begrudging biz books

January 27, 2009 ·

i've been on a bit of a business book binge (also thought leadership books, but that would ruin the alliteration) for the last little bit and one thing has become abundantly clear - they all drown themselves in case studies. so much so, i was able to power through the books at speed because i was just glossing over the painful articulation of one microcosm of an example.

i get why a case study can be good, i do. it's a real world example of one's premise or idea in action. it's there to lend credibility to what is being put forth. this is more about fewer case studies than getting rid of them altogether. then again, i wouldn't be mourning their altogether elimination.

you see, someone else's success story (or failure for that matter) is their own. each case study is comprised of a completely unique set of circumstances and personalities. there is only so much of that which lends itself to any of the reader's situation. it's great to hear about people applying the ideas postulated but copying it does not a success make. there's nothing to say that a similar application of the idea has bearing on any other situation. so where exactly is the value?

some will point to credibility. that the idea has needs to prove itself, right or wrong, to have validity. i don't totally buy that. the reason being because the idea gains its credibility by way of the author.

the book exists because of a singular, powerful, unique thought from a leader in the field who has a vision to share. they are being published because they are respected, their opinion carries weight and their notion is truly original, innovative or inspiring. shouldn't that be enough? are they so insecure with their premise that they need to find examples up the wazoo to verify it is correct or exists at all? is it publisher imposed? does the audience really clamor for them that much? is that their own insecurity in adopting an idea that they can't tread where others haven't forged a path already?

i say, if the idea is powerful, then put it out there and the world will decide. it seems ingenuine that someone will do something not because they believe what they are reading, but because someone else has done it. if it's right, or makes sense, or is logical then it should be pursued. right isn't someone else's version of right. making sense isn't how someone else made sense of the idea and brought it to life. and well, not everyone follows the same logic.

all said, the books are theories. they convey an abstract idea that isn't proved in any one way. the practical side of the equation is too unique for each acting upon it. as a marketer of beer, my reading a case study about a shoe marketer has little application to me. i'm glad they did well, but how they did it was of no value to me because i live in a different universe. (i'm not sure if that last part was a case study to prove my point thus making me a hypocrite. it's too meta to think about)

so authors, focus on writing your ideas and sharing them, not on showing they can be right. unless you get paid by the word, then i vote for putting the idea out there and saving some time (and precious trees) for people to actually take that idea and run with it.


jcmbdn said...
February 3, 2009 at 2:49 PM  

i agree 100%, if a book does not have a really good preface, it's not worth reading. BMX Rules!!



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