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My perspective on popular books

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Taking a page from the book: More of click-bait than a useful business book.

This book, written by London Business School entrepreneurship professor, Dr. John Mullins, tells you that to be successful at a startup or corporate innovation you have to break the established rules used by corporations and taught at MBA schools. The prof's rules derived from the established rules to be broken are 

  1. Yes we can

  2. The problem first not product first logic

  3. Think narrow not broad

  4. Ask for the cash, ride the float

  5. Beg, borrow, but do not steal

  6. Instead of asking for permission, ask for forgiveness later

There is nothing wrong with these rules except that there are better, more practical ones for startups discovered by Dr. Sara Saraswthy of UVA Darden School of Business, and they won't work in a corporation.  


Prof. Mullins confuses running a successful corporation with startup innovation. The confusions arise from the misconception that startups are simply mini corporates. As Steve Bank has pointed out, startups are organizations in search of a successful business model.

Corporations, having discovered their successful business model, are in executing mode. It would be a disaster for them to break the time-tested rules taught in MBA and used by established businesses. 

The book has a catchy title but one wonders if Prof Mullin's advice is synthesized from experience in either having started both successful and unsuccessful start-ups, working in a corporation, or having done extensive research with founders and corporate executives. It seems not. It is more like a string of interesting stories, each summarized by one catchy rule. The problem with such an approach has been extensively written about by Phil Rosenzsweig in the Halo Effect. In essence, give me a story and I can conjure a success rule, but the rule is usually useless outside the story it was conjured from.

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