Book Review: Mavericks at Work

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Mavericks at Work (MAW for the remainder of the review) is a book which claims to explain “Why the most original minds in business win.” This book attempts to follow in the tradition of Built to Last and Good to Great, even frequently citing those books. Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to the same level of extensive research backed up by solid statistics and writing. MAW starts out strong with many interesting examples into the some of the most creative and successful businesses in recent times. Unfortunately, since many of the creative companies are different in entirely unique ways (some even in exactly opposite ways), nothing can really be drawn from the stories. It also seems for all the examples given in this book of a creative company there are plenty examples of failed companies trying similar creative solutions.
When I started reading this book, I thought it was solid and easily worth the read, but by the time I had finished the book, that was no longer the case. If you want a feel-good, inspiring business book, this might be what you’re looking for, but if you’re hoping to implement ideas for your own business, I think there are better books out there for that. I feel like the first quarter of the book was very strong and filled with interesting and powerful examples of creativity in business. The first half of the book was still decent but falling apart into less compelling examples that really didn’t show how creativity directly led to success. The last half of the book could have basically been summed up by “creatively motivating your team and hiring the best employees for your company is great for business.” This is explained and restated far too often using examples that don’t seem creative or innovative, just mildly amusing and appropriate for particular companies. Obviously the out-of-the-ordinary hiring practices at Pixar aren’t the same as a bank.
Some of the topics covered that I found interesting and informative, all of which were in the first half of the book, are listed below.

  • Not Just a Company, a Cause: Strategy as Advocacy

        What ideas are your company fighting for? Can you play competitive hardball by throwing your rivals a strategic curveball? Successful companies have a set of fundamental reasons for a company’s existence beyond just making money.
  • Competition and Its Consequences: Disruptors, Diplomats, and a New Way to Talk about Business

        Can you be provocative without provoking backlash? Why strategic innovators develop their own vocabulary of competition.
  • Ideas Unlimited: Why Nobody is as Smart as Everybody

        How to persuade brilliant people to work with you, even if they don’t work for you. Why grassroots collaboration requires head-to-head competition. How one open-minded leader inspired the ultimate Internet gold rush.
  • Innovation, Inc: Open Source Gets Down to Business

        Why smart leaders “walk in stupid every day.” How a 170-year-old corporate giant created a new model of creativity.

Overall I felt MAW was an average business book, it did have some above-average areas. The appendix goes into amazing detail with mini-reviews of the best books, blogs, videos, and interviews that inspired the book. Often I found that the description of a source (which included web resources) was a great way to get detailed information on specific areas or chapters that were of interest to you.
Website: Mavericks at Work

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