Category Archives: Books

Learning to Love Constraints, the BrewDog Way


In my ongoing quest to learn from best, I’ve just read ‘Business For Punks’ by James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog, the poster child for the craft beer revolution that is sweeping the Globe.

It’s an incredible story and it’s a great read. Insightful, clear and written with the same punk attitude as the brand. I heartily recommend it – even if you don’t like beer.

Although they see themselves as true rebels, in many ways they’re deeply conventional. They do the fundamentals really well. They have a forensic attention to detail on cost and finances, – the punk accountants! – an unerring obsession with the quality of their product and a deep sensitivity towards the culture of the business and the role of every individual. All great stuff.

However, what really caught my attention was the fact that as a small business, up against wealthy megabrands, they truly embraced the constraints they operated under and saw them as a springboard for success.

‘When it comes twenty first century marketing, not having a budget is definitely not a problem. In fact, it is a massive advantage masquerading as a thinly veiled constraint’

This ultimately drove them to embark on such ground breaking initiatives as their ‘Equity For Punks’ crowdfunding scheme, which is now extending to the USA. They understood that their constraints were opportunities for innovation.

This is the philosophy that we preach at ‘A Beautiful Constraint’ where we see limitations as advantages and sources of inspiration. Our point of view is that it is by truly embracing your constraint you will be forced to challenge your underlying assumptions, break out of existing modes of thinking and develop new alternative solutions.

We live in constrained times. More limitations are likely to be imposed upon us. In the future, the winners will be those who are able to turn their constraints to their advantage


Why it’s good to be messy


Last year one of my favourite books was Maria Kondo’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying‘ It really did change my life. I threw out all the clothes that didn’t give me joy, cleared out all my old work files and visited Wandsworth tip on a regular basis. I recommended it to everyone I know.

However, this year the book I keep banging on about is Tim Harford’s ‘Messy. How to be Creative and Messy in a Tidy Minded World’. It’s the complete opposite of the Magic of Tidying, but is just as compelling and inspiring. This book argues the case for introducing disorder, chaos and randomness into our lives in order to make us more productive and creative. What I love about it is the variety of source material he draws upon – music collaboration, building design, aircraft safety – and it’s relaxed, anecdotal style. Plus for someone, who find’s it easy to be messy, it made me feel less guilty about the state of my office.


Learning to Love Constraints


I’m loving Adam Morgan’s latest book – ‘A Beautiful Constraint’. I’ve enjoyed all his books and this one’s a cracker. It feels like the right book at the time.

We’re living in times of constraint and austerity. Few businesses or economies are doing particularly well nowadays and we’re all being asked to do more with less.

What this book does is recognize and indeed embrace this reality, arguing that constraint is something we should see as a stimulus for inventiveness rather than something we should complain about.

It’s full of inspirational examples of where people have turned constraint into innovative solutions. There’s also lots of practical advice on both the mindset shift you need to undertake as well as tools and techniques you can use to embrace your constraint and thrive within it.

Highly recommended

Why Sharing is The Way Forward


I’ve just been reading a fascinating book – The Business of Sharing, by Alex Stephany.

The book explains and describes in detail a relatively new phenomenon – people building businesses that revolve around renting or selling what they own. It’s creating a whole new world of entrepreneurs as well as disrupting traditional businesses – and often causing controversy along the way.

The book focuses on some of the most famous and well established ‘sharing’ businesses, such as Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar. However, I particularly enjoyed the smaller examples which cover all kinds of sectors from ride sharing to crowd funding

A couple of my favourites are Borrowmydoggy, where people can the experience the pleasure of looking after a dog, without the commitment of full ownership. (Am thinking of joining!). I also liked the idea of TaskRabbit, where you can out-source tasks you don’t want to do – or indeed offer up your skills for the benefit of others.

For me, these are the businesses of the future: nimble, community based, problem solving and enabled by technology. All you need is a great idea!

Want to Connect Better With Your Audience?

With my job I’m on my feet a lot, facilitating workshops, presenting, teaching, trying to keep overworked marketing folks engaged and informed. Therefore, I’m always looking for new ways to connect and communicate more powerfully with my audience

I recently came across a book called ‘Resonate’ which has proved to be a real source of inspiration. It provides lots of, advice, frameworks and examples of how to connect with audiences. A lot of them are based on the basic principles of storytelling and screenwriting, with examples drawn from the movie industry and from famous speeches.

It’s a great book to dip into but you might wan to visit their website which is full of useful stuff. It’s certainly helped me.

Review of ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

Quiet Book Cover

I was inspired to read this book after I saw the author speak at a TED Talk a couple of years ago and over the Christmas period I finally got round to reading it. Essentially, the book bangs the drum for Introverts, making the case that in today’s world their qualities are under-valued and that society e.g. schools and workplaces are designed to encourage and applaud extrovert behaviour. I really enjoyed it and feel it’s definitely worth a read.

I think it’s helpful in a number of ways.

It makes you very self aware. Throughout the book, you’re asking yourself where you lie on the Introvert-Extrovert spectrum and it helps explain how and why you respond to situations you find yourself in. It also helps explain how your family and friends behave and encourages you to accommodate them and respond accordingly.

It helped me to think about how I will structure and facilitate workshops in the future. Typically there’s a strong emphasis on high energy and group discussions, whereas I think in the future I’ll spend a bit more time encouraging solo work and reflective time to ensure the introverts feel more comfortable and feel able to contribute more fully.

Probably the biggest insight in the book for me was the view that creativity works best during quiet, focused and reflective periods – which introverts love – rather than group-based, high energy ‘brainstorming’ sessions – the traditional ‘ideation workshop’ approach. This is why nowadays, I encourage idea generation to take place individually, in advance of workshops and I tend to use the workshop itself for spotting and sculpting ideas. It really works


My Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath’


I love reading Malcolm Gladwell’s books. They’re always really engaging and full of interesting anecdotes. 2 of my favourites are ‘Outliers’ – which contains the famous pearl of wisdom that it takes 10 000 hours of practice to become a genius and of course ‘The Tipping Point’ which helped kick start the whole discussion around viral marketing

His latest book – David and Goliath – plays to his strengths. There’s lots of great stories drawn from all corners of the world and through different periods of history, built around an overarching theme of how underdogs and misfits defy the odds in order to succeed

I like it because

  • The stories are uplifting. It’s great hearing stories of how people have fought through adversity to achieve success
  • They’re drawn from all aspects of life – sportsmen, teachers, doctors, lawyers and from all periods of history for example, the Blitz, the Civil Rights Movement and of course it’s all based on the original David and Goliath story

It’s not strictly speaking a marketing book. It’s scope is much broader than that. However, there’s lots the marketing community can learn from it:

  • the importance of perseverance in trying to achieve success
  • how it’s always possible to turn your perceived disadvantages into an advantage
  • how to not take your strengths for granted

And of course, he teaches us the importance of telling powerful stories