Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reality Check

How to do almost everything well
Marketing maven Guy Kawasaki presides over an assemblage of experts with all the answers.

Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging and Outmarketing Your Competition. Guy Kawasaki. Portfolio. 496 pages

Former software evangelist, would-be Hawaiian hockey goon, itinerant journalist and venture capital pimp Guy Kawasaki's new book is a group effort. He enlisted a legion of business superheroes to inveigh on a variety of topics. Even though Kawasaki, author of The Macintosh Way, The Art of the Start, Rules For Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy and other smart books, could have easily written most of it himself, he's still come up with a gem.

In a way, this compendium is like MBA in a Box, another compilation of wisdom by sundry sages and savants. In other ways, it's like a cocktail party, as Kawasaki effortlessly glides from table to table, chatting with his guests, who offer very bright and pithy comments in response to the host's queries.

Each brief chapter covers an important aspect of business. The book begins at the beginning: starting a business. That's pretty logical for Kawasaki, given his current occupation as a seeker of startups. And it's not a bad idea, as his audience from The Art Of The Start might have been expecting this to be its sequel, so perhaps this will ease them into the rest of this book. Regardless, the short chapters make Reality Check a good book to read in short spurts. Though there's a little overlap between chapters, this slight redundancy serves to reinforce the lessons.

Of value to most readers are the portions dealing with job seeking. The advice, both from the perspective of employee and employer, is realistic and sound. The chapters covering the vagaries and realities of the corporate world are also quite funny and true.

As a disruptive marketing maven and evangelist, Kawasaki is in a class by himself. He's had ample time to reconsider, revise and hone his points, and it shows. But his core stuff is as potent now as ever. He wants marketing to accurately reflect the products and the products to bring real value to users. Interactions with customers should be positive experiences for both parties. And hard work, innovation and elegant design are things to aspire to, not because they're ethereal and magical but because they're fun! Or can be, if done right and that's the point.

There's also a nice chunk devoted to altruistic enterprises, which is becoming an increasingly valuable part of the executive equation.

Kawasaki is a witty writer (and host), can drop Yiddish like a shtarker, avoids the vernacular (with one very excusable exception), and employs the term ''shiitake'' instead of deleting the corresponding expletive. There's bound to be plenty of things in the book that may not pertain to your profession or interests, but readers can skip the material or painlessly expand their horizons.

Reality Check concludes first with the author's hindsights, which Kawasaki has used as the basis of a commencement speech. It's funny, knowing and poignant. He closes with a 10-point checklist to sum up his main ideas, which is pretty amazing for a book of this size.

published 11/3/08 in The Miami Herald

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