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Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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"I love this book so much. Greatness (!) from real people (!) in the most un-Silicon Valley (!) markets and locations imaginable. Wow!"
—TOM PETERS, coauthor of In Search of Excellence
“A fascinating look inside companies that are rewriting the rules of success. If you’ve ever wondered whether imagination beats knowledge and passion overcomes ambition, drop what you’re doing and read this book.”
—ADAM GRANT, Wharton professor, author of Originals and Give and Take
“We've all heard of the garage startup that spawned tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Google. But what about the startup that's actually reinventing the garage? Everyone needs to think and act more like an entrepreneur these days, and Simply Brilliant provides a roadmap for finding inspiration and innovation in the unlikeliest, everyday places.”
—LINDA ROTTENBERG, cofounder of Endeavor, author of Crazy Is A Compliment
“Simply Brilliant offers transformative messages for leaders in all walks of life. This book will challenge you to look at yourself, your work, and the world around you with fresh eyes and a more open mind.”
—SIR KEN ROBINSON, educator, author of Creative Schools
“Simply Brilliant is a unicorn among business books: A clear and instructive manual for disruption that also happens to be a terrific read. Bill Taylor has defined parameters for innovation that are relevant and actionable whether your goal is to grow a business or cure a disease.”
—DEBORAH W. BROOKS, cofounder and executive vice chairman, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
"Bill Taylor is back—and he's better than ever! Simply Brilliant describes how to make your organization truly extraordinary by focusing on the values that set you apart from the pack. Brimming with fascinating case studies, this book is essential reading for leaders in every industry.”
—DANIEL H. PINK, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human
"Bill Taylor has done it again. This book is going to change your business forever—when you read it, you'll understand."
—SETH GODIN, author of Linchpin
About the Author
Bill Taylor is a cofounder of Fast Company, author of Practically Radical, and coauthor of Mavericks at Work. He has published essays and interviews with CEOs in the Harvard Business Review, and blogs regularly for HBR. He has written management columns for the Sunday Business section of the New York Times and for the Guardian. A graduate of Princeton and the MIT Sloan School of Management, he lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, with his wife and two daughters.
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Top Customer Reviews
I’m sure you’ve heard that line, or something like it. I’ve heard it attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and “an ancient Chinese proverb.” Whoever said it first captured an elemental truth in a single pithy line. It could be the tagline for William C. Taylor’s book, Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways. The basic premise is: “The first rule of strategy is that how you think shapes how you compete.”
Taylor is one of the founders of Fast Company magazine. That publication is associated primarily with Silicon Valley and what we commonly call “technology.” The examples in this book are from outside Silicon Valley and mostly in businesses that aren’t based on “technology” of any kind. Taylor put it this way:
“Simply Brilliant is addressed to leaders who are determined to thrive, not just survive, who aim to write compelling stories of success no matter their industry or field of endeavor.”
Those examples include decidedly low-tech businesses like supermarkets and the manufacture of welding machines. Simply Brilliant is about companies that are doing things differently and successfully. They all think differently, and therefore have their own unique view of what strategy means for them.
In one sense, this book is a lot like Scott McCain’s excellent Collapse of Distinction. On another front, it’s very much like David Burkus’s excellent book Under New Management. Those books would make great companion reads to Simply Brilliant.
Who Should Read This Book
I’d recommend this book to almost anyone in business, because it will stimulate your thinking and help you see your own situation from different angles. That said, there are a few people that I think would really get a lot from this book.
If you believe that innovation is something that involves technology and not much else, you need this book to understand what the real world is like outside Silicon Valley and the technology bubble. Two of the great examples here have been around for more than a century, and their innovation isn’t as much about technology as it is about how they organize and think about the people who work at the company and the people who are their customers.
If you’re just starting out in business, Simply Brilliant is an excellent antidote to all the lightweight writing about innovation and strategy. It’s an excellent look at how real companies in the real world are doing things that work.
What’s in the Book
The book is organized into four sections with two chapters in each section. The first part is the suggestion to “Stop trying to be the best; strive to be the only.” Part two is “Don’t let what you know limit what you can imagine.” Part three is “It’s just as important to be kind as to be clever.” Yes, if you recognize that, it is based on Jeff Bezos’ commencement address.
Part four is titled “The allies you enlist matter more than the power you exert.”
One thing I liked about Simply Brilliant is that you don’t have to read it straight through. You can read each of the sections independently. Whatever you decide to read, and whatever you decide to read first, make sure to read the prologue and the epilogue. They set up everything else in the book and bring things full circle. The epilogue helps put the reading from the rest of the book into perspective by asking a series of questions to help you think through where you are and where you might want to go. Here they are.
1. Can you develop a definition of success that allows you to stand apart from the competition and inspires others to stand with you?
2. Can you explain clearly and compellingly, why what you do matters and how you expect to win?
3. Are you prepared to rethink the conventions of success in your field and the logic of your success as a leader?
4. Are you as determined to stay interested as to be interesting?
5. Do you pay as much attention to psychology and emotion as you do to technology and efficiency?
6. Do the values that define how your organization works reflect the values proposition around which it competes?
7. Are you as humble as you are hungry?
8. Are you prepared to share the rewards of success with all those who had a hand in achieving it?
Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways is an excellent mind stretcher of a book that will be especially interesting to people who think about how their organization works. Some people may not like the fact that there are very few prescriptions here and no bulleted lists of action steps. Instead, there are inspiring examples. That’s good enough for me, and it may be good enough for you, too.
Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things In Extraordinary Ways provides some game-changing philosophies and approaches in this power-packed manual of sorts. It gives you some unique glimpses into the minds of some of the most successful mavericks within varying successful organizations. I found myself highlighting so many catch phrases and quotes throughout the text and even writing some of them in my planner.
This book transcends types of industries...business or nonprofit...anyone will benefit from reading this! Part III of the book, "It's Just as Important to be Kind as to be Clever" is chock full of approaches that, if integrated into various organizations, could really be pivotal for change in any entity.
Simply Brilliant is so much more than I ever expected. Every person in a position of leadership from classrooms and churches to corporate boardrooms would benefit from this book and truly, even families can benefit from the fresh way of looking at things and apply most of these principals and approaches with a modicum of success!
Taylor starts from the new normal of the 21st century. Mediocrity is lethal. Anything less than the best in the world is vulnerable to rapid, ruthless disruption. Sustainable success means constant change.
'Simply Brilliant' is organized around a series of propositions:
--Establish your value--and values--proposition
--Missionaries Beat Mercenaries
--Break Through the Mental Limitations of Expertise
--Remain Passionately Interested
--Civility and Productivity Are Not in Opposition
--Lead with Love
--Serendipity Can Be a Way of Life
--Don't View Value Creation as a Zero-Sum Game
Some will dismiss these as verging on cliches, tired bromides. To be sure, many of the most important things are familiar. The question is how to set priorities and implement them. Taylor provides inspiring and actionable examples from many settings.
Who will benefit from this book? Almost anyone, depending on what you're looking for. Many readers will likely use this a reference, to dip into for examples to inspire or incite their own thinking. It's a good fit for that.