I was honored to receive an autographed copy of Alan's latest book, No Straight Lines - thank you Alan!. I kind of knew what it was about, as I have seen Alan talking about his 'No Straight Lines' themes and where he sees the future of business and digital convergence and 'communities dominate' etc going. I always learn very much from Alan whenever I see him speak - or read his writing - and obviously we share a lot of similar views about the future of tech, business, media etc. I also enjoyed Alan's previous book, Social Media Marketing. And I thought I knew what to expect out of No Straight Lines
I read it on the plane on the last two trips, just finished it. I want to give you my thoughts having just finished it. And where I thought it would be a kind of logical next step for Alan's writing - as he started with me with Communities Dominate Brands, looking at the role of social networking, and how it impacted (from Alan's point of view in our collaboration) his traditional background in advertising and media (whereas for me it obviously hit mobile and tech equally hard). That followed quite logically into Alan's next book Social Media Marketing he co-authored with Jouko Ahvenainen, Ajit Jaokar and Brian Jacobs. In that book Alan and his co-authors went kind of 'deeper' into the 'Communities Dominate' thinking, and focused on social media, marketing and advertising and the role of influencers, etc. A very logical step after our book. And I thought I knew what to expect out of No Straight Lines, thinking that as this was now Alan's own (not co-authored) book, it would be even more a hands-on 'how to' book for specifically his peers and background, ie advertising, marketing and media. It would have been well suited considering what Alan often talks about, especially where we are both together providing some consulting for a client of ours, or lecturing at the Oxford University course on 7th Mass Media etc.
And yes, indeed, No Straight Lines does touch on social media and media and marketing and advertising. To some degree. It has chapters like 'Gutenberg as a moblogger' and 'hacking the future.' Alan has plenty of material there such as one of my fave case studies right now, Girlswalker of Japan, the teen youth mobile fashion magazine and fan club. And if it had been just a book about the latest thinking of media meets tech meets social networks, I would have been very happy to read Alan's latest thoughts on that. Except that it was much more.
Reading No Straight Lines, I could hear Alan speaking in front of a seminar audience, or recall vividly him and me debating and editing the content into Communities Dominate Brands. And I forgot how much Alan had a true business focus to his thinking. A profit and sustainable business and financial focus to his purpose. You think I am obsessive about money and profits here on my blog stories, Alan thinks even more 'rationally' about realistic business solutions, not some silly unsustainable fantasy-economy concepts. That was the first thing that came vividly across the whole book - it is far more than a Social Media book, a Business Strategy book. Alan looks at such fantastic ideas as Local Motors and Grameenphone and GrowVC as well as the obvious stories like Skype and M-Pesa. I remember being particularly pleased when some reviewers said of Communities Dominate Brands, that it is a very good business strategy book, something Alan and I didn't really plan to write, but what did emerge. I would have been happy for it to be 'just' a tech book. Now reading No Straight Lines, I see the strategy thinking even more strongly in Alan's own words, and obviously written six years later. I think No Straight Lines is perhaps the best book in the world right now, to explain business strategy in a 'no straight lines' world of competition and cooperation, of digital and analog, of reality, the virtual world and yes augmented reality. I found myself regularly pausing my reading to jot down an idea or to pause to think - and I thought I knew well what is on Alan's mind today haha..
But to call No Straight Lines a business strategy book, is still not fair. Alan weaves another even more compelling thread into the book. It is a strategic management book, beyond just 'business' and 'profit'. He takes on social issues from government and politics to education and healthcare, consistently in the themes of the book. The text is far more wide-reaching than 'just' a business book. Alan's latest book is a comprehensive treatise of management and leadership and participation and creativity in a modern, digital, interconnected, networked world. It is an ironclad must-read for anyone in government, in education, in healthcare, in business, in technolology, in manufacturing, in media and yes, also in advertising. I most warmly recommend the book to anyone who reads this blog as it currently is, mostly with me writing about mobile and tech; as well as all those early readers of this blog, when we focused more on themes taken from the book Communities Dominate Brands, about social media, gaming, virtual worlds, digital convergence, marketing and advertising.
I know it takes a lot of energy to write a book alone, and I congratulate Alan my dear friend on a masterpiece. This is your finest work, Alan and I recommend anyone who is interested in business, management and society of the 21st century, to read No Straight Lines - at least twice!