Kawasaki Lays Out Rules for Revolutionaries

SAN FRANCISCO — Eat like a bird and poop like an elephant. Do not let the bozos grind you down. Let a hundred flowers bloom. Churn, baby, churn. Don't worry, be crappy. Those sentences were uttered without fear or embarrassment at Ad:tech05 San Francisco.

Guy Kawasaki, former Apple evangelist turned author and venture capitalist, was expounding yesterday on the top 10 rules for revolutionaries. Those were some of the more unusual tips from the managing director of Garage Technology Ventures.

Start with the first one. Jump to the next curve, Kawasaki said. It's not enough to be 10 percent or 15 percent better. People must strive harder. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos didn't just add 10 percent more books than the 250,000 stocked in the average Barnes & Noble bookstore. He went for 2.5 million titles — 10 times the Barnes & Noble store.

Second, don't worry, be crappy. The Apple Macintosh wasn't the perfect computer when it made headlines in 1984. Version 1 means never having to say you're sorry, Kawasaki said.

“The way it works is, you ship first, then you test,” he said. “Any one of you who is in medical or biotech, don't write this down.”

Churn, baby, churn, is a variation on the Black Panther theme. A revolution is not an event; it's a process running into first, second, third or fourth versions. The Mac division took two years to recover from the 1984 Mac launch when it decided to fix the product.

Fourth, break down the barriers. Most revolutionaries don't understand this, Kawasaki said. Barriers like ignorance and inertia were major issues that symbolized resistance to change.

“The more revolutionary your product or service, the more barriers you'll encounter,” he said.

Fifth, make evangelists. Don't sell, but go out and spread the word through brand enthusiasts. Nike, Netflix, Harley-Davidson and Nordstrom were examples of brands that had fans.

“[Evangelists] want your products and services to make the world a better place,” Kawasaki said.

The sixth rule was borrowed from China's chairman Mao Zedong — let a hundred flowers bloom. Companies should not worry if certain consumers buy too much of a product.

Take the money, Kawasaki said. Ultimately, the street positions the brand.

At the same time, be open to influences. W. Atlee Burpee did not start out selling seeds. He was in the livestock business. His buyers constantly asked him what to feed their chickens and pigs. Thus was born the seeds business.

Likewise, Apple's adoption of PageMaker changed the future of the brand.

“PageMaker created the forest called desktop publishing,” Kawasaki said. “Desktop publishing saved Apple Computer. Because there's no other reason why Apple Computer's surviving.”

Seventh, eat like a bird and poop like an elephant.

What Kawasaki meant was that people should consume a lot of information at shows through media and via conversations. They then should disseminate that learning to as many people as possible back in the office.

In effect, revolutions are less about individuals and more about groups. He cited a couple of aphorisms — “A rising tide floats all boats” and “In a tornado, even a turkey can fly.”

Apple did not follow this line of thinking. It failed to license its technology to others, thus not legitimizing the revolution.

“The world today should be 95 percent Macintosh and 5 percent Linux,” Kawasaki said.

Eighth, think digital, act analog. The purpose of a revolution is to have happy, contented people who are liberated and independent. Technology is of little use without this result.

Ninth, don't ask people to do something you wouldn't do.

Finally, he was serious when he advised the audience not to let bozos wear them down. It's easy to spot a failure if he has “disgusting” or “loser” written all over him. It's harder to spot deadweights when they wear Prada, Brioni or Rolex and drive a Mercedes-Benz.

Kawasaki offered several examples. He reminded the audience what IBM chief Thomas Watson once said: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Another example was Western Union's tone of disdain contained in an internal memo written in 1876. It decided to pass on the telephone because it had “too many shortcomings.” Even today, Western Union should have been in PayPal's place, Kawasaki said.

And there was Digital Equipment Corp. founder Ken Olson's utterance in 1977: “There's no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.”

But nothing beat the excuse given a few years ago for turning down the CEO job at a dot-com: “It's too far to drive and I don't see how it can be a business.”

The executive had a pregnant wife and a young kid. The company was Yahoo. Kawasaki still regrets that he is $2 billion poorer.

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