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The business book you need to read this month: Play Bigger

As more start-ups dethrone established brands, entrepreneur Toby Hanington recommends reading this how-to guide to building 'a legendary company'

Name of business book: As recommended by: Toby Hanington, co-founder of leadership development programme The Baobab Network.

What is Play Bigger about?

Play Bigger changes the way people think about starting a business; focusing on creating demand where none has previously existed.

No longer is having a great product good enough – you need to become a “category king”. These are unique businesses that transform industries by inventing new categories, but then go on to control those categories.

They talk about companies that solve problems we didn’t even know we had. Think of Uber, just over three years ago, who would think they needed an immediate, on-demand taxi – I now can’t live without the thing!

The book is written by the founders of an immensely successful Silicon Valley consultancy firm, (coincidentally called Play Bigger!), who have studied legendary category-creating companies. The book takes you through these real life examples, starting with Birdseye frozen foods, and shows you how to create a new market.

Target audience?

The book is aimed at start-up founders as well as intrapreneurs (managers within companies who promote innovative product development), helping them think beyond simple product design to both company and category design.

What’s the best bit of Play Bigger?

The book is written by four authors, and I enjoyed the detailed chapters which had great summaries at the end as there are specific and plausible steps to take whilst looking to become a ‘category king.’

To begin with the book discusses how you would go about discovering a category and how to build this into a story which ‘captures the imagination’ of the consumer; referred to as the POV (point of view).

The authors then take us through several other business theories regarding rallying your company to progress into executing category design, and how to prepare the market to encompass the category through your “pirate invasion.”

Why should business owners read Play Bigger?

It's an easy and enjoyable read filled with a variety of stories, interviews, research, big data science and brain science to introduce this new discipline of category design.

I read this book as it was described to me as a game changer. In the same way that ‘Crossing the Chasm’ and ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ changed our thoughts on new product design and disrupting an aging market respectively, Play Bigger is showing us how to create the market itself.

3 top take-away points for start-ups:

  1. Conduct extensive research to discover a potential gap in the market and define this as your ‘category’. You must first identify a problem that people need to overcome, even if they are unaware of it. You should then look to create a product that will help to solve it in a practical and unforeseen way. Once created, the new category is formed and demand will follow.
  2. Develop a powerful line of sale or “point of view”. Promote your product as a revolutionary solution to an everyday problem and help the market move towards your line of thinking. Selling your product as a necessity will help you to dominate the market and limit the possibility of any competitors claiming the space.
  3. Make your company stand out. Grab your market’s attention with a large-scale product launch or “lightning strike”- utilise social media platforms, ads and promotional events to get the product into the market and attract your customers in a creative and attention grabbing manner.

Excerpts business owners can learn from?

‘The most exciting companies create.

“They give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, many times solving a problem we didn’t know we had – or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never though there was another way.

“Before Uber, we hailed a cab by standing perilously close to traffic with an arm in the air. After Uber, that just seemed dumb.’ […]

“The United Kingdom has historically birthed lots of legendary companies that dominated their markets. Richard Branson is one of those rare creators of multiple category kings; Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America are the kings of a category we might call ‘hip airlines'. Now Branson's trying to start a new category of space tourism with Virgin Galactic.

“Consider the Beatles: category kings of intelligent pop. David Beckham: category king of right-footed free kicks. James Watt: eighteenth category king of steam engines. We could go on.”

Book name: Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets
Authors: Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney
Date published: June 2016
RRP: £13.78 (paperback)
Synopsis: Created by the entrepreneurial quartet behind namesake Silicon Valley consultancy firm Play Bigger, this book acts as a how-to guide for entrepreneurs to create legendary companies by exploring why ‘category is the new strategy'. Using case studies of category creators such as Birdseye, Airbnb, Tesla and Netflix and their own consultancy company, Play Bigger looks at how you can build, define and own entirely new business categories by destablising old ones.

For other highly-recommended business books that can help you on your start-up journey, follow the links below: