then your product or service will become the safe, no-brainer buy. You've made it across the chasm. Now demand for your product goes into hypergrowth. Geoffrey Moore calls this period the Tornado, and the business strategy at this time is 'to grant supply as quickly and efficiently as you possibly can.' At this point you should drive price points lower and gain as much market share as you can. "

chapter 5: make evangelists, not sales

"they can enable you to change the world by carrying the flag for you at times and in places that your company cannot. They will round out and supplement your product where it is weak?for example, providing technical support when you're unable or unwilling to. They will also confound your competition when it tries to woo them away with bribes and inferior products."

"The first 90 percent of a revolution is creating the product or service, the second 90 percent is evangelizing it. At the beginning of a revolution, you need evangelists, not sales, because leverage spreads news."

"Q: What is evangelism? A. Evangelism is the process of getting people not just to buy but to believe in your product, service, or company so much that they are compelled to make converts for you."

"Q: What is the starting point of evangelism? A. The starting point is a great product or service (DICEE) that empowers people and improves their lives. Customers must be able to say, 'This is good. This makes the world a better place.'"

"Q: Can evangelists apply their skills to any product? A: No, people can evangelize only products they believe in."

"Q: Are evangelists born or made? ... Anyone can be an evangelist if he creates or is captivated by a life-changing product or service."

"Q: How is evangelism different from sales? A: Evangelists have the best interests of the other person at heart. Salespeople have their own best interests at heart."

"Q: Are there products that can't be evangelized? A: A good marketer will tell you that no product is a commodity. A good evalgelist will tell you that no product can't be evangelized if it's good news to somebody."

"Q: How can i tell if someone will be a good evangelist...? ... The most important quality is that the person loves your product and believes in it."

"Q: How can i determine if someone is at all open to my cause? A: You'll see it in their eyes: They either get it or they don't. They will also get it in the first pive minutes or they'll never get it."

"Q: Many companies use the job title "evangelist" these days -- how can you tell if these people are truly evangelistic? A: The acid test is whose best interest they have at heart; their company's or the people they're trying to evangelize."

"Q: Ownership is important for an evangelistic organization - how do you build a sense of ownership? A: Call me naive, but you don't __build__ a sense of ownership. Ownership is either there or not as a reflection of reality, so if you want a sense of ownership, make sure people's contributions are used. You can't fake ownership."

"Q: How do you sustain interest as an evangelist or as a manager of evangelists? A:Evangelists are thrill junkies. Once a cause achieves success it is difficult to sustain interest. Three to five years is the limit."

"Q: How does an evangelist avoid looking like a fanatic? A: This question... pre-supposes that looking like a fanatic is bad, so you want to avoid it. It may not be."

add emotion to facts

listen and regurgitate

"Develop a multi-appeal evangelism pitech, explain it briefly, and then observe what resonates because people will tell you how they want to be evangelized."

(bayle: this is a lemma of the fundamental common advice that a good salesperson is a good listener, and more generally, a good peopleperson is a good observer)

let a thousand flowers bloom

you don't know what will make your product successful or what it will be used for.

e.g. at Apple, "We thought we knew which software would make Macintosh successful: a spreadsheet from Lotus, a word processor from MicroPro?, and a database from Ashton-Tate....we were zero for three. Meanwhile, an unknown person from an unknown company with an unknown product showed up at Apple for an appointment with the LaserWriter? product manager....his product was PageMaker?... No one at Apple foresaw the market for desktop publishing."

Flow with the go!

Recognize surprising uses or demands for your product and go with it (bayle: today, this is called "pivoting")

Provide an easy first step

"...provide a smooth, easy, and flat adoption curve for your early converts"

e.g. in 1900, a lamp salesperson who rented rather than sold lamps because shopkeepers didn't trust that they wouldn't break. A church that installed videoscreens to display hymns and performers, but first only showed babies being baptized ("who could argue against this?")

Chapter 6: Avoid death magnets

Death magnet #10: pick the low-hanging fruit

ie. go for early adopters b/c they're easy to sell to.

Problems: they demand lots of bells and whistles, which is hard to do, and makes the product too complicated for novices. You may fall into The Chasm.

Death magnet #9: Our product sucks less

It isn't good enough to be less sucky than previous versions of your product or the competition's.

Death magnet #9a: Creeping adulteration

"Let's make a version that is 95 percent as good but costs 50 percent less to make." "Do this for a few cycles, and you're left with dishwater that isn't saleable, let alone revolutionary."

Death magnet #8: The budget is king

"Has this happened to you? An opportunity presents itself to your company. It involves some risk (AKA added expense), but the upside is tremendous. When you try to acquire additional funds, however, you're turned down with the mantra, 'We don't have the budget.'

Never mind that this is a good opportunity. Never mind that the marginal revenue will exceed the marginal cost. Never mind that you could shiftmoney over from other, less important areas. The knee-jerk, unthinking reaction is, 'No can do.' Welcome to the 'budget is king' death magnet.

In reality, the budget is seldom the real problem. Budget is king is a symptom of lack of leadership, poor communication, and undue political infighting.

Death magnet #7: We must be conned-sistent

"Consistency can be good. It enables people to live without undue distraction, disruption, and disarray.

[but] blind consistency offers a shortcut through life. Once you've made up your mind about something, you ned not revisit your opinion and analyze new, possibly contradictory information."

Death magnet #6: The kiss of yes

Don't try to market your product to everyone (worrying about being niched).

"The goal is worthy: getting to "Main Street" where everyone is buying your product because it's already widely accepted. But getting to this state is the problem because you can seldom go directly from revolutionary product to Main Street.

To use Geoffrey Moore's terminology, you have to pay your dues by knocking down barriers and dominating niche markets one at a time... The shotgun approach of going for every market at once is fraught with danger."

(bayle: to me this sounds like to opposite of the advice to not pick the low-hanging fruit, and almost the opposite of the advice to be ready to pivot (at least in the latter, being ready to pivot could just mean go for a few niche markets but be ready to switch; but it seems to me that if pivoting is so valuable then you want to always be sending out 'feelers' into many niches to assess their promise))

Death magnet #6a: backwards compatibility

Death magnet #5: attempted overexpansion of brand

in an attempt to leverage the brand, the brand can be damaged.


Death magnet #5: outsourcing to save money

Outside contractors have less deep expertise in your particular situation, and also lead to less communication than a bunch of employees sitting together. Never outsource a core competency.

Death magnet #4: we need to work all the time

he recommends only leaving the office open from 8am to 6pm

Death magnet #3: monkey see what gorilla do

just because you want to become a big company, don't act like a big company! use tactics and strategy appropriate for you, not them.

"gorillas became gorillas because they __grew__ into gorilla-dom. They didn't become gorillas by copying what other gorillas did.

Death magnet #2: Larger market share causes higher profitability, therefore lower your prices

Instead, shoot for a great product and great customer service.

Death magnet #1: the best product wins

nope, there are positive feedback loops, leading to winner-take-all. [time-to-market!]

Death magnet #1a: a revolutionary product is a substitute for the previous product

why does folly march on?

quoting Barbara Tuchman:

chapter 7: eat like a bird, poop like an elephant

he means "a successful revolutionary.... searches for, consumes, and absorbs knowledge about the industry, customers, and competition. You do this by pressing the flesh of your customers, attending seminars and trade shows, reading journals, and browsing the internet... [and] sharing information and discoveries with your fellow employees and occasionally even with your competitors."

principals of eating