Book Review: Rules for Revolutionaries

My latest read from Joel Spolsky‘s MBA reading list is “Rules for Revolutionaries” by Guy Kawasaki. Guy is founder and current CEO of, a firm that provides seed capital to technology startups. His pedigree is impressive – he was involved on the original team that developed the Macintosh, and was the Chief Evangelist of Apple.

I had stumbled across Guy’s weblog a few months ago and it immediately became one of my top five reads; Guy has a wealth of knowledge that he manages to convey succinctly in staccato bullet points and in a self-deprecating, humourous style that I wish I could emulate. Hagiography aside – Guy writes informative and entertaining books that richly deserve their place on an MBA reading list.

It is difficult to categorise “Rules for Revolutionaries” – the essential pigeonhole would be “Evangelism”, which I interpret as a mix of marketing, business strategy, and vision amalgamated into a driving force to turn your dreams into reality, your reality into products, and your products into customer magnets (to quote directly from the book sleeve). Kawasaki divides these goals into three main sections: “Create like a God”, “Command like a King”, and “Work like a slave”. Each section covers fundamental issues at each stage of bringing a product from imagination to cash cow.

This is the kind of book that I find far more useful then a dry academic tome in that each point is backed up with a real-world example I can relate to. Every section is peppered with interesting and relevant quotes from industry mavens, and finishes with a recommended reading list which would compose an MBA reading list on its own. Picking some points completely at random and out of context:

  • Ne Te Terant Molarii – This literally translates to “Don’t let the plodding millers grind you down”; Guy describes it simply as “Don’t let the Bozos grind you down”. The world is full of people who will shoot down an idea, tell you to quit, and naysay until they’re blue in the face. It takes temerity and indomitable spirit to be able to focus on your own vision with enthusiasm and prove them wrong.
  • Churn! – You may create a product for an initial purpose, but it might not be the one that you stick with. Continually soliciting (and listening to) customer feedback is the only way to ensure that the product you develop satisfies the needs of your current customers; churning back these new concepts into the initial design means you can capitalise on markets you hadn’t envisaged originally. Synonymous with the concept of Kaizen.
  • Avoid death magnets – Companies can try to follow paths which seem to be positive ways to drive the business, but are actually paths which lead to a deep pit full of faeces-covered punji stakes. Concepts such as planning on making a product which is not quite as bad as the competitions, religiously obeying a budget to the detriment of common sense, or relying on a brand name above any evidence that the product has quality. Conventional approaches lead to conventional results – more often than not this means failure.

In summation, this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read so far on the reading list. Above the excellent information that it imparts, it’s genuinely funny. As a result I’ve ordered two other of Guy’s books and at the tentative half-way stage through reading his latest book I can also recommend “The Art of the Start” (review pending…).

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