Review of the Book TRADEOFFS By Kevin Maney

I would not normally write a review about a book but this book really captured my attention and motivated me to write a review. The author, Kevin Maney, suggests there is an ever-present tension between “fidelity” and “convenience.” Fidelity could be defined as a special product or service; a special feeling or aura attached to this product. A convenience product or service is less about being special and everything to do with being available or convenient. The author shows how the tug-of-war between quality and convenience can make or break a product, service or company.

I found the premise of the book that a product or service could be either “high fidelity” or “high convenience” very interesting. There are tradeoffs in whatever category your product or service targets. According to Kevin Maney, you have to decide what category your product or service will target, as it is not sustainable for that company or product to remain in each category for the long term. One example the author gives supporting his premise pertained to Starbuck’s coffee. Roughly five to ten years ago, Starbuck’s coffee was not available everywhere and many customers felt a special aura or specialness attached to this product. As Starbuck’s grew and the perception changed where they were omnipresent, the aura went away. The author suggests that Starbuck’s moved into the convenience category by rapidly expanding the number of Starbuck’s coffee stores. Those clients who liked Starbuck’s years ago because of how they felt in this coffee establishment may hesitate today about continuing to buy their products. Because Starbuck’s has moved into the convenience category, their business may not necessarily suffer if this new business model approach attracts new customers because of being super convenient.

I really enjoyed the discussion of the Hedgehog concept. From my perspective, figure out what you can do better than anyone else does in the world and stick to that. Toward the end of the book, there is a reference to success where there are two ways to get to the top. One is to climb the existing ladder, which can be crowded and very competitive. The alternative could involve making your own ladder, and putting yourself on top. So if you cannot be the best with the existing structure, figure out where your gifts lie and create your own organization. Interestingly, according to the author, there are three categories you could use to help you figure out your own structure. One, passion, something you get charged up to do that adheres to your core values. Two, genetic coding, what activities you do exceptionally well. Others may call them gifts you’ve been given as opposed to strengths or Three, valuable contribution, where your work contributes to economic and social value.

Kevin Schwarm
December, 2009