Book Review: Lead & Disrupt by Jim Coates, VELUX

Lead & Disrupt Book Review

Lead and Disrupt wasn’t conceived as a “marketing book”, but marketing professionals looking to sharpen their strategic thinking will find lots to think about. It’s an enjoyable, thought provoking read filled with powerful examples that light up the key themes and topics.

A central thread is the rapidly declining average life expectancy of companies. How do large and previously successful companies blessed with talented staff and powerful resources, collapse so spectacularly. Why couldn’t international movie rental giants Blockbuster, hold off plucky innovators Netflix? Just how did Kodak fail to catch the wave of digital photography- even though they saw it coming in plenty of time? How could this happen? O’Reilly & Tushman observe the macro trend of disruption driven by innovative technologies and look closely at the failure of firms to respond effectively, quickly enough. Most of the disruptions described are proposition and customer centric and I think it is this aspect that will resonate first with the marketing community. At their heart, these are issues of marketing strategy. As Perter Drucker said, the rest is just detail!

Lead and Disrupt really speaks to the very current challenges of innovative technologies opening up new possibilities, but also reminds us that there is nothing new about technologically driven disruption in business.  The book leads us back to some of the classical thinking and executional aspects of the marketing role. Aspects that perhaps don’t get the focus they might. There are a few uncomfortable moments and I even had a blush reflex at one point as something dawned on me. Great- what more could you ask for. Plans adjusted!

On the face of it a business book from two of the big guns at Harvard and Stanford might not sound very accessible. But that’s just not the case. The book is full of carefully researched first-hand accounts of companies that have failed and of course some that have successfully disrupted themselves, showing an evergreen ability to re-invent and thrive for decades. It’s all made to feel very clear and easy to follow. As the issues are dissected with real and contemporary examples you are familiar with, the advice and guidance feels both applicable and inspiring. It’s testament to the authors genuine depth of understanding and mastery of the issues at hand.

After reading the book, making the leap to develop and test new services, products and propositions feels urgent, necessary but a lot less risky than failing to innovate.

Jim Coates is a Business Leader member of the Society. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.