Home Page -Business Books - E-mail Me

The 500 Year Delta by Jim Taylor/Watts Wacker

It took me way too long to read this book considering how great it was. Written in 1996(7) or so, I had put off reading this through the entire stock and dot-com crash thing we've been experiencing thinking it was going to be similar to "Killer App" or "Blur," two great books, alibeit ones you have to take with serious grains of salt these days. There are components of "new economy" thinking built into this book, but because of the long view it takes, it is a great read, and worthy of a book report here on sirkin.com. I also read another book by these guys, The Visionaries Handbook which is a fantastic book with real world tactics, techniques and concepts I've used in building my career.

As usual with these book reports, this is less a report, critique or analysis and more of a crib sheet of the best parts so that I (me, me, me) can remember and apply some of what I learned. For instance, choose any product you want to manufacture - it doesn't matter what...

First - pick a focus (product, marketing or customer)
Second - pick a motive (generationally imprinted, life stage, mass)
Third - pick a cause (status oriented, return oriented, principled)

The rules are that you can only pick one from each category (focus, motive, cause). You can use this strategy to create copy for marketing different products. For example how about marketing a mattress to the following: focus (Generation X), motive generationally imprinted and cause is return oriented... now, if you change any of of these (change focus to the elderly for example) and you can see how powerful this concept can be.

The Search for Meaning

The authors tackle this interesting subject in a very analytical way, by breaking it down into chunks like the energy model, risk and membership. The best one (other than the idea that energy is non-renewable so take a nap and goof off already) was the chapter on risk. Because we live in an age of chaos, the authors are upfront with the fact that all of us (100%) will be affected by a significant crime. being robbed, shot, hijacked etc...

They build on an earlier point in the book regarding the falling % of voters in the U.S. (government is irrelevant in an age of connectivity) by stating that corporations will emerge as the "lords of a new, borderless world order..." The authors point out that in order to plan for disaster you need to plan on the certainty of of uncertainty, not the certainty of certainty. As an exercise, take of a sheet of paper and write down the ten worst things that could happen to your business in the next five hundred days, five hundred weeks, and then start acting as if they will happen, because in a chaos world, they or something very similar will.

Where are your moats? Write down where your own business or personal moats are, how fortified your walls are, where the intellectual property is and provide answers to each question. If you can't you'll soon be overwhelmed.

Each year, use this renewal exercise - try to remember the date of the first day you ever had an adult job, mark it on your calendar, and every year on that date, write down the five things that made a difference in the success of your enterprise or career in the year just past, the five things that will make a difference in the year ahead, and the five things that will make a difference in the year after that. From that list, identify what must change immediately. If you don't continually renew your vision of what the world is and how you can manage your way through it, if you don't renew your vision then you will become quite profiicient at the wrong thing. You must concentrate on the inevitability of disaster in a chaos age in order to pursue possibilities.

New Rules

The authors list out new rules and make notes on each as follows:

The Wisdom of Planning

  • Stop planning around chains of causality
  • Start planning around the certainty of uncertainty
  • Forget process
  • Focus on outcome

The Wisdom of Preparing

  • Learn to conserve energy
  • Learn to accept responsibility
  • Gather information constantly
  • Gather experience constantly
  • Practice intelligent disobedience (damn, I'm good at that one)
  • Get out of the box
  • Listen to your own life
  • Try a little happiness

The Wisdom of Managing

  • Control risks, not behavior
  • Build unrules into structure
  • Open up communications, but control the communication process
  • Embrace change
  • Institutionalize diversity (this isn't about affirmative action dummy, it's about perspective)
  • Surrender control

The Wisdom of Sitting at the Top

  • Don't watch the stock
  • Treat each customer as an individual market
  • Invest in innovation paths
  • Hire IQ and be prepared to pay for it
  • Let IQ solve the problem it was hired to solve
  • Own ideas, not property
  • Control average costs by controlling specific costs
  • Be attuned to the points of distinction in your category
  • When buying a company, don't mistake ideas for the people who have them
  • Never assume that acquiring a company is going to expand market share
  • Just because it works doesn't mean it's broken
  • Stick to the core business and reinforce it constantly
  • Stick to core values, too
  • Build change, not difference
  • Remember, the customers have to spend the money

The Wisdom of Focus

  • Settle
  • Simplify