In the book “Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging when Everyone Else is Zagging,” Linda Rotten Berg, co-founder and CEO of Endeavor (www.endeavor.org), a global nonprofit that mentors entrepreneurs, gives the reader a broad overview of entrepreneurship within a historic and global context. She illustrates how unconventional and innovative ideas drive change in creating new products and in ways of doing things. Some mention is made of failed ventures or the many attempts it may take to reach success. The tenacity of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Bill Gore are among the success stories that inspire and drive home how failure can lead to success by eliminating that which does not work.
We learn about WD-40, which was named after 39 failures and the final success – the 40th try to create the formula of oil and hydrocarbon that could repel water. Gore-Tex, post-it notes, the invention of the brassier and a Brazilian restaurant franchise that hired clowns and jugglers to teach chefs to entertain while cooking for guests all make for interesting reading.
Rottenberg sections entrepreneurs into four categories (Gazelles, Skunks, Dolphins and Butterflies) to define their individual personalities and operating styles. She gives tips on managing and leading, culled from her own experience. Her best advice is on reducing risk, or to “minnovate,” as she describes it. That is, to proceed in small increments when starting a venture and to learn along the way. She cautions to understand the chaotic environment that is constantly changing, and recommends seeking out people who can provide insight and guidance along the way.
At times, the author’s message is inconsistent in that she encourages entrepreneurs to “just do it” and not to plan, yet promotes her organization’s consulting service. She has a law degree and discourages the reader from learning the basics to run a business, such as writing a business plan. Yet, she introduces many of the new entrepreneurs as MBA graduates, engineers or degree holders from schools such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.
Many of Rottenberg’s modern success stories feature high-tech entrepreneurs who collaborated with others at colleges and appear to have had significant financial cushions coming from an upper middle class environment. Because of this, she is not convincing nor does she show understanding when asking economically marginalized want-to-be entrepreneurs to give up their jobs “and follow their passion” to make a living in a new venture.
More practical information would make this book more useful. Basics regarding financials or specific examples of failures others made that should be avoided should be included. The positive aspects of entrepreneurship are evident and need to be balanced with more nuts and bolts information to make it practical and less hyped. Overall, this is a good armchair read to inspire, but poor in practical advice.
Lucia Worthington is a successful entrepreneur and teaches entrepreneurship and a series of business and management courses for Clark College. She can be reached at: email@example.com. To recommend a book for review, email firstname.lastname@example.org.