Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets

As someone interested in entrepreneurship, Play Bigger is a book I am supposed to love. It is supposedly a book about category design.

Category design is the idea that instead of just making improvements to something, you create a new category and win. It’s the idea of making a car instead of a faster, sleeker horse carriage.

The problem with Play Bigger is that it mostly gives post hoc explanations of what great companies did to win big. The authors don’t give any examples of companies who actually followed the author’s 11 principles of category design and winning.

Not 10 principles – 11. It’s the last one that really makes the difference 😉.

And you will be surprised to learn (again and again throughout the book): They are available to consult with you on how to win big!

We get it, you are trying to sell category design consulting. But in that case, at least give us some examples of winning big with the approach.

The authors say that to win big in business, you need to create a new category and market successfully around your idea. This seems obvious and doesn’t require a book to be written about it.

The biggest problem with their thesis is that category design can be created from the top down. But all the examples in the book emerge spontaneously.

None of the entrepreneurs set out to create a new category, they just set out to make great products.

Henry Ford didn’t set out to make a new category – he was obsessed with motors and efficiency. It’s only with the advantage of hindsight that we can point out how the great categories emerged.

I’m skeptical that we can design categories from the top down.

Creating a new category is extremely difficult. If it can be done with a top-down approach, then more power to you. Play Bigger fails to show how.

So many books would have been better as one-page blog posts. This is one of them.

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