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The Provocateur: How a New Generation of Leaders Are Building Communities, Not Just Companies by Larry Weber


Recommendation: DNR (Do Not Read)


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Shallow Recycling

Larry Weber spews out lots of observations in his new book, The Provocateur: How a New Generation of Leaders Are Building Communities, Not Just Companies. He contracts old-style leaders, who he calls “generals” with new style leaders, called “Provocateurs.” It’s an interesting conceit, and some of his observations are thoughtful, but not usually backed by fact. I have the impression that Weber kept a clipping file of articles he read, then sat down and dictated this book off the top of his head. It reminded me of Tom Peters at his very worst: using his own consumer experiences to generalize, and come across with a condescending, preachy tone about companies that don’t care about their customers. Most readers won’t care about this book, and don’t relate to Weber’s experiences.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The Sherpa guide is a Provocateur who is able to conduct others – customers, employees, suppliers, even entire companies – along an uncertain path, developing individual skills and strengthening commitment at every step.
A Sherpa guide is not the same as an educator, and the well-rounded Provocateur is both. The educator listens to prospects and customers before the company develops a product or service. Once the product is available, the Sherpa guide helps customers use it. Stated differently, the educator sets up the tour, arranges the travel, reserves the hotels, and chooses the sights the group will visit. The guide takes over once the traveler is on the move. Once the customer has bought the product or the service, once she is standing before the temple, the guide helps her get the most out of it.
The educator tends to function best in a classroom (which may be a conference room, a cubical, or a shopping mall). The classroom is the place to learn what people want and to help people learn. The educator helps people answer questions like: Why is this Ford Explorer better for me than that Chevy Suburban? Why is this Dell laptop better for me than the IBM Thinkpad? Why is Canon’s video camera better than Sony’s?
The Sherpa guide functions best at the customer’s, employee’s, or business’s side (which may be a computer screen, a printed manual, or a DVD disk). Here’s how to get the most out of your new car, laptop, or video camera. Guides think about how to make the customer’s experience so rewarding, so interesting, so comfortable they want to return for the next adventure.”

If that’s the kind of writing you enjoy, there’s almost three hundred more pages of it available in The Provocateur. I recommend that you take a pass.

Steve Hopkins, March 20, 2002


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