Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rohit Bhargava's "Likeonomics": simplicity and passion count a lot more in business than just short term "profits"

Author: Rohit Bhargava

Title: “Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action

Publication: 2012, John Wiley and Sons; ISBN 978-1-118-13753-6, 184 pages, indexed, Three Parts, plus forty pages in roman page numbers with prologue, introduction, and author’s note.

Amazon link is here. 

First, let me get a technical matter off my chest (and I don’t look like Bradley Cooper on “Ellen”).  The book has forty(!)  pages of introductory material with lower case roman numerals for page numbers. That’s annoying.  Better to number them starting with page 1 as part of the real “Book”.  An Introduction is essentially a “Chapter 0”, the part of the movie before the opening credits.  I numbered only in integers myself when I self-published “Do Ask Do Tell” in 1997, but when I converted to Print on Demand with iUniverse in 2000, iUniverse renumbered my Introduction in roman case.  I don’t like that practice.  A book is as long “as it is”. 

I picked up an autographed copy of the “orange” (hint: ING) book at the Potomac Techwire “Social Media Outlook”, near Tyson’s Corner, VA.  (The group had another session today on venture capital, which I did not get to.)   The author spoke at the session about social media trends.

Part I of the book covers the “Modern Believability Crisis”.  That’s right, most of us think that 90% of the advertising we see on the web or in our inboxes is junk, and most of us don’t want to hear from telemarketers.   The author introduces the idea that we like to do business (and support or promote) people or associated companies that we “like”, and that much of what we “like” is based on relatively distant, infrequent personal contacts, sometimes with people in other cities.  We often get jobs through people we know “casually” but “like”.  I can speak to that.  After my own career layoff in 1971 (before 2001, that is) , I quickly got a federal government job through somebody I “knew” through chess clubs.  (I  had won the majority of, but not all of, our chess games.)  I could say that knowing something about the Sicilian Defense or Queen’s Gambit  (or whether the “Marshall” is sound) could help you get an unrelated job.  It might. Chess has a way of modeling life.

He also discounts the usual perceptions of networking.  It’s not just about “elevator speeches” or accumulating a count of “Likes” on Facebook or YouTube as if “likes” were the new fiat currency to follow the Fiscal Cliff.  (The Federal Reserve won’t think so.)

The middle ("Part II") of the book gives the Five Principles of Likeonomics.  I think these are ideas that would come out of Donald Trump’s show “The Apprentice”.  (No, you don’t have to get your legs waxed to “take one for the team.)  But the most successful companies have all followed these ideas, by breaking some of the stereotyped expectations of quick short-tern earnings.  Why did Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon thrive after the dot-com bust in 2001, and why has Facebook done so well since then?  A particularly interesting concept is his notion of unselfishness, which might better be described as “enlightened self-interest”.  I would give Ayn Rand more credit than he does.

Bhargava gives some interesting stories of sudden success.  Early in the book, he explains the viral success of Portuguese songwriter Ana Gomes Ferreira. His afterword  “Story Book”  ("Part III)" includes the small country of Bhutan,   the Green Bay Packers (as a small market pro-football team away from any big city), “slow cooking” chef Anupy Singla, and particularly Salman Khan and his Khan Academy. I personally love Sal’s videos, such as his lively proof of the Pythagorean Theorem.

The author also discusses the success of ING Direct, as an example of his “simplicity” concept.  Actually, ING Direct (“Orange”) was developed from ReliaStar Bank in St. Cloud, MN when ING bought ReliaStar, where I was working in I.T., in 2000.  I think that the “simplicity” idea needs to be better applied in software products and gadgets, where companies overload consumers with rarely used capabilities (and excessive automatic updates) that can interfere with basic functionality.

I want to throw in one more idea.  A lot of major companies really do need to do a much better job of customer service.  As someone who works alone right now, I am very dependent on customer service to keep my infrastructure running.  It isn't as robust and dependable as it needs to be.  

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