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Welcome to the revolution Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

As chief evangelist for Apple Computer’s Macintosh division, Guy Kawasaki was present at the creation of an entirely new kind of computer. But a funny thing happened on the way to the first great computer revolution: They had it all wrong.

Apple was out to make a better business computer, one that would run spreadsheets, databases and word processing, according to Kawasaki. By accident, it created just the opposite: the quintessential machine for the creative crowd. Apple made a number of critical mistakes that kept its revolution from taking hold, most important, its failure to pursue long-term market share at the expense of short-term profits.

Drawing on experience, Kawasaki has become the self-appointed chief evangelist for all revolutionaries. He has written a book, “Rules for Revolutionaries,” and formed Garage.com, an Internet-based venture capital organization that raises seed money for emerging, technology-based businesses.

Those efforts brought him to Cleveland in May to address venture capitalists and entrepreneurs participating in Innovest ’99, the Midwest’s largest venture capital conference. Here are Kawasaki’s slimmed down rules for leading your own revolution.

1. Get off the curve that you’re on and get on the next curve. Better yet, create the next curve. Do not, Kawasaki urges, think that you are riding the wave of the future. That’s what the ice harvesters thought before ice factories replaced them. Refrigerator makers replaced the factories. What’s next? Biotechnology-based solutions that eliminate the need for refrigeration.

2. Don’t worry, be crappy. If you wait for your revolution to be perfect, Kawasaki says, you’ll be too late. Instead, once your revolution is an order of magnitude better than what exists, take action. His favorite example is that toilet paper is an order of magnitude greater than crumbled leaves. If you can claim the same revolution, you ship your product.

3. Churn, baby, churn. In other words, it is not OK to stay crappy. It’s as important to move fast as it is to jump ahead. “Microsoft’s secret,” Kawasaki says, “is its ability to churn. It is relentlessly making a better product.”

4. Get ready to break down barriers. Ignorance. Inertia. Complexity. Price. These are all barriers to a successful revolution. To lead a successful revolution you must do one of two things: enable people to test-drive your revolution, or glom onto a bandwagon (such as the Internet) that will give it sufficient exposure.

5. Make evangelists, not sales. Evangelists create a cause out of a product or service, Kawasaki says. “This creates a vision. They turn facts into emotion.”

6. Let a thousand flowers bloom. The Macintosh computer was built to run spreadsheet, database and word processing programs, Kawasaki explains. It struck out on all three fronts. But it is far and away the leading platform for desktop publishing, thanks in large part to Adobe Corp.’s groundbreaking Pagemaker software. “Pagemaker was a field of flowers that grew into a forest that saved Apple Computer.” When other people take your revolution and pervert it, he adds, thank God.

7. Never ask people to do something you would not do. If your product requires a four-week training program, you have a problem. If your “free” Web site requires users to fill in 60 fields of information to get access, you have a problem. “Eat your own dog food,” Kawasaki preaches. If you wouldn’t put up with your own demands, why would others?

8. Eat like a bird. ”A hummingbird eats 50 percent of its body weight a day,” Kawasaki says. “I’m not telling you to eat a lot. I’m telling you to eat a lot of information. Read voraciously and read outside your area. You need to become a research librarian, or suck up to one.”

9. Poop like an elephant. ”Take all that information you’ve gained and spread it out, Kawasaki says. Share it with people in the company and with your colleagues. But also share it with your competitors, because when you start a revolution, acceptance is more important than market share.

10. Think digital, but act analog. Use all the digital tools available to you, he says, but they are just a means to an end. For example, Ritz-Carlton Hotels uses sophisticated technology to track customer preferences. If you ask for your down pillows to be replaced because you are allergic, that information goes into a database. The next time you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, you will not get down pillows. “They compile all these preferences and act on them without you knowing it. Revolutions are analog processes. The point is an analog relationship with your customer.”

11. Never let the bozos grind you down. “The more dramatic the revolution, the more the bozos will try to drive you down. In fact, the more bozos that attack you, the more important your revolution is.” Some famous bozos: IBM boss Thomas Watson, who predicted the worldwide demand for computers would peak at five; Digital Equipment Corp. CEO Kenneth Olsen, who insisted there was absolutely no use for computers in the home; and Bill Gates, who once said 640k of memory ought to be enough for anyone.

How to reach: Garage.com, (650) 470-0950, www.garage.com; the “Rules for Revolutionaries” Web site is www.kickbutt.com (or www.kickbut.com for those whose corporate intranets don’t allow access to sites using the word “butt.”)