Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Are You Being Fooled By Random Purple Cows?

purple cow I don't know how well Seth Godin takes to criticism. He is a marketing guru, but I think he has fallen into the same trap in Purple Cow as many other management authors: the desire to explain random outcomes as non-random. This is a classic case of survivorship bias (learning from the winners without taking into account the losers who might have done similar stuffs but failed.)

The need to do something remarkable to capture market is a given. In order to dislodge an existing market leader an upstart has to come with something that grabs attention. But what works may not be just a remarkable product or service well marketed. Sometimes success is achieved by being at the right place at the right time. And how does one do that: by trying and trying and trying and hoping for the best.

To be fair to Godin, I am sure he understands this very well. Sample this from his book:

So is there a foolproof way to create a Purple Cow every time? ... Of course not. There is no plan. Looking into our rear-view mirror, we can always say, "Of course that worked." ... When we take off the rear-view mirror, though, creating a Purple Cow suddenly gets a lot more difficult.

Unfortunately, I find the approach too uni-dimensional.

What could have been done to make The Purple Cow more rounded? I wish there were as many case studies of failures as there are of success. An analysis of what did not work - in spite of putting out a fantastic product - may be as important, if not more so, as analysing what went right.

This is my first book by Seth Godin. I am right now following him his blog by e-mail. I will perhaps understand his point of view better. Meanwhile, I will continue analysing The Purple Cow and all other management books I read through the lens of Fooled By Randomness.

Photo courtesy: Natalija Stanivuk

Update as on 01-Apr-2009

Purple Cow continued to haunt me. So I re-read the complete book again (one of the advantages of buying books). I think I will retain my initial impression in this post. It still stands.
Would I recommend this book to others?
I think I will.
It has many positive points that will grab you and force you to think differently.
For a review of the book click on the icon below
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Does this change of heart has anything to do with Seth Godin responding positively to my book review? Not really.
Remember I wrote the review before Godin responded! In the process I discovered that he is a good man. See my post here.

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