Business Brilliant: A book review by Bob Morris

Business BrilliantBusiness Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons
Lewis Schiff
HarperBusiness (2013)

Seven counterintuitive principles that can help you to achieve great success, however you define it

According to Lewis Schiff, this book tells “the story of how wealth is created now. It showcases the greatest success stories of our time because that’s the way good stories are told.” The seven principles for wealth creation identified in this book “are not just about getting rich, although for some readers that’s exactly what will happen. They are about realigning our career development practices with the world we live in today.” He wrote this book for “the millions of educated and intellectually curious people who have made a good living playing by the rules that might not work for them anymore.” This is what Marshall Goldsmith had in mind when suggesting that “what got you here won’t get you there” to which I presume to add, “What got you here won’t even let you remain here,” wherever and whatever “here” may be.

Schiff introduces the Brilliant Business System, one that is characterized by a “synergy” of its various parts. As he explains, “In truth, synergy describes the way complex systems and processes – such as a football play or the way a poison gas combines with an explosive metal to produce extraordinary table salt – can produce outcomes that are unexpected and unrecognizable from their component parts. In a synergistic system, a set of simple and mundane individual factors can interact and affect each other in improbable ways, creating results that can seem breathtaking and – to the uninformed – mysterious in origin.”

Rather than list the aforementioned seven principles in this brief commentary, I think they are best revealed within Schiff’s lively and eloquent as well as informative narrative, in context. However, I do acknowledge that opinions are divided – sometimes sharply divided – as to whether or not persons of average intelligence and ability can understand those principles, much less apply them effectively. You can form your opinion about that after you read the book.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Schiff’s coverage:

o The Billionaire Busker (Pages 23-26)
o The Peterman Principle (40-43)
o The Wonder Bread Way to Wealth (47-51)
o The Wages of Fear (59-62)
o The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates (65-73)
o The Blinding Flash of Genius (87-91)
o “The Ogre of Omaha”(95-100)
o The Least-Interest Principle (117-122)
o The Reciprocity Trap (129-137)
o The Disability Advantage (141-148)
o The Valentine’s Day Massacre (165-168)
o The Truth About Failure (176-183)
o Chapter 9: Mastering the Mundane (191-218)

In the last chapter, the ninth, Schiff introduces and explains 17 “Essentials,” providing with each “The Technique” to apply it effectively. This chapter – all by itself – is worth far more than the cost of the book. Better yet, the total value of the “Essentials” material is compounded within the context, the frame-of-reference of material in the eight chapters that precedes it. I strongly recommend that Chapter 9 be re-read at least once or twice every month or at least every quarter.

There is no Epilogue or “final thoughts” section to conclude this book. However, I have selected a key passage from the first chapter to conclude this review. Most important, Lewis Schiff affirms, “the seven Business Principles in the coming chapters will help you learn about yourself. You’ll see why it’s just as important to follow the money as it is to follow the passion” and, better yet, they are NOT mutually exclusive. Indeed, more often than not, as “the greatest success stories of our time” clearly indicate, they are interdependent. “In fact, the book you are holding is the product of all seven of the Business Brilliant principles it explores.”

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