Pre-Reading

Pre-work

Prior to the first session, please read the following:

Steven Gary Blank, “The Four Steps To The Epiphany,” (Feb, 2005)

The essential book for anyone bringing a product to market, writing a business plan, marketing plan or sales plan. Step-by-step strategy of how to successfully organize sales, marketing and business development for a new product or company. The book offers insight into what makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture. Packed with concrete examples, the book will leave you with new skills to organize sales, marketing and your business for success.

Trevor Blackwell, “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups,”  (Trevor Blackwell is a founder of  Ycombinator)

In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want. If you make something users want, you’ll probably be fine, whatever else you do or don’t do. And if you don’t make something users want, then you’re dead, whatever else you do or don’t do. So really this is a list of 18 things that cause startups not to make something users want. Nearly all failure funnels through that.

Seth Godin, “Redefining Failure

Seth Godin argues for a broader definition of failure and success. He describes seven types of failure that should be considered for a successful company.

Malcom Gladwell, “The Art of Failure,” The New Yorker, 2000

Human beings sometimes falter under pressure. Pilots crash and divers drown. Under the glare of competition, basketball players cannot find the basket and golfers cannot find the pin. When that happens, we say variously that people have “panicked” or, to use the sports colloquialism, “choked.” But what do those words mean?

Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes,  “The Failure Tolerant Leader,” Harvard Business Review, August 2002

“The fastest way to succeed,” IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., once said, “is to double your failure rate.” In recent years, more and more executives have embraced this point of view, coming to understand what innovators have always known: that failure is a prerequisite to invention. A business can’t develop a breakthrough product or process if it’s not willing to encourage risk taking and learn from subsequent mistakes.

Optional Reading

Jim Collins, “How the Mighty Fall: and Why Some Companies Never Give In, 2009

Decline can be avoided. Decline can be detected. Decline can be reversed. Amidst the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, Jim Collins began to wonder: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can a company fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakable? How can companies reverse course?

In How the Mighty Fall, Collins confronts these questions, offering leaders the well-founded hope that they can learn how to stave off decline and, if they find themselves falling, reverse their course. Collins’ research project–more than four years in duration–uncovered five step-wise stages of decline:

Elke U. Weber and Christpher K. Hsee, “Models and mosaics: Investigating Cross-cultural Differences In Risk Perception and Risk Preference,” Psychonomic Society, 1999

In this article, the authors describe a multisutdu project designed to explain observed cross-national differences in risk taking between respondents from the People’s Republic of China and the United States.

Jack V. Matson, “ Innovate or Die: A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation,” Paradigm Press Ltd, 1996

Jack Matson’s perspective on failure, creativity and innovation comes alive in this book. Using true-to-life examples, personal cases, and experiences of innovators excelling in the art of innovation on an organizational, civic or personal level, Matson’s lightly crafted book provides the tools for escaping the stone ages.