Book Review: Kill the Company

    By: Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, NPDP on Jul 29, 2013

    Book Review: Kill the Company

    By Lisa Bodell. Bibliomotion, 2012.  237 + xv pages.

    kill company.png

    Lisa Bodell’s new book, “Kill the Company,” offers an entertaining approach to real organizational change.  Rather than investigating how a firm can beat the competition, “Kill the Company” flips roles and asks, “How would you put yourself out of business?”

    Defining innovation as “the ability to develop novel and useful ideas with a business purpose,” (pg. xxi) Bodell forces the reader to confront the fact that undesirable outcomes are a result of diseased organizational cultures. In Chapter 1, aptly titled Innovation Begins with You, the author indicates that most companies do not have an innovation problem.  Instead, they have a leadership problem. This is a situation that is described as becoming “reactive to the chaos around us instead of proactive toward a purpose” (pg. 8).  An easy-to-use diagnostic tool follows so the reader can gauge his or her own level of innovation maturity.

    Chapter 2 describes three typical styles of organizational behavior: positive, negative and complacent cultures. Of these, Bodell argues a complacent culture is the most dangerous to innovation. These organizations are staffed by reasonably happy employees, and short-term business perspectives appear strong. The trap lies in failing to recognize future growth steps. Examples of killers to innovation cultures are focusing on processes vs. people and an overdependence on meetings.

    Chapters 3 and 4, Kill the Company and Do Less, Achieve More, respectively, introduce the main tools of the book.  The Kill the Company exercise can be used for annual planning or if the firm is losing market share to the competition. A prime advantage of Kill the Company is that participants are energized to utilize their inside knowledge from an outside viewpoint. The exercise is grounded in realism, inviting new and candid discussions.

    In Do Less, Achieve More, another effective cultural exercise is introduced.  It is called Kill a Stupid Rule.  Here, participants brainstorm rules, procedures and policies that annoy them and/or hinder their ability to get work done. After consensus is gained on the stupidest rule, a manager committed to positive change will eliminate the rule. Such immediate action is gratifying for the employees and demonstrates a bold commitment by management to accommodate real change.

    Chapter 5 introduces Part II of “Kill the Company.” The reader is introduced to a team toolkit to build capabilities for innovation and future growth. It is management’s job to help teams develop skills and abilities for innovation, and fortunately, a majority of CEOs believe creativity is a critical leadership skill (pg. 92).

    The author indicates a set of skills that are necessary for developing innovation teams:

    1. Strategic imagination
    2. Provocative inquiry
    3. Creative problem-solving skills
    4. Agility
    5. Resilience

    Agility is an interesting behavior and skill that tends to disappear in complacent cultures.  Getting comfortable with change (innovation) takes practice, and the tools in “Kill the Company” guide teams to greater appreciation of this skill.

    Chapter 6 outlines behaviors of successful innovators, including focusing on the future, challenging the status quo, investing in smart risks, active collaboration and continuous learning. Organizations must be proactive in leading and instilling these behaviors in order to drive growth (pg. 122).

    “Kill the Company” closes with a chapter describing a case study in which small changes were implemented with big results at a large financial services firm.  Finally, Chapter 8 lists each tool from the book along with suggested participants, when to use the tool and how to use the tool.

    Innovation is inextricably tied to change management. Bodell’s out-of-the-ordinary take on accomplishing organizational change is both entertaining and logical. “Kill the Company” is a great book for anyone wishing to shake up the innovation status quo!


    Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, NPDP

    Global NP Solutions

    Released: July 29, 2013, 9:31 am | Updated: August 7, 2013, 2:44 pm
    Keywords: PDMA Blog

    Paul Knapp, PEng Kill the Company - Practical
    By: Paul Knapp, PEng | Posted: August 6, 2013, 12:56 pm

    Practical exercises to determine your companies weaknesses.

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