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Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future Hardcover – March 20, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422143619
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422143612
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“For readers stuck in neutral gear, this book, written by seasoned experts, creates the impetus to move forward.” — Library Journal

“This is a must-read to increase the level of innovation in your organization. You’ll leave this book being able to take immediate action to learn how to innovate in a way that is right for you.” – Wayne L. Delker, Senior Vice President – Chief Innovation Officer, Clorox

“Schlesinger, Kiefer, and Brown’s Just Start is a distilled, step-by-step, proven method for how to create something new in uncertain environments.” – Tom Watson, Dean, Omnicom University, and Cofounder and Vice Chairman Emeritus, Omnicom Group Inc.

“This book is one huge step in the right direction for anyone compelled to forge a dynamic future in uncertain times.” – Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, and President of Board, Willow Creek Association

Just Start is a uniquely practical book that helps prepare the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and will equip them with the key frameworks for success.” – Marina Kim, Executive Director, Ashoka U

“In Just Start, the authors take what the research tells us about those who have succeeded the most in volatile environments—serial entrepreneurs—and applies their lessons to the rest of us. They provide a practical, step-by-step method to navigate through complex and uncertain environments, bounce back from setbacks, and overcome obstacles. A must-read for anyone struggling with uncertainty.” – Steve Mariotti, Founder, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

About the Author

Leonard A. Schlesinger is the twelfth president of Babson College, widely recognized as the world’s leading educational institution for entrepreneurship. He formerly served as vice chairman and chief operating officer of Limited Brands. Charles F. Kiefer is president of Innovation Associates and a regular advisor to global companies on leveraging the human side of their enterprises. Paul B. Brown is a long-time contributor to the New York Times and a former writer and editor for BusinessWeek, Financial World, Forbes, and Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Great book and very easy to read.
G. Dougherty
I would recommend this book to every entrepreneur whether you are starting out of have been years in the business.
Just Start is such a different book that opens your eyes to the new world of possibilities waiting for you!
Tarek Hassan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John Chancellor TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've helped create and/or review hundreds of business plans. Invariably they all involve lots of assumptions about the future. I tell anyone working with a business plan that the plan is only as good as the assumptions. And generally the assumptions are the best guess of whoever prepared the business plan.

Unfortunately most of these plans did not come close to meeting the goals set forth in the business plan. So the question becomes: Is there a better way for entrepreneurs to get their business off the ground than the time honored business plan? The answer, according to the authors of Just Start is just that. Get started.

One of the recurring themes of the book is "If you can't predict the future - and increasingly you can't - action trumps everything." The authors go on to say, "you need to act your way into creating the future you want."

But they are not advocating helter-skelter action. They are not suggesting that you start taking action without some structure. What they are suggesting is that you do a lot less thinking about things and take some actions which will produce measurable results. Whenever you take action, you gain some knowledge that you did not have before. Use that knowledge to guide your next steps.

There is a well thought out structure to their advice. Before you jump in and start taking action, ask and answer these four questions:
1. It is feasible, is it within the realm of reality?
2. Can I do it, is it feasible for me?
3. Is it worth doing? Is there a market for it? Does it make sense to put in all this effort?
4. Do I want to do it?

The fourth question is the most important. You need to measure your level of desire for the project.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Ritter on April 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is an introduction for people who feel psychologically blocked from 'starting something' (whether it's a business, a project, or a personal change) and have no idea how to take the first step. It rightly changes the focus from making a comprehensive plan to determining the cheapest possible test of an idea.

It also goes into the difference between selling someone on an idea, and encouraging them to build on the idea with you, which is important at the early stages.

It's certainly not the only entrepreneurship book that you'll need, but it's a good start, and applicable to a wide range of life situations.

(Full Disclosure: I was an early participant in the classes in which these ideas were developed into their current form)
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Bauer on April 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his NYT column today, David Brooks talks about how our education system is geared to train students to compete: jump through ever-demanding academic hoops, become expert in one area, build on the current wisdom. Then they move into business where the goal is to beat the competition. Except by this time, they only know what everybody else knows; they've lost their creative problem solving abilities, their curiosity and willingness to explore. Just Start can serve as a good road map to return to the effective methods of learning of early childhood and the accompanying results and joy they can bring. And that road map can make us all more effective in exploring and solving the big problems that so far have refused to succumb to the predictive methods we normally apply. GIve yourself an edge: read Just Start!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carol on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Just Start fills a gap in the recent literature about the complexity of the world we face today.

I have been using the US Army's concept of VUCA - volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous - in business for a few years now. But it has always been hard to explain to people how to "implement" when VUCA hits and they can't rely on prediction. The concept makes total sense to everyone, but it was never actionable.

Discovering Creaction has filled this gap, and the nature of the Creaction process works even when your VUCA gets VUCAed!!!

Here is my summary of Creation as the antidote to VUCA:

When Volitility strikes - assess your affordable loss and keep moving.
When Uncertainy is rampant - Understand your desire, let it be your rudder.
In the face of overwhelming Complexity - Act quickly with the means at hand, learn like crazy, and build your way forward.
And when you are surrounded by Ambiguity - bring other people along, use their Creaction to co-create something completely new.

Just Start is written to be usable for everyone: college students, executives, boomers deciding to retire, and teams working to collaborate. So, pick up a copy and Just Start!!
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 8, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The way we were taught to think and act works well in a predictable future, but not so much in the world as it is now, according to Leonard Schlesinger, Charles Kiefer and Paul Brown in this book. Things simply are not as predictable as they once were, and the world is probably going to get more unpredictable rather than less, so we need a new way of thinking that complements the way we were taught to reason.

Thinking is great, but nothing in the real world actually changes until you act. So the authors recommend two different ways of acting which complement each other. Use the well-known Prediction way of approaching problems where the outcome is reasonably predictable, but use the "Creaction" way for problems where the outcome is not predictable. Creaction involves taking a "smart step" in the way you want to go, then learning from the outcome of that step, then building off that learning and taking another step.

Other advice given by the authors includes:

* The desire to do something is a very important element in successful creaction.
* Successful entrepreneurs act quickly using the resources which they presently have.
* It is important to decide what an acceptable loss might be, and limit your investment to that amount.
* In most cases greater success arises when you can attract other people to your cause.
* Creaction can be used not just in business situations but also in many other life situations.

A cynical reader might characterise the content of the book as not much more than Nike's famous tagline. However, in the current unpredictable economic environment it is often very difficult to get any initiative started at all, because of the fear of failure. What this book does is provide a detailed and yet simple plan to address that fear of failure in small steps. I recommend it to any business leader who is stuck in an unpredictable context.
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