The Science of Growth [Book Review]

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Have you ever wondered why some companies just get bigger and more successful and others don’t? Why projects at one firm always seem to pay off and those at another never get the traction you think they should have had?

The Science of Growth by Sean Ammirati explains why that happens. Its subtitle is: How Facebook Beat Friendster – And How Nine other Startups Left The Rest In The Dust. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the premise behind the book.

Comparing Companies

The book presents interesting case studies of pairs of companies where one has been successful and one hasn’t. After studying the performance of these companies, the author (and his research team behind the scenes who also get a mention) has put together a formula for what makes one company succeed where another fails.

The team looked at Tumblr, Posterous, Mint, Wesabe, Automattic (WordPress), Six Apart (Movable Type), YouTube, LinkedIn, Google, PayPal, McDonald’s and more.

It’s a blueprint for creating successful enterprises and avoiding what made others disappear.

Science of Growth Book ReviewThe Magic of Teams

One of the factors Ammirati discusses for creating sustainable growth is having the right people around you. He breaks it down into four areas that have helped the successful case study companies deliver a high performing team. These are:

  • A recruiting process relevant for the company’s situation
  • Leadership consistency and stability at the top
  • Intentionality about who owns the recruitment and onboarding process (which boils down to getting the senior leaders involved so they can set culture and consistency from the top)
  • A strong but adaptive culture (by which Ammirati means high consensus among employees on what the cultural norms should be and were – team members need to buy into the company’s values)

These are things that you could take and put to work when you recruit your project team. A great group of people, intentionally put together, can also help you manage conflict on teams.

How Relevant Is This For Projects?

Ammirati says that you can apply the principles to grow and support any endeavour e.g. your church community, your social enterprise, your project.

But there are no case studies about this and very few tangential mentions so you’d have to extrapolate and trust that the ‘science’ would work.

Although I see no reason why the ideas in this book wouldn’t work for non-profits, it would have been good to weave this concept more through the book as it would then have wider, and more useful, applications for the majority of readers.

I enjoyed reading it and I found the concepts and stories very interesting (especially the quotes from people who had worked in the less successful companies). As it is, it’s a playbook for startups.

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