When Being Different is No Longer Unique

A while back I was wandering around a Barnes & Noble bookstore perusing the business titles when I noticed a trend.  Instead of books titled around understandable topics like management, leadership, marketing, and strategy, there were hosts of books with oddball titles…most notably: How to Castrate a Bull.

Now I know why authors and publishers do this.  Each year, almost 11,000 new business books enter the U.S. market.   Most of them will sell less than 1,000 copies.  In order to stand out from the other thousands of books, authors and publishers try to make the boring business information stand out.  I’m thinking it worked.  After all, Who Moved My Cheese became an instant best-seller by simply regurgitating change management techniques into a fable…but it was the title that sold the book.  I’ve even done it with two of my own books: Podium Paranoia: Transforming Fear into Knockout Presentations and From Cave to Cubicle: A Practical Guide to Organizational Behavior.

Except now, nearly every book has that catchy, oddball title.  How to Castrate a Bull (which is actually a book about risk, growth, and success in business (that’s off the cover by the way, I didn’t bother to open the book and read it) was just the most outlandish.  The No Asshole Rule was a close second.

As an avid reader, I’m realizing there really isn’t much new information out there, just a lot of rehash rebranded.  What used to make it stand out now is commonplace.  I wonder if a title as simple as How to Grow and Be Successful While Minimizing Risk might actually sell more copies to an audience that really needs that information?  I’m not interested in castrating bulls but I would like to make more money.

Honestly, what really sells are results.  If you’re trying to capture a fleeting audience, then creative titles might get attention, but the people you really want to read your books are the ones who will use highlighters, dog-ear the pages, spill chili on the cover and basically beat it up getting the information out of it.  Timeless classics like The Fifth Discipline and Leading Change are those kinds of books.  No weird title or creepy cover.

Professional athletes often resort to using odd behaviors to get attention.  Dennis Rodman certainly started the trend and it was followed on by Chad Ochocinco, Metta World Peace, and Terrell Owens.  The public tolerates and enjoys the antics…until productivity drops and then it gets old quickly.  Being different doesn’t automatically equate to results.

What about people like us?  Are we indeed delivering results or simply standing out in the crowd.  Is our participation in a meeting adding to the discussion or are we simply sounding engaged?  Are we truly busy and productive at our desk or, like George Costanza says “when you look annoyed, people think that you’re busy.”

This week, let’s make a commitment to deliver results, not flair.  Let’s be steak, not pork rinds.  Let’s get results without risk rather than castrate bulls.

Book Review: The Complete Experience by Kayla Barrett and Tony Bodoh

I read this book because Kayla is a colleague and friend.  What I didn’t know is that her and her co-authorTony Bodo have done such extensive work in analyzing online reviews.  They make some key points such as beginning with what you want reviews to say about your company and then putting in processes and systems in place to actually deliver to that end.  They also make the case that engaged employees who have actually tried the services can be more effective at getting customers to respond to the upsell.

Grade:  A

If your company depends on favorable online reviews, you need to read this book!

Book Review: Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly

I’m not a fan of Bill O’Reilly so I read this book with some trepidation.  My daughter was assigned it in her contemporary lit class and couldn’t stop talking about it.  It was actually a really good book.  O’Reilly made it flow like a novel, rather than a historical piece.

It tells the story of the Kennedy presidency in great detail, shedding light into what we’ve been taught and what may have actually happened.  Since I was born after his presidency and assassination, it filled in a lot of gaps I didn’t know.

Grade:  B+

I would have given it a higher grade but since I read this for entertainment, I don’t see a real value for my professional development.

Book Review: Power Relationships by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

This book is a great resource for consultants and coaching.  It takes the reader through important questions and questioning techniques to use to build relationships and demonstrate credibility

One of the great takeaways comes at the back of the book where Sobel lists out typical challenging scenarios consultants face and then lists out his relevant rules for handling those conversations.  This is also a great book to use if you want to improve your networking skills.

Grade:  A+

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a business that depends on clients.

Book Review: The Game of Numbers by Nick Murray

The Game of Numbers

The Game of Numbers

This book is written for financial advisors.  I read it because my wife (who is a financial advisor) was given it at one of her conferences.  The premise of the book is that prospecting (getting face-to-face with a prospective client) is simply a game of numbers:  the more you do it, the higher the probability that one will turn into a client.

I’m not a financial advisor but I have to prospect in my consulting business.  The skills and techniques are transferrable and I am planning to use them immediately.  The biggest takeaway for me was to not get caught in the trap of being busy and using that as an excuse to prospect.  Murray likens that to a person treading water in a shark-infested area.

Grade:  A+

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a business that depends on clients.

Book Review: The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

The ONE Thing:  The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller is the first book I read this year as part of my read-one-book-per-week goal this year.  It’s fitting as it’s all about prioritizing and making sure your focus is clear.

Keller stresses the idea that ONE thing should dictate our goals, how we prioritize, and how we plan.

Key Learning for Me

Quit focusing on being busy and devote a block of time each day to accomplish that ONE thing (the thing that if I do it, will make a huge difference in achieving my goal)

Grade:  A+

Recommended?  Absolutely – for everyone, not just business people!