Book Giveaways

The Self-Made Billionaire Effect by John Sviokla & Mitch Cohen

January 01, 2015


John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen have a new secret for instilling innovation in existing companies—their employees.

When John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen set out to research the business literature on entrepreneurial success and self-made billionaires, they found that no such systematic research had ever been done. And so they did it. The Self-Made Billionaire Effect is the result.

Although it may look like a book solely for entrepreneurs at the outset, it's primary audience is actually those who lead and manage existing companies. The reason for this is one of the foundational questions the book poses:

Imagine what Atari might have achieved in the early 1980s if Steve Jobs had worked inside to develop the first mass-market personal computer? What might Steve Case done for PepsiCo if he had decided to stay rather than join the gaming start-up that would eventually become AOL? ... What if Salomon Brothers had kept Michael Bloomberg, or Bear Sterns had exploited the inventive ideas of Stephen Ross?

[... W]hat might their former employers have become if these exceptional value creators had decided to pursue and produce their ideas inside the organizations? Put in a different way, why aren't existing corporations able to create massive value the way these self-made billionaires have?

That question is a common one in business literature, but the search for an answer is usually focused on updated innovation systems and structure. This is the first book that focuses so succinctly on the most important pieces of every organization—innovative people, and their untapped potential. So the authors began to study what has made a group of people that have single-handedly created the most value "at an explosive pace and scale" in recent history—self-made billionaires—so successful. They took the 2012 Forbes list of the world's billionaires, eliminated those that inherited their wealth or made their fortune in non-transparent markets, and then went out to conduct interviews and collect data on a sample of the rest. The findings were often counter-intuitive, or at least counter to the popular narrative. These were not all young tech geeks getting lucky in burgeoning industries or finding ways to exploit existing ones. They were almost never overnight successes, as most had paid their dues extensively in existing companies or multiple, less successful start-ups of their own before hitting on the right combination. And while the authors expected to find a set of external factors these individuals were able to orchestrate, the "right combination" was almost always an internal one:

As we probed deeper, it became clear that the connection lay not in external circumstances but in what we have come to define as internal "habits of the mind." Self-made billionaires are able to integrate ideas and actions that most individuals and organizations keep separate or even hold in direct tension to one another. We refer to this coexistence of forces as a duality. Self-made billionaires effectively operate in a world of dualities—they seamlessly hold on to multiple ideas, multiple perspectives, and multiple scales.

What the book intends to do is show you "How to shift the balance of talent in your organization" to make it more entrepreneurial, engaged, and effective at identifying new opportunities rather than simply executing old strategies. It will show you how to distinguish between Producers and Performers. Performers, those that can excel within their existing systems and structure, are what most companies seek, and most books on how to imbed innovation into an existing company will try to teach you how to build new systems and structures to put your employees in. The Self-Made Billionaire Effect flips the script and shows you how to hold onto and nurture Producers so that they create entirely new systems and structures for you, leading to entirely new revenue streams. After all, if they're not allowed and encouraged to do it within the companies they work for, they will strike out and do it on their own.

If you're a practicing or aspiring entrepreneur, this book is obviously for you, too. Its covers are practically overflowing with practical advice and exciting examples of extraordinary entrepreneurial success (say that 10 times fast). But the authors both hail from the upper echelons of PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), so the have that corporate pedigree, experience and the resources that come with it behind them, and they used those things to their full advantage to give us a new approach to instilling an innovative spirit in existing companies. That makes their book an unusual yet ultimately successfully executed crossover from entrepreneurship into the existing corporate realm that PwC plays in, and that makes it unique in my mind.

We have 20 copies to give away.

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