Friday, May 23, 2014


Successful companies use the profits from businesses that made them successful to subsidize areas in which they should not be. So says Al Ries in his book, Focus, which uses countless examples to illustrate why companies need to focus on what they do best and drop the rest.

While the plural of anecdote is not data, this book is as close as I've seen to something that has attempted to challenge that; I have no idea how Ries was able to compile so many examples. The downside of using so many examples to make your point is that while there's a lot of breadth to his illustrations, there isn't a whole lot of depth. There are exceptions though; specifically, in the computer industry and the auto industry, Ries provides a lot of detail in support of his points.

Of course, people who run companies want to grow their companies. And while that does cause a lot of waste, it's not necessarily a bad thing, because when they are successful, it creates a lot of wealth. So Ries offers methods for how companies can increase their chances when they expand. Interestingly, a lot of his advice overlaps with what Clayton Christensen recommends in The Innovator's Solution, the sequel to his extremely popular The Innovator's Dilemma (both of which I highly recommend). Ries takes more of a marketing point of view than Christensen, as he is more concerned with how a product/service is positioned to a customer, and yet he arrives at very similar conclusions to Christensen on how to make the new venture a success.


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