A Skimmer's Guide to the Latest Business Books: Tuned InBY Leigh Buchanan
The book:Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs; Wiley; June 2008.
The big idea: "Where have you been all my life?" Every company hopes for that response when it introduces a new product or service. Authors Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott use the word resonator to describe a breakthrough offering that people instantly understand and will happily pay for. To improve their chances of creating resonators, CEOs must identify real problems of real people -- ideally people their companies are not yet serving. The authors, marketing consultants all, outline a six-step process for tapping into the dissatisfied hordes.
You are not your customer: The authors' warning against innovation for innovation's sake is considerably less radical than they believe. But they are right that companies often act on homegrown ideas that may be good yet flounder in the real world. The error lies in company leaders' conflating their own needs and preferences with the needs and preferences of customers. Tuned In recommends that any idea based on a leader's personal experience or hunch rather than solid external data meet with this pithy dismissal: "Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant."
Intriguing idea: Enhancing existing products to satisfy demands of existing customers saps resources that could be better devoted to pursuing breakthroughs. Potential customers are a far superior source of ideas. Presumably, therefore, start-ups are fortunate because the vast majority of their customers are potential.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Eight, "Articulate Powerful Ideas," is a mini marketing seminar on how best to talk about your business and how to talk about it differently to different groups. In an inspired analogy, the authors compare smart marketers to comedians who know just which jokes will split the sides of just which audiences.
You can skip: The stuff on technology -- think like a publisher, go viral et al. -- feels tired.
Rigor rating: 6 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). The authors interviewed many CEOs and draw from their own ongoing survey of marketing and product professionals. Still, many examples are culled from magazines, press releases, and websites.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan