Book Review - The Big Idea by Stephen Strauss

April 09, 2007
Ranjan Varma

The Big Idea by Stephen D Strauss is an amazing read. It profiles dozens of creators who have gone ahead with launching their own innovation like remote control, Viagra, Tupperware, Barbie dolls, etc.

One of the profiles was on Coca-Cola. Coke is the no.1 brand in the world. Back in 1985, after facing tremendous competition from Pepsi, Coke took a bold and considered decision. It changed the formulation of its 100 year old flagship product.

No, it wasn't a knee jerk reaction to competition from Pepsi or because Pepsi was winning all the taste tests. Coke carried out an elaborate $4 million research and after the R&D team brewed a new formula that beat Pepsi handsomely, the Coke management launched the new Coke. During the launch, the Coke president thundered, "It's the surest move ever made".

The new Coke bombed. And two months later, Coke was wise enough to reintroduce the old Coke.

What were the mistakes that Coke made? One, people liked the new coke but the interview process did not expose them to the fact that the old Coke would no longer be available.

Two, Coke estimated that only 10-12% Cola drinkers would be upset. But this 10-12% was sufficient to stir mass discontent!

Three, such a big brand has immense ownership. To the point that it is being owned by the public rather than the management! You can't tamper with their whims and fancies. It's similar to our Indian cricketers. They are owned by the people rather than themselves. Look what Sachin has to face despite being a legend like that.

We digress. The Coke story does not end here. No heads rolled despite the massive blunder by the top management. No, it's not the lack of accountability. In fact the blunder helped Coke to understand their customers better and reinforced their brand in a powerful manner. Also the fact that the top management took responsibility for the mistake and rectified it fast, within two months.

My takeaway? Always keep a lookout for improvement. You may take a bad decision. But if you accept your mistakes and make corrections, the blunder would make you stronger.

Back to some real gems from the book which teaches us to innovate- and grow richer.

  • Think of things that never were and ask, "Why Not?"
  • The power of One: You can make a difference.
  • Keep it Simple, Stupid. (KISS)
  • First is Best.
  • Try, Try again.
  • Risky business brings out the best in you. It is more exciting, crazy, fun, exasperating, rewarding, frightening and challenging.
  • Synergy is necessary. 1+1 = 11

The book ends with Goethe's couplet:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

A blogger with more than 16 years experience in Insurance, Housing Finance and Investment. You can also read more on Mutual Fund, Equities, ULIPs in my blog or get them in your mail box
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April 9, 2007
01:09 PM

Sounds like a fun book, must check it out.

April 15, 2007
10:19 AM

Sounds interesting.

Correct the link to this page from the main page. Theres an extra 'h' in the link.

April 15, 2007
10:35 AM

Done - thanks

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