on October 20, 2005
Seth Godin, editor of the book, has collected 33 inspiring ideas and they become _The Big Moo_. The Group of 33, as the book references these successful business people, includes Mark Cuban, Dave Balter, Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters, and Guy Kawasaki. The aim of the stories or ideas is to show what it takes to become remarkable.
The book's title comes from Godin's previous best seller, _Purple Cow_ which shows how to stand out in a world of brown cows. According to the book's synopsis, "... sometimes you need something even bigger than a purple cow. You need a big moo — an insight so astounding that people can't help but remark on it."
While _Purple Cow_ focuses on standing out, it lacks the second and very important step — getting others to talk about your business. Standing out alone doesn't lead to business. How do people find out about you? That's what _The Big Moo_ is about — sharing ideas and real-life examples of how to get people talking.
"Some Things Just Don't Translate" points that the way we see our products may not be the way customers see them. Sounds obvious, but it isn't. An Italian in the house ware business opened a store in the U.S. His foot traffic wasn't match by sales. He observed his customers and remained baffled as to why they were looking and taking an interest, but not buying.
He asked a customer how she liked the store and merchandise. It turned out that what Americans considered vases, Italians saw as glasses — and vice versa. The owner, of course, was selling glasses of six in a case and vases as singles. Americans didn't want to buy six vases — they could've bought six glasses with ease, though. This type of valuable advice appears throughout the book.
Most essays clearly get the point across although a couple aren't as strong. The book does what it sets out to do: motivate the reader to get out there to put ideas to work to develop a remarkable organization that gets everyone buzzing.
Though the book explains the contributors gave up their by-lines for the book, I would've liked to know who wrote each story. There's no way to guess who wrote which story as few of them relate to the businesses associated with the people. What does knowing who wrote it do for me? It tells me who made the observation or how the person thinks. It's like sharing a quote without the author's name.
It's an easy, gratifying, and fast read. I read the whole thing in about an hour. Each essay is about two pages on the average. All the proceeds from the book go to three charities.
on January 31, 2008
I don't know what came over me in the bookstore. Mysteriously, when I got home, this book was at the bottom of the bag. It's an embarrassment.
I would have thought it impossible to come up with something more stupid, more openly contemptuous of the very managers purportedly being 'helped', than the horrendous "Who Moved My Cheese?" of a few years back. You remember, the one which portrayed employees as mildly retarded rodents. But one shouldn't underestimate the intellectual arrogance of the consultant class, nor the gullibility of corporate management.
This book is infinitely worse. It turns out that there is no apparent limit to the degree of atrocity of the rubbish that can be generated (and printed) in an "unprecedented collaboration of the world's smartest business thinkers". Despite the separation of material in this book into separate chapters, there is no individual attribution of responsibility for the individual chapters. This is not a good sign.
Seth Godin, the nominal 'editor', obviously sees no problem in publishing a book which, for any concrete piece of strategic advice that is included, hedges its bets by also advising the diametrically opposing strategy. Thus, to succeed companies should:
1a. Stick with what they know and do it well. (Focusing on your specialty is key).
1b. Not get stuck in the rut of what they know, they should branch out. (Focusing on your specialty is fatal)
2a. (page 23) "ignore your customers" (the customer is ignorant and wrong).
2b. (page 64) the customer is always right.
3a. (page 31) "Every organization that gets into trouble falters because it waited too long to change...". (urgency is crucial)
3b. (page 136) "Remarkable doesn't always mean right now" (urgency is detrimental).
And so on. Because chapter authors are not individually identified, should your coin toss happen to choose the wrong option between 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b, 3a and 3b, there can be no assignable blame.
However, at least the examples above have the virtue of giving concrete, specific advice. If that makes you nervous, there is also plenty of this kind of gibberish:
Embrace the power of storytelling.
Ignore the regulations. (I'm trying to imagine how this would play out in, say, the pharmaceutical or biotech industries).
Imagine there's a tiger loose in your office. Breathe the fear. Fear is good.
You are not a cog. You are not ordinary. In fact, you are remarkable.
But if you're dumb enough to buy this book, you're a complete moron. Even by the extraordinarily lax standards for business advice books, it sets a new low.
Q: What's this book all about?
Godin: This is a book about how and why to grow. It's not a book of facts or logical reasoning. Instead of lecturing you about how important and wonderful it is to do scary, brave, and remarkable things, [this book] paints a very different picture for you. My colleagues and I are intent on slipping some subversive ideas into your subconscious...ideas that will help you dream bigger dreams (though they might cost you some sleep as well). We believe one way to get past [what we call] the growth paradox is to avoid addressing it head-on. Instead of warning you about the dangers of stagnation, or promising you benefits of growth, we've decided to tell you some exemplary stories instead. Stories that are easy to read, memorable, and, most important, useful parables for putting growth to work in your own organization.
Q: What's the "growth paradox"?
Godin: Most organizations are paralyzed, stuck in a rut, staring at the growth paradox. On one hand, they understand all the good things that will come with growth. On the other, they're afraid, petrified that growth means change, change means risk, and risk could mean death. Nobody wants to screw up and ruin a good thing, so the organization just sits there, motionless.
Q: Individual contributions by your 33 colleagues aren't credited. Pretty unusual, perhaps even remarkable. You identify them. Why not credit them?
Godin: We did it because it makes it easier to read the book as a whole, to avoid being interrupted by the noise your brain makes as it shifts gears from one voice to another. That and it lets you guess who wrote what.
Those who have read any of Godin's earlier works already know that his thinking is highly unconventional as he relentlessly asks conventional questions such as Why? Why not? Are you sure? How do you know? What if? Have you thought about...? He delights to churning up waves atop gray matter. Heaven knows, he has opinions of his own. Also opinions about those opinions. However, to me, his greatest value as a thinker is his role as what I call a "provocateur of the intellect." That is to say, most of his best ideas focus on how to help others to formulate their own best ideas.
What we have in this volume is a synthesis but NOT a homogenization of what 33 business thinkers have to say in response to two questions:
1. If being remarkable is the only way to grow, how to become remarkable?
2. If the only barrier to being remarkable is one's ability to persuade associates to make it happen, how to do that?
It would be inaccurate to say that the responses are "all over the map" because, in fact, there is no "map." Within the responses, however, are what can correctly be viewed as time capsules of intellectual stimulation. Their impact will vary from one reader to the next. For me, some had significant impact; others none whatsoever.
When we first see a purple cow, it is remarkable. But after seeing hundreds....
What is remarkable this morning is merely familiar tomorrow (or this afternoon) and ho-hum thereafter. According to Godin, "A big moo is an extreme purple cow, the remarkable innovation that completely changes the game....Yes, a purple cow is what you need, but the big moo goes a step further. In order to grow [whatever] at the pace the markets demand, you and your colleagues must find the big moo, the insight that is so astounding that people can't help but remark on it." I agree, while presuming to suggest that the process of "remarkability" proceeds at a high rate of speed. To repeat, what is remarkable this morning is merely familiar tomorrow (or this afternoon) and ho-hum thereafter.
Ultimately and inevitably, the value of what Godin and his colleagues offer in this book will be determined entirely by the value of the ideas which they generate in the conscious and, more importantly, the unconscious mind of each reader.
on March 9, 2006
The Big Moo has truly become a cornerstone of the corporate culture at my organization. We ordered customized copies of the book from [...] where we had our logo, personalized message, and custom-made forward put right on the book to give as gifts to our clients and employees. It seems to have really struck a chord with everyone we've passed it on to-which has only made our personal message and brand identity stronger as a result. Corporate communications are so important these days for every industry; unfortunately, the tools out there today seem to be moving in the direction of the mundane and lackluster, with nothing truly getting through to your key audience. The Big Moo was our answer-it's chock-full of innovation and inspiration with the added benefit of our personal message to really drive home our objectives. Now everyone's mooing-mission accomplished.
on April 26, 2009
I can't stand self-help books in which the author does no more than serve up a laundry list of ideas with no coherent thread. "The Big Moo" takes this one step further by having 33 authors (not properly credited) each serve up one item for the laundry list. Seth Godin said he did not identify which author wrote which chapter "because it makes it easier to read the book as a whole, to avoid being interrupted by the noise your brain makes as it shifts gears from one voice to another." What nonsense! Just because the author of each chapter is not identified does not mean there is a common voice from chapter to chapter. Each chapter is unrelated to the others and there is no development from one chapter to the next. "The Big MOO" gets a big BOO!
P.S. I wanted to give it zero stars but that's not allowed.
on October 30, 2005
With great anticipation, I opened my copy of The Big Moo, a new book that was masterminded by Seth Godin and his collaboration with the 32 other co-authors.
The range of emotions the book evoked in me was incredible--excitement, disgust, inspiration, sadness, regret, optimism, intrigue--just to name a few. I was unable to sleep until I finished it, and am still contemplating the passages and thinking about it (instead of sleeping). In many ways, I feel like Seth and the other authors did share "the secrets" that many of us seek. At times while reading it, I did not want to tell anyone else I know about it. However, I was won over by my belief that the more who understand and strive for The Big Moo, the better all of our lives will be.
To "The Group of 33":
...for reminding me that trying to make a difference, change and improve things is worth the struggle.
...for validating that individual conversations are important, and listening is the most critical element.
...for sharing your personal insights and experiences through wonderful stories, metaphors and maxims.
...for quelling my frustration from the many unanswered "why" questions I have posed to vendors, bosses, co-workers and others. It is a whole lot clearer now.
...for assuring me that opportunities are worth pursuing, customers are worth dazzling, and the experience is the reward.
Don't buy into the notions of comfortable, security and stability.
Don't wait, or tomorrow may not come for you.
Don't let your passion die.
on December 23, 2005
Yeesh! 33 authors submit short articles, which are assimilated into a book. The results, as expected, is a hodgepodge of slop mixed with a few gems. Many of the short (2-4 page) passages read like some busy author quickly jotted something down in 30 minutes. An example - one author (none of the articles names the offending author) writes that the secret of being remarkable boils down to three things - practice, make sure you understand what is being said, ignore the experts. Or something like that. Very trite.
On the other hand, there are a few gems. I loved the short passage on why good ideas are pinned down by corporate gravity, and what you need to do to achieve escape velocity.
Overall, this was a quick read. I breezed through it in about 90 minutes. And most of the passages lacked insight, or were carelessly thrown together, or were purely theoretical with no evidence that this is what worked. Many of the articles were contradictory. One author writes "never compromise to satisfy the critics" while another writes "expect your idea to be molded and shaped as it works its way through the layers of approval". So which is it?
I can see why Godin withheld the authors' names from these articles. He didn't want to embarass anybody, but he still needed to put a book together. In summary - this book doesn't have enough meat on its bones to be considered a whole cow.
on October 27, 2005
I've been going through a phase of reading business books lately, and this one stands out for a few reasons. Firstly, it is divided into roughly 70 stories by 33 authors, each only a page or two long. Good for those of us with ADD. None of the stories list their author so you just have to guess. Some are very easy to pin down, for example there is a chart that is straight out of Guy Kawasaki's book Art of the Start (also worth reading). Most of the rest I may never be able to figure out. The amazing thing is that these stories actually flow together quite nicely, and entire sections sound as if they were written by a single person.
The cover says the book is themed around how to make your organization remarkable. While these stories aren't a step-by-step guide to achieving this(has anyone ever tried writing one?), they do provide a good jumping off point. All are inspirational, and many are very subversive. Just wait until you hear their opinions on the value of formal education.
on June 30, 2015
Originally I rented this book’s audio edition from my library so I could listen to it while exercising. Loved the book so much that I purchased the hardcover.
This may be Seth Godin’s best book , even better than the ‘purple cow’. And, yes, It is Godin’s book because he conceived the idea and talked all 33 (or better: 32 + himself) into writing this book.
The book’s concept is a genius. The topic is the Big Moo, which cannot be defined by one single person. The Big Moo is not a riddle but the fluent four dimensional quality of an extreme purple cow, which keeps on having purple calves (“the calves” are my personal definition, Godin does not say so in his book). Logically according to their different home environments and (business) circumstances, these calves need different “nourishments to grow”, just like Austrian or Swiss cows who live on high pastures eat different foods than cows in the flatlands of the Netherlands, Indian ‘holy’ cows, or even yaks in Nepal or Tibet.
By inviting so many different brilliant contributors, Godin circles the topic, allows different concepts, perspectives, and facets to shine, which together create the puzzle of a portrait of the Big Moo, a purple cow which keeps having calves.
My favorite stories (I listened to them three times)
• How to be a failure
• This is your first test
• The remarkable Gertrude Bell
• The one thing you can’t download
• Ten Things Smart Start-ups Know
• Fire the Gatekeepers
Bittersweet was the story, “Tear down this wall”. My kid brother Michael had told me that the wall was about to come down in 1988. Since I had had traveled Berlin, seen the wall, and even crossed over at Checkpoint Charlie, I told Michael to “not be silly.” About a year later, when indeed the wall came down, I stood corrected. Sadly Michael, my brilliant brother, died four years later from Multiple Sclerosis. Still, it made me proud again that he saw the signs nobody else saw.
5 stars for the Purple Cow and 6 for the Big MOO,
Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger
on August 23, 2006
Here is the first few lines of the chapter beginning on page 162:
Play is tactile... Play is revealing...
Play is active... Play is cultural...
Play is experimental... Play is knowledge...
Play is imaginative... Play is curious...
In fact the entire chapter is 2 pages long consisting only of stuff like this. The rest of the book is slightly better.
If you like this kind of stuff then buy it. If you prefer something interesting to read and useful, I would recommend spending about the same amount of money on The Power of Simplicity.