Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why You Should Buy Guy Kawasaki's Latest Book

In late 1993 or early 1994 I saw a PrintShop created flyer on a library bulletin board announcing that Guy Kawasaki was coming to a local senior citizen center in Torrance, California. I had seen Kawasaki speak at a couple of conferences and have given away countless copies of his groundbreaking book, Selling the Dream. What the hell could one the world's best business evangelists be doing on a Tuesday night in Torrance?

I had to go and find out.

Guy arrived to speak to the local Macintosh User Group in a dingy multipurpose room. Although he had led marketing for the Macintosh launch at Apple Computer, Kawasaki, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were out in the wilderness during those years.

I remember Guy starting his presentation by saying, "I'm here to demonstrate a new program called Claris Em@iler. I know that you're an intelligent audience so I intend to demonstrate each and every feature of the software." Kawasaki was so damned entertaining that nobody seemed to mind missing an episode of Chicago Hope.

At the end of his killer demo, Kawasaki said, "Claris Em@iler will ship in about six months and cost around $100. I will sell it to you tonight for $20 (or $40 - I can't remember). I need to leave for LAX in 8 minutes at which point the sale offer ends forever. I take checks and cash."

You had to duck to avoid injury from the tsunami of money flying towards him. I worked as a consultant and author for Claris at the time and knew I could get a copy of the software for free, but that didn't make me immune to his salesmanship and I too surrendered the cash. I have never seen a more effective display of sales and marketing.

I used Claris Em@iler everyday for eight or ten years.

When I taught grant writing, Kawasaki's Selling the Dream was an invaluable text. I've enjoyed many of his other books as well.

Tonight, I went to the local bookstore to shop for holiday and birthday presents and found Guy Kawasaki's brand new book, Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. The book is fantastic - like a witty how-to manual for life.

I was going to give the book to my spousal equivalent as a birthday present, but it's far too practical, like a gift of socks or can-opener. No one wants a practical gift for their birthday!

Before one of my handful of loyal readers accuses me of hypocrisy, allow me to explain myself. Sure, I have been an outspoken critic of school leaders seeking wisdom from schlocky pop business tomes. Guy Kawasaki's work is fundamentally different from books by Thomas Friedman or Daniel Pink.

I wrote
What business gurus like Don Tapscott, Daniel Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins have in common is that none of them actually ever ran a business prior to hitting the bestseller list offering business advice to others. Most of them have never been the night manager of a Seven-Eleven let alone launched or managed an innovative business venture.

They are fancy talkers.

That is their skill. Several are evangelicals. Faith or pseudoscience, along with a dose of prosperity theology, is used to advance their arguments.

Their audience is adults who dream of being rich or increase their personal productivity. Neither goal is analogous to the education of children.

Kawasaki does not write about that which he does not know and cannot do. He has launched startups, blogged, given speeches, created web sites, written books and successfully marketed products. Perhaps his most successful product is Guy Kawasaki. His books are full of common sense advice, inspirational stories and practical strategies and tactics for realizing one's potential. Kawasaki is self-deprecating, hilarious and a good guy.

He doesn't resort to junk science or fear to get our attention.

Although the book includes strategies for inventing a product, marketing, evangelism, securing financing, getting a job in Silicon Valley, hiring and firing, it also offers practical lessons in blogging, public relations, public speaking, effective panel discussions, making compelling presentations, email etiquette and much more.

Guy Kawasaki's books are not get-rich-quick schemes. They inspire us achieve our dreams and be our best. That's why the new book is perfect for CEOs, school administrators, classroom teachers and community organizers. I'll also be buying a copy for an ambitious 17 year-old friend of mine and using it as a course text in the near future.

Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. is like an anthology of Kawasaki's greatest hits. It's a quick read that you will want to consult for years to come.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Believe?

My latest magazine column for District Administration Magazine is now online.

Who Ya Gonna Believe?
The ongoing battle between facts and mythology.
Other professions have a term for when you put your personal belief ahead of facts-malpractice.

Read the entire article here.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

My New Article About Technology Policy is Online

My new article suggesting a novel New Year's resolution guaranteed to resolve 99.7% of all school conflicts, Beyoncé Feels Your Pain, is available here.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Double Half-Caf Venti Low-Fat Mochaccino Left Behind

Originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of District Administration Magazine...

A challenge for school leaders
By Gary Stager

There's some serious thought behind the Frappuccino. It is no accident that people are willing to pay over four bucks for a cup of joe and that the average Starbucks customer visits eighteen times per month. Ever see a Starbucks go out of business? Of course not. Starbucks has grown from 1,000 to 13,000 stores in a decade, with 27,000 more planned for the next five years.

Starbucks is an unqualified success. Right? Not so, according to a corporate memo sent by founder and CEO Howard Schultz on February 14:

Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have led to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.

Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces. For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines ... blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista.

Schultz also complained about the stores feeling "sterile and cookie cutter" like, losing "the warm feel of the neighborhood." Starbucks' merchandise is "more art than science," he said. The menu addition of hot breakfast sandwiches has allowed cheese to burn in the oven and overpower the essential aroma of fresh coffee.

Such attention to detail is the reason customers love Starbucks. Schultz based the company on a desire to combine gourmet coffee with Italian café culture. Starbucks stores are your "third place." There's home, work and Starbucks. It's the American pub. Their products are carefully designed to tell a story about lifestyle or the exotic lands where your drink originated. Their motto is that "geography is a flavor."

This scenario has everything to do with the state of public education. The change in course Schultz advocates acknowledges that the attempts by Starbucks to homogenize, or in school parlance, "teacher-proof," their processes for short-term gains may have destructive long-term consequences. Is our quest for multiple-choice miracles and reduction of children into aggregated data destroying the educational experience? If so, what will you say in the memo to your "partners"? What is your school's story?

Since 2004, 25,000 "partners" have graduated from an optional Coffee Master course in which they learn to discern the subtleties of regional flavor with rituals similar to wine tasting. Distinctive aprons and business cards honor their learned expertise. How many teachers in your district have business cards?

Schultz stated boldly that Starbucks' "problems are self-induced" and that success is "not an entitlement." He concluded, "I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it's time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience."

Will you have the courage to lead a change in course, or will the stench of burnt cheese waft through your corridors?

Dr. Gary S. Stager,, is senior editor of District Administration Magazine and editor of The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Shaq's Big Challenge

The gentle giant is schooled on schooling.

One-on-one, Shaq is no match for the lunch lady!

Read my current column for District Administration Magazine here.

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