The commercial application of Greatest Hits

How Greatest Hits training can transform your business.

  • I take 15 minutes to explain what is in a book
  • We discuss the content and its implications
  • Attendees have to work out how they can apply the thinking to their business, customers, clients, or staff
  • This generates a minimum of 10 ideas per book
  • Repeat 6-10 times and you have 60-100 ideas to stimulate the business
  • Over 250 books to choose from

number of view: 0


12 2012

The Anatomy Of Humbug – Paul Feldwick

The one sentence summary

It is vital to think about how you think about advertising, because many assumptions often taken for granted may well be misleading.


  • We need to think differently about advertising.
  • All theories of how it works have their uses, and all are dangerous if taken too literally as the truth.
  • The advertising industry will only be able to deal with increasingly rapid change in the media landscape if it both understands its past and is able to criticise its most entrenched habits of thought.
  • Humbug is the word PT Barnum used to describe the publicity he created.
  • The author reviews the history of communication, from Barnum to Paul Watzlawick, Bernbach, Reeves and Ogilvy.
  • The advertising industry has three main stories about its past:

1. The Enlightenment Narrative: The past was primitive, but now we are enlightened.

2. The Golden Age Narrative: The world has changed so much that the past is irrelevant.

3. The Year Zero Narrative: Fundamental changes are happening right now.

  • None are very helpful in working out how advertising really works.
  • Thinking differently about advertising is important.


  • There are lots of ways at looking at how advertising works, and the author highlights six.

1. Salesmanship: factual selling propositions, getting attention, message recall.

2. Seduction: understanding motivation, emotion, art, being liked.

3. Salience: fame, familiarity, weight of publicity, keeping your name before the public.

4. Social Connection: it is impossible not to communicate, and it doesn’t take place as a single, one way transmission but a continual exchange.

5. Spin: creating a relationship through PR.

6. Showbiz: pure publicity for the sake of it, warts and all.

  • Beware Meaningless Distinctiveness – finding tiny differences to accentuate in brand messages, when in fact everyone buys from a portfolio of large known brands anyway.

“It’s like love – the more you analyse it, the more it disappears.”

Bill Bernbach


  • This is a pleasant run through the roots of advertising but, by the author’s own admission, it doesn’t reach a conclusion.

number of view: 115

Copy, Copy, Copy – Mark Earls

The one sentence summary

Copying is to be cherished, and you can do smarter marketing by using other people’s ideas.


  • Copying strategies really work, so you can do smarter marketing by using other people’s ideas.
  • Constantly trying to come up with something original can be futile. Instead, look to successes elsewhere and apply them to your issue.
  • Tight, ‘single white copying’ (named after the film Single White Female) is no good for innovation because it just repeats slavishly what’s been done before.
  • Copying loosely works well and allows for error and variation.
  • Good copying seeks to fix broken things, and is productive when you look far away rather than close by.
  • This is a workbook to help you make intelligent marketing decisions.
  • The method is best understood by using the proposed maps.
  • Map 1 plots whether the behavioural choice is informed or uniformed, and whether it is made independently or socially:

  • Map 2 identifies the nature of the decision making process in each quadrant:

    • Map 3 specifies what type of marketing approach will work best for each quadrant:

    • So in total:

    Informed + independent = considered choice  > Better strategy

    Uninformed + independent = guesswork > Salience strategy

    Informed + social = copying experts > Expertise strategy

    Uninformed + social = copying peers > Popularity strategy

    • There is then a pattern book containing 52 suggested strategies to try. These can be copied and tested once the right quadrant is defined for the task.


    • What Kinda Thing? provides an early rangefinder for progress.
    • What kind of thing is this?
    • What kind of solutions might be appropriate?
    • What might that look like?
    • This iterative way of investigating strategies is far more fluid and informative than detailed planning, and allows you to move much faster.


    • This is not so much a book that you read end to end. Instead, get the gist of the method, home in on your task, and then use the most appropriate techniques to get a result.

    number of view: 322


    05 2015

    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

    The one-sentence summary

    Successful teams need to trust each other, engage in constructive conflict, commit, hold each other accountable, and remove ego to concentrate on results.


    • There are five dysfunctions that can ruin the effectiveness and cohesion of any team, particularly leadership teams. They are:
    1. Absence of trust. This stems from an unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Those who are not open about mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build trust.
    2. Fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered debate. Instead they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
    3. Lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in or commit to decisions, though they may feign it in meetings.
    4. Avoidance of accountability. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused people fail to call their peers on counterproductive actions and behaviours.
    5. Inattention to results. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where team members put their individual needs, or those of their departments, above those of the leadership team.
    • Trust comes from overcoming invulnerability and admitting to weaknesses.
    • Constructive conflict needs to replace artificial harmony.
    • Creating commitment means removing ambiguity.
    • Accountability involves raising low standards.
    • Inattention to results can be addressed by removing status and ego issues.


    • The model can be used effectively in any management team awayday.
    • There are a series of questionnaires that can be used as a method to flush out opinions and character types.
    • Wasting time in unproductive meetings can be avoided by setting up 4 types: 1. Daily check-in (10 mins); 2. Weekly staff (45-90 mins); 3. Adhoc topical (2-4 hrs); 4. Quarterly offsite (1-2 days). These will only take 13% of your time.


    • The main part of the book is a fable, which may not be everybody’s preferred way of understanding a method.
    • The book should probably be read in conjunction with another of the author’s books, The Advantage, so that the behaviour of the senior team can be properly aligned to what the company is trying to achieve.

    number of view: 424

    The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni

    The one-sentence summary

    Organizational health is more important than everything else in business.


    • Companies usually look to the same old stuff to gain competitive advantage – marketing, strategy, and technology.
    • But the untapped goldmine they often fail to exploit is making sure the business works properly – something the author calls Organizational Health.
    • The four components of this are:

    1. Build a cohesive leadership team

    2. Create clarity

    3. Overcommunicate clarity (CEOs need to be Chief Reminding Officers)

    4. Reinforce clarity (Starting True Rumours spreads information effectively)

    • Building a decent team involves building trust, allowing and mastering conflict, achieving commitment, embracing accountability, and focusing on results.
    • There are six critical questions that need answering to create clarity:

    1. Why do we exist?

    2. How do we behave?

    3. What do we do?

    4. How will we succeed?

    5. What is most important, right now?

    6. Who must do what?

    • Once these are properly answered, they need to be repeated again and again to staff, and reinforced with appropriate behaviour.


    • There has been a values stampede in companies, but generating charts with adjectives on them doesn’t get you very far. There are many types of values, and it is important to distinguish between them:
    • Core values: just two or three inherent behaviour traits.
    • Aspirational values: characteristics the organization wishes to have, but doesn’t yet.
    • Permission-to-play values: minimum behavioural standards required in order to be competitive.
    • Accidental values: unintentional traits that have come about but don’t necessarily serve the organization well. These can have unintended consequences.
    • A Thematic Goal is a rallying cry designed to defeat silos, politics and turf wars. It needs to be singular, qualitative and temporary, so that everyone in the company knows what to do right now.
    • Meeting Stew can be avoided by setting up 4 types: 1. Daily check-in (10 mins); 2. Weekly staff (45-90 mins); 3. Adhoc topical (2-4 hrs); 4. Quarterly offsite (1-2 days). These will only take 13% of your time.


    • Nothing. This is valuable stuff, and very useful as an awayday method.

    number of view: 536

    How To Kill A Unicorn – Mark Payne

    The one-sentence summary

    Innovation must build ideas at the crossroads of creativity and commerce, solving a big customer problem and a big business problem in one bold move.


    • The failure rates of most innovations are absurdly high, culminating in ‘unicorns’ – visions that are lovely to think about, but only doable and profitable in some imaginary world.
    • What is needed is a Money and Magic approach, sometimes called How and Wow. That’s where the ideas people and the commercial people work together from the off to solve both a customer and a business problem in one move.
    • What goes in to an innovation process is always dozens of initiatives competing for resources. By the midpoint, nearly all solve a customer need. But they should only be implemented if they also solve a business need for the company.
    • The moral is: don’t suspend commercial questions early in the process.
    • This two-sided thinking (customer and company need) must start from day one. The best results come at the crossroads of the two requirements.
    • Another crossroads comes at the intersection of near-term ROI, low risk tolerance, big growth goals, and tight resource constraints. Big doesn’t always mean risky, slow and expensive.
    • The aim of marketplace disruption needs to be offset by the amount of company disruption in achieving it. A high effect on the market with low company upheaval is of course the Promised Land.


    • Don’t buy into the myth that creativity is most effective when it’s unencumbered by practical imperatives.
    • Transformational questions can be powerful in opening up bigger answers. You need to assume transformation is necessary, cultivate a healthy disrespect for present reality, and temporarily forget what you know.
    • Learn to hear the thundering sound of the thing that isn’t being said.
    • A company’s incompetencies can often provide the clue to how to innovate.
    • “The details aren’t the details, they make the design.”
    • In business-to-business markets, it is usually necessary to solve several different business models at once. Many initiatives fail because they concentrate just on the end user, failing to satisfy the demands of all the intermediaries and other companies involved in the process.
    • Innovation needs tracking metrics: project success rates, in-market hit rates, and aggregate pipeline impact. Monitor all these, and you can prove that your innovations are indeed doing the right thing for the company.


    • The author is founder of the innovation company Fahrenheit 212, and in large part this reads like a company brochure.

    number of view: 899


    03 2015