Summary of Better and Faster by Jeremy Gutsche

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Better and Faster by Jeremy Gutsche

When it comes to finding business opportunities and developing successful business ideas, you can’t afford to be complacent. You have to actively put in the hard work to seek them out and develop them before somebody else does. It’s how things work in the business world. However, many people fail to realize this. Why? Well, it’s known as farmer mentality. No disrespect to farmers, but it’s a reference to the historical switch between the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to that of agriculture. It was this first step towards a life of comfort and predictability and away from risk and movement. 

It’s this same love of comfort and familiarity which hinder people from taking risks when it comes to business. The fear of change holds them back. Unfortunately, this is also what leads to their ultimate demise. In order to succeed, you have to be a hunter – unafraid of risks and quick to act when you see an opportunity. This is exactly what this book summary will teach you how to do.

In this book summary readers will discover more about:

  • Farmer traps to avoid
  • Cultivating your hunter instincts
  • The six patterns of opportunity
  • Identifying your hunting ground

Key lesson one: Farmer traps to avoid

Being in business means having a certain blend of characteristics in order to succeed. As much as everyone can have the determination and the knowledge needed to run a business, failure will still occur. In particular, those in fast-changing industries tend to fall into three major ‘Farmer traps’. These are complacency, repetition and overprotectiveness.

Complacency comes when people in business decide to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour. This smugness can lead to complete failure. Take Simtch Corona for example. The typewriter manufacturer pulled out of a deal with Acer in 1990 because they felt they were strong and did not need to make any changes to adapt to a changing marketplace. Their complacency led to them filing for bankruptcy shortly after because of the emerging computer sector.

Repetition is a trap that is common. Most companies keep repeating the same process which brought them success in the past and expects the same results in the present. Blockbuster Video did exactly this. They failed to adapt and chose to repeat their use of physical media and franchising to generate profits in spite of the developing streaming market. This led to their downfall.

Overprotectiveness is is the most famous farmer trap. Companies inhibit their evolution by strongly protecting their tradition and product. The most famous example of this comes from Kodak. They refused to branch out into the digital film market and chose to protect their highly regarded analog film brand. They were the market leaders and yet their inhibition to change led to their bankruptcy. 

These three farmer traps all exhibit one common thread: the failure to adapt to a changing market. You have to keep up with your environment, a hunter adapts and that is exactly what you need to do to survive.

Key lesson two: Cultivating your hunter instincts

For every farmer trap, there exists a hunter instinct that you can use to avoid them

Firstly, in order to avoid complacency, you have to be insatiable. This will lead you to continuously be on the lookout for the next big opportunity. An example of a company that exhibits this instinct is Capital One Bank. After the financial crisis in 2008, instead of sitting back and holding on tight, they put their resources into innovation and experimentation. They ended up with a billion-dollar portfolio of low-risk assets whilst their competitors crumbled. Like them, you should never settle. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve and adapt.

Secondly, to avoid repetitiveness, you have to be curious. You need to actively seek out new sources of inspirations and discover new trends. This is when innovation occurs. You make connections that others have missed because they lacked the curiosity to take a closer look. 

Lastly, instead of being overprotective, you need to have a willingness to destroy. This does seem a bit dramatic, but it just means that you need to be able to step away from your comfort zone and start from scratch to embrace new possibilities. It’s like how three-Michelin star chef Eric Ripert has the habit of throwing out old menus and starting a new one from scratch. This practice has led to his decades of success.

Cultivating these hunter instincts will keep you ahead of your competitors with opportunities they didn’t even know to look for.

Key lesson three: The six patterns of opportunity

In order to find new business ideas, you have to be familiar with the six patterns of opportunity. These are convergence, divergence, cyclicality, redirection, reduction and acceleration. 

Convergence refers to creating opportunity through the integration of different trends. This allows you to take advantage of market chaos and find the perfect blend of services and products. A great example of convergence comes from the iPhone fitness and running app called  “Zombies, Run!”. It combines the fitness market, GPS technology and the popular zombie trend. They are three distinct services combined to form a trendy and popular product.

Divergence, on the other hand, seeks to diverge a product or service from the mainstream. It does this by highlighting the competitive advantage the product may have in terms of standing out from the crowd. The product could seem luxurious or rebellious compared to the alternatives. As you can imagine, divergence is reliant on marketing. The way you market your product will be your greatest asset. This is what Red Bull did. Their branding and unique advertising made their product seem exciting and appealing even though it was not the best tasting product on the market. 

Cyclicality refers to looking at the past to anticipate what will happen next. This historical approach is an excellent means of carving out opportunities. The four main types can be defined as retro, economic, seasonal and generational. Companies in the automotive industry, fashion industry and even the alcohol and food industries have all used cyclicality and taken advantage of nostalgia time and time again. Even Instagram plays on nostalgia with the inclusion of a vintage filter! 

Redirection is essentially the art of ‘spin’. With redirection, you will be able to create an attractive positive from something negative. You take control of the narrative in this way and refocus attention where you want it to be. Take Volvo for example. Their cars are always criticized for their unpopular design. So what did they do? They launched a marketing campaign with the slogan, ‘They’re boxy but they’re good,’ and purposely drew attention to the car’s safety features. This campaign led to an increase in sales and was effective in neutralizing the negative comments about the car design.

Reduction refers to using an extremely simple product or service to target a niche audience. This results in removing all the bells and whistles and getting straight to the point. In doing so, you can carve out success in a small market. A great example of reduction came from GoPro. Their little, two-button camera filled a niche with athletic and adventurous people making them wildly popular – and successful. 

Acceleration entails identifying a specific feature of a product that can be enhanced thereby making it better. It’s a way to differentiate you from the competition whilst also appealing to customers. This was exhibited by Dyson when it set out to refine the vacuum cleaner. Dyson successfully created the most powerful vacuum at the time. It was no easy feat, taking 5127 prototypes to get it right but in the end, they produced the most powerful and efficient product available.

These six patterns of opportunity will allow you to develop new products and business models which will give you an edge over your competition if utilised correctly. 

Key lesson four: Identifying your hunting ground

Being a hunter not only entails adapting to your environment, but you also have to establish a hunting ground when you see multiple opportunities. This cluster of opportunity usually has similar approaches which make using the six patterns of opportunity ideal. Using the patterns you can easily reframe these ideas and make each one unique. 

You have to be clever about how you identify opportunities in your hunting ground. Sometimes they will be clustered together and at other times you will have to use your creativity to bring them together. This is how designer Karl Lagerfeld combined a pop-up fashion store with an art gallery.

To truly utilise your hunting ground you have to keep up to date with market research, trends and your competitors. This is exactly what fashion retailers aim to do. In order to provide customers with more choice, they have not only sped up their production process but also offer thousands of items at any given moment both in their stores and online. The next trends in fashion depend heavily on the convergence of technology and fashion design. The hunters who figure out how to make this work the fastest will be the successful companies of the future.

The key takeaway from Better and Faster is: 

If you want a successful business, you have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to shift your mindset from that of a farmer to that of a hunter. Rapid change may create new problems, but it also creates new opportunities. You don’t necessarily have to produce a brand new product or service, you just have to know how to cater to a niche market. You have to hunt down the next good business idea before your competitors. Avoid the farmer traps by using your hunter instincts. This will ensure that you can identify your opportunities and move forward by using the six patterns of opportunity. There is so much you can accomplish if you just are brave enough to go on the hunt.

How can Implement the lessons learned in Better and Faster:

Don’t be complacent. Identify your next opportunity and use the six patterns of opportunity to figure out how you can best implement your product or service. Implement your hunter instincts daily and always seek to improve your business. Failing to adapt at the right time will leave you and your business behind your competitors. So ensure that you stay ahead of the pack and hunt opportunities, not scraps.

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