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Rethink: A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation Hardcover – April 8, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

It's the trap that ensnares virtually every business.


We focus on process: “how” we're doing the job. And we forget about the bigger issue: “what” we're doing and “why” we're doing it. That's why we're leaving so much value on the table. In Rethink, business architect Ric Merrifield exposes this problem with vivid examples and introduces breakthrough techniques for overcoming it.


Merrifield shows how to rise above the clutter of your “hows” to expose what does and doesn't need attention in your organization. You'll learn to identify the activities most critical to success, as well as those that are borderline, redundant, or even counterproductive. Merrifield helps you get past the parochial, subjective viewpoints of ground-level participants...find more cost-effective ways to achieve core goals...capture better information for prioritizing investments...identify hidden sources of value...use technology-driven plug-and-play management to increase efficiency and agility...and reconfigure your company to ride nonstop waves of change.


Along the way, Merrifield presents powerful case studies ranging from ING DIRECT to Amazon.com to Procter & Gamble. These diverse companies have learned how to cut costs, strengthen innovation, and profit from change all at the same time. Using the lessons in this book, you can, too.


• Rise above low-level processes and narrow perspectives

• Step back, identify what really matters to the organization, and act accordingly

• Understand the hidden connections that can make or break your business

• Make profitable changes without setting off destructive chain reactions

• Expose activities where people, process, and technology matter...and, equally important, where they don't


About the Author

Ric Merrifield spent nearly 15 years in various consulting roles helping organizations define and achieve their goals. Since joining Microsoft, Merrifield has spent more than 10,000 hours as a business architect and has filed twelve patent applications all with the goal of helping companies rethink their operating models and get out of the “how” trap described in the pages of this book.


Merrifield recently coauthored “The Next Revolution in Productivity,” a June 2008 Harvard Business Review article focused on case studies that highlight needs of the organization and the opportunity to rethink business operating models before making major technology changes. Merrifield is an alumnus of Lakeside School in Seattle and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (April 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137031653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137031658
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the recommendation of a colleague whom I have known for twenty years, both of us members of the Silicon Valley Hackers Conference started by Stewart Brand and now managed by Glen Tenney. When I came to buy the book and saw all of the very short, very empty, largely negative reviews, I was surprised. Trying to understand this, and having looked up the author's history, I speculate that a bunch of folks bought this book because of who the author is (Microsoft's business rethink strategist and innovator), and then did not have the contextual background to appreciate the story line.

Of course the books suffers some from being a book-length expansion of a core idea originally published in the Harvard Business Review, "The Next Revolution in Productivity" (free online at Phi Beta Iota), but from where I sit, 47 of the 53 reviews miss the whole point, and I am not that thrilled with the remaining six, but they did help me.

POINT NUMBER ONE: Businesses are eco-systems within eco-systems. The industrial era has piled up a mish-mash of stovepipes, conflicting chains of command, etcetera etcetera. Until Web 2.0 (I'm working on Web 4.0) there was not much one could do about it, but now Information Technology (IT) has reached a point where it CHANGES EVERYTHING. Bare bone zero sum reviews are a priority.

POINT NUMBER TWO: The Cloud is the Context. Location is now generally irrelevant, knowledge and trust and reliability of performance are higher values, and in fact forcing individual performers to center on a fixed point (desk, secretary, coffee pot) is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. However, you cannot send them out as lone rangers without giving them a suite of software & services (S+S).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rethink by Ric Merrifield is subtitled "a business manifesto for cutting costs and boosting innovation." This might make you think that the book is all about how to tweak and tune your current options to make them run more efficiently. Quite the opposite. Ric wants you to reevaluate your entire organization and come up with ways to do things DIFFERENTLY - which will save you money and help your final product reach its aims more effectively.

This mantra is repeatedly constantly in the book. Yes, start by looking at HOW you do things. You send FAXes. You answer phone calls with orders. Then step back and think about WHAT you are accomplishing. You are distributing status updates. You are bringing in orders. You could do those things far more efficiently if you just focused on those "whats" and thought up different ways of how they could be done.

The techniques he uses to help you out of your current box are similar to many other self-help books. You build a grid with four parts - high value / low performance, high value / high performance, low value / low performance and low value / high performance. The HV/LP are the ones you must actively fix. The HV/HP you can luckily just monitor. The LV/LP should be outsourced or eliminated. You're not doing them well anyway, and you don't really need to waste the time. The LV/HP is a waste of resources - people are doing really well things that don't need to be done. Sic those people on something more valuable.

There are good real-life examples in the worlds of Amazon, jet planes, online banking and other areas. You hear about specific issues they faced and how they were overcome. Cranium, the fun board game, went through numerous rethinking rounds before it reached success.
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Format: Hardcover
Great book! Re-think provides the clarity into business conversations to focus on the What vs. How. The premise of the book is that people and organizations fall into the "How Trap" all too often focusing on "How" to accomplish something, vs. really focusing and more importantly agreeing on the "What" that is needed. I have been practicing What vs. How conversations with great results. I have found it to be an effective tool for getting out of the weeds, especially in conversations with technical folks, and driving more engaging conversations with customers. People are often enamored with the shiny object problem, and elegant technology driven solutions, and all too often lose sight of what they are attempting to accomplish. I highly recommend reading re-think, and putting the principles into practice - results will follow. View it as a tool for framing engaging conversations and reining in sideways dialogs.
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Format: Hardcover
Length: 9:55 Mins
"Rethink" arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago and after completing it, overall, I would give it a thumbs up.

For me, the second half of the book was the most interesting part. The case studies were good, and I felt they brought the book's thesis to life. While I found myself thinking about core competencies and value curves when I was reading the book, I could also see how creating 'what' heat maps would integrate quite nicely with other business frameworks like these. They all fit together.

Looking back at my experience of reading the book, my favorite chapter was the 'Key Concepts' chapter. Personally I feel that all too often, the authors of business books spend too much effort expanding a single insight to the requisite thickness, only to omit a proper summary or useful cheat sheet that the reader can go back to for easy reference. The 'Key Concepts' chapter also gives you a glimpse into the level of detail and complexity that these 'what' heat maps actually deliver in practice.

So, if your organization is seeking to escape the 'how trap' and refocus its energies on identifying the 'what' changes that will have the greatest impact, I encourage you to check out "Rethink" by Ric Merrifield.
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