Death to All Sacred Cows

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Contrary to the book jacket might make you think, this books is not about cows that go "moo." Here's a review:

By DINESH RAMDE

It’s easy to understand why business self-help books tend to sound the same.

After all, people won’t buy a book that tells them to keep doing the same things they’ve always done. So authors instead urge change, using variations of the same cliche: adjust your paradigm, think outside the box, cross the chasm, figure out who moved your cheese.

Then how do authors sell a new book that makes many of the same points executives have heard before? This comedic trio relies on a new paradigm of their own: irreverent humor in place of the stodgy business-speak more common to the genre.

David Bernstein, Beau Fraser and Bill Schwab, executives at advertising agency The Gate Worldwide, are co-authors of Death to All Sacred Cows (Hyperion Books, 224 pages. $21.95). This short book is amusing and easily digestible, although an impatient executive may tire of wading through irreverence to get to the main point.

Death to All Sacred Cows

The book’s title comes from the idea that businesses worship ‘‘sacred cows.’’ These are ideas so entrenched that people don’t even think to challenge them. But these ideas aren’t infallible, the authors argue, and many of them lead to bad business practices.

Some of the book’s points make intuitive sense. For example, the authors advise against copying the industry leader because the strategies that made him No. 1 play to his strengths, not yours. Instead, they say, leverage what makes you different.

Other points are less convincing. Each chapter is generally a broad principle supported by two or three examples. But those examples don’t always apply to the average person or business.

For example, to refute the ‘‘sacred cow’’ that successful branding always requires a big budget, the authors note that cyclist Lance Armstrong hoped to sell $5 million of his yellow LIVESTRONG bracelets. Instead of launching a costly advertising campaign, he just wore one quietly — and soon he and Nike sold $70 million worth of them. Sure, maybe that works for Armstrong, but branding can still be pretty expensive for those of us who haven’t won six straight Tour de France races.

Some chapters contradict outright what the authors suggest elsewhere. Early on, they urge executives to fire unpopular jerks — even those who are talented and bring in a lot of business — for the good of company morale. But a few chapters later, the authors extol an assertive Coca-Cola executive who rose through the ranks because she flouted the company’s culture of politeness.

The point of the book may be to entertain as much as educate, and the irreverent tone certainly makes it a quick and easy read. However, the frequent off-the-wall asides eventually become a distraction from the actual business points and threaten to slow down the reader.

Death to All Sacred Cows breaks little new ground, but it does present the customary points more engagingly than the average business book does. In that regard, it’s easy to imagine a company distributing it to employees with greater confidence that the workers will actually read it. That alone makes the book worthy of attention.

AP

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This page contains a single entry by Teresa Budasi published on April 27, 2008 6:24 AM.

'Hollywood Crows' was the previous entry in this blog.

Dictation/Deception is the next entry in this blog.

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