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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Stream of Consciousness Ramblings of Very Experienced Consultants
on April 19, 2013
I bought this book because FAKEGRIMLOCK told me to, and I basically do everything he says. He did the art, and it's very good, particularly in service of the theme of the book. The book itself is full color and has a very engaging presentation (though the form factor: wider (9 in.) than it is tall (7 in.), with a short spine, made it less portable, not sure how it would be laid out on a Kindle.) It's clear from the book that the authors (Cooper and Vlaskovits) had a lot of hands on experience, and most of the advice was very low level: very specific advice leading to very specific actions. As a result the strongest part of the book are the exercises, which mostly take the form of end-of-chapter worksheets.
Also I particularly liked chapter 3 "All the Fish in the Sea". The extended fishing metaphor was one of the highlights of the book, particularly the part about accidentally hooking a leopard shark as an example of the damage "landing" a client you're not prepared for can do to your business.
Finally, there were the case studies. I love case studies, I love getting a deep look into what other companies our doing. My absolute favorite part of The Lean Startup was when Ries talks about his experiences with IMVU. Most of the case studies in the book were great, though a few, particularly the ones which were in the format of an interview could have used some editing down (particularly the Sharethrough study pgs. 215-221)
Okay, so on the negative side. There has only been one book, ever, that I consciously put down and decided I'm not going to read another word, and that was fifteen years ago. I came really close with this book. It could just be me, but the writing seemed very jumbled and stream-of-consciousness, as an example from Page 39, in the chapter "Vision, Values and Culture" in the section titled "Lean into It: The Lean Startup Culture":
"Use data to resolve conflicts, measure projects, and inform decisions. An organization drowning in data is little better than one without data. Those who fear the overhead of implementing data systems are missing the point. On the other hand, decisions by data only risk missing the big decisions by automating the small ones."
It took me several passes to understand the last sentence, and I'm still not 100% sure I know what they're saying. Also, they have a chapter on data, but as I mentioned this isn't where this is from. It feels like here, kind of in the middle of another thought, the authors suddenly decided okay let's cover everything we can think of about data, from data systems to where to use data, to having too much data, etc. Each sentence is a completely new, and large topic. The whole thing sounds more like the summary of a chapter than one paragraph.
Additionally, you'll have sections where they have detailed lists of 24 specific things to do for customer development (pages 113-114), but a few pages before (pg. 111) they tried to cover the entirety of the book "The Black Swan" in a few paragraphs. In other words they spend too much time on some things and far too little on others.
The central problem I had with their writing finally coalesced for me near the end of the book. The authors were incredibly poor about letting me know where they were going. As a final example, chapter 9 is titled "Real Visionaries Have Funnel Vision". Based on that title you might expect that the chapter would explain what a real visionary is, or what the term funnel vision means, and how the two go together. It does spend a lot of time talking about funnels, but within the chapter the term "funnel vision" is used just once. And the term visionary (or visionaries) is never mentioned even once outside of the chapter title (the word vision is mentioned on other time, outside "funnel vision"). This may seem nit-picky, but I think it's a concrete way of illustrating an objection that might otherwise be hard to quantify.
I'm sure Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits are killer consultants. They're brimming with experience and ideas, and great, real world, actionable advice. All of this, I can't help but feel, would blow your socks off in a dynamic consultative environment. But as a book, it needed some serious organization help and a lot of editing.
So would I buy it? If you can't afford to just hire Cooper and Vlaskovits and you are totally committed to a lean methodology, and you're in the middle of it and want some practical exercises to help focus your thinking? Then yes. Otherwise, unless you've already read everything else, I would pass.