Friday, May 21, 2004

Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki

Yesterday I read Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist for Apple Computer, which was written in 1998, and was amazed at how much of it had already come to me in the form of received knowledge. Was Kawasaki just putting into print the customary business practices of Silicon Valley (churn, evangelism, failing fast) or were his several books so influential its tenets became standard practice? Reading In Search of Excellence I had a powerful sense of deja vu, because these were the business practices that emerged out of the 80s, and which my father exemplified when I was growing up. Another book I read recently, the autobiography of Jimmy Pattison, a Vancouver tycoon, was likewise informed by In Search of Excellence. The waxing and waning influence of business books is an interesting phenomenon. Everyone these days seems to have read Crossing the Chasm and The Cluetrain Manifesto and all those Tom Peters books (which I'm reading now). Business books are as trendy as hairstyles and skirt lengths.

In any event, I did glean some useful ideas out of Rules for Revolutionaries. Kawasaki described evangelizing Macintosh software to developers in 1984:

At the start of meetings with developers, we used this three-pronged pitch:
  • Macintosh is a technological breakthrough. With what-you-see-is-what-you-get printing, pull-down menus, iconic interface, developers can finally create the kind of software they dreamed of
  • Macintosh will expand the market for personal computers and therefore for your software. Because of its radical ease of use, people who wouldn't have considered buying a computer can finally do so.
  • Writing Macintosh software is a way to spread your risk. IBM is publishing MS-DOS application software and competing with you, so the market for your software can get extremely crowded.

If there was any interest in Macintosh development, one of these three pitches appealed to the people in the meeting, and they began to resonate with what we were saying. From that point on, we deemphasized the other two pitches and focused on the one that appealed to the developer.

Good listeners, marketers and women understand this point intuitively: people will tell you how they want to be evangelized.