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

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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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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 (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 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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13 of 14 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cohn on December 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've never been a big fan of the Shewhart or Deming cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Sure, it works fine for some things. I cooked an elaborate dinner for my family last night. Plan, Do, Check and Act (or Eat) worked well for that. But for what makes up much of the rest of my life, a plan-first approach has never seemed entirely appropriate.

That Plan-Do-Check-Act is often cited by practitioners of agile software development (such as myself) has always surprised me. The cycle seems incongruous with agile and its antipathy toward upfront planning, upfront design, and the like.

The book Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future by by Leonard Schlesinger and Charles Kiefer with Paul Brown is about how entrepreneurs (and I'd say people in general) would benefit from less upfront thinking and more upfront acting--thus, the title of the book: Just Start.

In presenting this idea, the authors introduce an alternative to the Shewhart/Deming cycle. They propose a cycle of Act-Learn-Build. The first step, Act, does not refer to randomly selected, indiscriminate activity. Rather, it refers to deliberately choosing a step and acting upon it without endless upfront action. One of my favorite quotes in the book is "If you have insufficient data, make your own."

Having acted, our next step is to Learn from the action. In the agile community we're fond of believing as long we have learned something from a sprint or iteration, we are moving forward, even if we discard whatever we build during that time box. We find support in this thinking from authors Schlesinger, Kiefer and Brown.

After Acting and Learning, this alternative cycle calls for us to Build upon what we've learned and do it all over again.
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12 of 15 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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