[Book Review+Recap] Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessong from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

I recently decided to do a summer book review series where I will review one book I read every week and explain what I liked and learned through that say literature work. I will make sure to only recommed books that are worth reading or where you will find interesting new information that will make the reader more educated by the end. Kicking it off is the beautiful book “Strategy Rules Five Timless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs” by David B. Yoffie and Michael A.Cusumano.


With three big names in the title, you alraedy know that this book will not turn around the subject, but instead dive right into the five rules a good entrepreneur and strategist should have. The authors both worked at M.I.T and Harvard University for the last thirty years in the field of business strategy. They know what they are talking about and divided the books accordingly in five straight-forward chapters.

There is this preconceived idea that IT people have no idea how to run a company. In their imagination, the software developper (or any other scientific or engineering profession) only knows to code code code! They do not know how to make a successful idea into a profitable product and are desesperately needing the help of the handsome MBA graduate. Well, this books destroys all these ideas. Some of these rules/strategy are amazingly accurate and can defintely not be thought by your average management guy. These rules need the experience of people actually working in the technology world.

Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, Andy Grove of Interl and Steve Jobs of Apple. All three of them are famous to have droven their companies with an innovative and never seen before leadership, a way of doing unique to software company CEOs. Pionneers at the time when internet started blowing up and when the .com era was still blooming exponentially, these super stars have so much to teach the wannabe strategists of this world!

The Strategy Rules

  1. Look Forward, Reason Back
    1. “Those who don’t know history are destinated to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke
    2. “Visionary thought demands learning from the past while staying free of its limitations.” -Einstein
    3. Focus should be on anticipating and having a goal on what the future should hold, and then reason back on the steps to get there.
    4. Don’t be afraid to predict the future because everyone is bound to make mistakes. None of our three CEOs predicted the market perfectly and may have made a fool of themselves from time to time. But being able to forecast and CHANGE that forecast fast depending on the real world variables is a true strength that can make a leader a better leader.
    5. They need to move fast ahead of the competitors and not reveal their intentions.
    6. Build the path to success (make the customer enter) and walls to lock in the customers.
    7. Take advantage of opportunities as they emerge.
    8. To become a good strategist, you not only need to predict a possible future, but also predict the steps to go from the start to the optimal point in the future.
    9. Focus on both the competitors’ moves and the customer/market’s needs.
    10. When setting your steps, have your boundaries/limitations ready as well as the priorities straight.
  2. Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company
    1. To move forward, you need to make big bets, but you also need to not put all your efforts at risk of collapse. It can be waiting for time, having other back-up products or invest slowly in capital investment before the big move.
    2. Cut the losing elements of the company.
    3. Be ready to use the ressources of your own company.
    4. Don’t be afraid of new technologies, of betting to owning the full market leadership, changing industry structure: be ready to advance and do things your way. The world is changing fast and using the conventional way often leads to a lose.
  3. Build Platforms and Ecosystems- Not Just Products
    1. Ecosystem>Platforms>Products
    2. Create your component, what is urgent to the need of the customer.
    3. Be ready to evolve and invent, innovate to always create something better that fits the need of the market.
    4. Go for the mass market.
    5. Expend platform capabilities.
  4. Exploit Leverage and Power-Play Judo and Sumo
    1. Stay under the radar (media, marketing, etc).
    2. Keep your enemies close.
      1. “All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feigh incapacity; when active, feign inactivity” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
      2. Don’t let your product plan be revealed to the competitor
    3. Hide your intentions away from the competitors. It is ok to mislead them into a complete different direction, even if it means making yourself sound like a fool.
    4. Do not be afraid of the competitors, work together.
    5. Embrace and extend competitors’ strengths –> working together to create better products. Unlike other markets, the technology field is limitless. And if it does have a limit, we are far from finding it.
    6. Don’t be afraid to put your point of view out there to be shared with others. Even if wrong. Mark your presence.
    7. Minimize the openness of attacks.
    8. Respect the rules.
  5. Shape the Organization around Your Personal Anchor
    1. Execution of the strategy
    2. Know your company, its goals, its vision, its story, its values.
    3. Pay attention to detail selectively.
    4. Passion is key
    5. Have discipline and a company culture.
    6. Design. Everyone has eyes and want appealing products. GUI.
    7. Test the logic and follow up.
    8. Give directions from the top, don’t lose track of your role and the big picture.
    9. Dedicate time for learning and thinking. Don’t only go with the flow.
    10. Give power to people with the knowledge, not only the ones who seems to know how to do it. Create an organization of multiple partners with strength.
    11. Have a wide net for information.

That’s it! I honestly recommend you to read the book for yourself because outlining the rules clearly is one thing, but reading about how these amazing minds put them in practice is another. The book is beautifully written and they really go in depths about how the strategy worked in the special cases of these three men. Not everyone is similar and hence, it is useless to try to imitate them. But all in all, this book inspired me to do more, to follow their lead and think outside the box.


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