May 20th, 2012

Books!

"Does a dog have Buddha-nature?"

I'm not sure how The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable got on my radar … it probably showed up on one of those Amazon lists of books I might like. It's a follow-up to Seth Godin's Purple Cow, and is credited to “The Group of 33”, and edited by Godin. It's a collection of essays from “33 of the world's smartest business thinkers” including Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki, and Mark Cuban. Oddly, there are 72 essays here, and none of them are attributed to individual writers, so one figures that there are multiple essays from most, but no way to tell for sure. There are a few that sound very much like authors whose work I know well, but, again, it's all attributed to the “group” (and all the proceeds were donated to charity).

The pieces range from a few sentences to about 7 pages (with most being 2-3 pages long), so are easy to blow through fairly quickly. However, there's little coherence in theme or subject, and the reading swings from one place to another ... at one point you're reading a scant half-page piece about a button that top Sarah Lee execs were wearing to get across a message, and at another you're reading a “play” of a borsht-belt routine which illustrates three principles of being remarkable.

While I enjoyed reading this, I didn't hit anything while in it that I was driven to bookmark, which, in my reading style, is fairly unusual. While I take it that these pieces were produced specifically for this book (“they distilled their best secrets for creating sustainable and shared remarkability”), there isn't that much that's particularly remarkable in any of these.

Frankly, not knowing who wrote what was a significant irritant … I mean, in some cases you could guess, but it really was quite a jumble of voices, points, and approaches … with most so short that it would have been helpful to have the “background” of knowing where that person was coming from. Also, I assume that the 72 essays are unevenly distributed across the 33 authors … with my guess being that most just weighed in with one piece, so who wrote the rest? Did Godin seed this with his own bits? In the Introduction Godin writes: “We {didn't credit the individual contributions} 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.” … I feel he's wrong here, and that the unavoidable shifts between voices are more distracting when they happen “in the flow” of the book, without having the context of knowing who's currently at the mic!

It could be argued that Godin “does the heavy lifting” up front here, and the rest of the book is just a series of footnotes illustrating the main points. Interestingly, he also encourages copying of material from the book, since it's all done pro bono, so in that spirit, I think I'll pass along a chunk of the Preface where he pretty much defines his terms:

Let's begin with … two things that are true:
1. The only way to grow is to be remarkable.
2. The only barrier to being remarkable is your ability to persuade your peers to make it happen.

In the old days, showing up was 95 percent of success. If you offered a good product at a good price in a reliable way, you'd be fine. Being local was a good thing. Having a long track record helped. Decent quality and personal service mattered as well.
No longer. Good enough isn't good enough, because now everything is good enough. Our expectations of quality are unrealistic – and are being met every single day. We don't just want to be satisfied, we want to be blown away.
Not only that, but today everything is a click away. Being local isn't good enough either.
{detailing various depressing business scenarios} … But wouldn't it be better to leave that fear behind and grow instead?
You will grow as soon as you decide to become remarkable – and do something about it.
Remarkable isn't up to you. Remarkable is in the eye of the customer. If your customer decides something you do is worth remarking on, then, by definition, it's remarkable. … Remarkable is not in the eyes of the marketer. It doesn't matter one bit how hard you worked on something or how cool you think it is. It's up to the consumer. If the consumer thinks it's worth remarking about, then you've got a purple cow. … A big moo is the extreme purple cow, the remarkable innovation that completely changes the game.
Godin goes on to say “This is a book about how and why to grow. It is not a book of facts or logical reasoning. … My colleagues and I are intent on slipping some subversive ideas into your subconscious ...”, and perhaps this is why the book seems to be such a cacophony – it's going for a non-linear impression.

I enjoyed reading The Big Moo, but it's hardly my favorite Godin book. It's still in print, and the on-line big boys have it at about a third off of cover, but the new/used vendors have “like new” copies going for a penny, plus the $3.99 shipping (which is how I got my mine), so that would likely be your best bet. This is good if you're looking to be a Godin “completist”, or if you've got the “remarkable” fetish, but it's not exactly one I'm recommending for “all and sundry”.


Visit the BTRIPP home page!