Okay, none of these three books is “new,” nor do they directly cover the “usual suspects” of how-to business topics. These works do, however, cover important subjects you should keep in mind while planning and launching your new enterprise–or, reworking a business you already have.
Book 1: The Longevity Economy, Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market by Joseph F. Coughlin (PublicAffairs, 978-1-61039-663-9).
People are living longer, working longer, and spending money longer. And yet, many businesses have no idea how to create the right products or services to tap into the disposable income of “senior” citizens. They (we) “old” Americans constitute an $8 trillion market segment, and the vast majority of us are not sitting around in rocking chairs waiting for Godot. We’re living life to the fullest that we can and also doing what we can to help our children, grandchildren, and friends find their own ways forward in life. And that means we’re spending money, lots of it, especially when the right things come along and grab our attention.
Coughlin, founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab, writes: “Our [ill-informed] narrative of old age has already cost businesses untold losses in terms in terms of failed launches, missed opportunities, and off-target products. Worse, because products and marketing reinforce social norms, the narrative’s prophecy becomes self-fulfilling.” Coughlin’s well-written book goes well beyond simply highlighting the missed opportunities to reach older consumers of goods, products, and services. He offers concrete solutions and practical examples that can help make a difference.
Book 2: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (Backbay Books, 0-316-34662-4).
You don’t have to have a big, bold, splashy idea to help your business take off and “blow up” profitably on social media.
Malcolm Gladwell describes his book as “the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” [Emphasis mine. Word of mouth can be much stronger than advertising when trying to reach the right people.] And, Gladwell emphasizes: “It takes only the smallest of changes to shatter an epidemic’s equilibrium.”
Book 3: The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness by Giles Slade (Prometheus Books, ISBN 978-1-61614-5958)
The more we do or place online, the more we isolate and insulate ourselves from in-person contact with our fellow human beings and the nature surrounding us. Launching and building up an online business can eat up most of the hours in your day and leave you even more cut off from friends, loved ones, customers, and people with good and beneficial ideas–if you are not very careful.
Giles Slade offers some good ideas in this book for how to not lose touch with human empathy, as well as your connections to your community and the world around it. He writes: “There is nothing inherently evil about technology. human culture itself is a technology that helps us cope with our rapidly changing world. We cannot change our reliance on culture-technology without fundamentally changing ourselves.” He advocates viewing our machines as friends that do not dominate and control our lives, contending: “We can use any new technology to support and foster human relationships and our relationship to nature itself.”
— Si Dunn