Leading the Revolution

Written by Gary Hamel. Published by Harvard Business School Press

If you are a manager of any kind, there is something exciting you can take away from Gary Hamel's books to improve your work. As a management expert whose ideas on strategy have been guiding businesspeople for decades, Hamel's ideas for overturning traditional theories of management offer all business leaders practical food for thought on innovation, customers, leadership, finance, marketing, and most other areas of business. Fortune magazine calls him "the world's leading expert on business strategy." The Economist labeled him "the world's reigning strategy guru." Personally, I just really like the way he writes business books.

What sets his work apart from that of other management gurus is his complete embrace of the concept of innovation. In Leading the Revolution, Hamel describes a well-researched plan for leading organizations in a time when innovation has become the lifeblood of all businesses. To stay ahead of the game, companies need to do more than innovate, Hamel explains: They need to create radical innovations. While exploring revolutionary new business ideas of the past, and showing the underlying importance of embracing activists and guiding deep changes, Hamel shows how any company can make innovation an "enduring capability" by taking steps to harness the limitless imagination of its people.

In Leading the Revolution, Hamel proclaims that we are now on the threshold of "the age of revolution" in which companies either evolve quickly or go extinct. He explains that, today, imagination is more important than ever for keeping a company competitive. For Hamel, dreams are "doorways to new realities." Product line extensions and IT-enabled business processes are no longer enough. Hamel writes that incumbent companies need to do more than simply follow well-worn paths because old business models are quickly becoming obsolete.

Hamel warns all companies that the only way for them to compete in this age of revolution is to embrace the powerful force of business concept innovation. This, he writes, "is the capacity to re-conceive existing business models in ways that create new value for customers, rude surprises for competitors, and new wealth for investors." Hamel's name is on the top of many lists of great management thinkers because he is able to translate vast new concepts like this into such straightforward advice.

Another aspect of Leading the Revolution that makes it so compelling is its user-friendly design. The book is beautiful. Unlike most of the world's business books, Leading the Revolution is a colorful cavalcade of bright ideas and eye-popping imagery. To highlight each of his insights about the current business revolution that is taking place around the globe, he fills his pages with evocative photos, charts, illustrations, and designs. Each page beckons to be read. And each idea that jumps off the page challenges the reader with new insights to ponder and put into action.

For example, the simple phrase, "Familiarity is the enemy," crammed sideways in orange print on the edge of a page demands contemplation. A simple message like this draws readers into the deeper, philosophical questions that Hamel uses to make his valuable points, such as: "What are the industry dogmas my company has knowingly chosen to violate?" By showing business leaders how to act as heretics by breaking the "shackles of tradition" in their industries, he offers guidance to the rewards of his revolutionary approach to strategy and business.

Thanks to its stunning look, thousands of business examples, and innumerable smart principles, Leading the Revolution continues to influence business leaders everywhere. If you ever wonder how you're going to break out of your own familiar habits and move into the age of revolution, Hamel's book holds the encouragement and action plan that can help you make change a reality.

Reviewed by Chris Lauer, senior editor, SEBS.