The Myth of the Garage and other Minor Surprises by Chip and Dan Heath

The Myth of the GarageTakeaway: Variety of essays on business and leadership matters, especially focused on issues that are not intuitive, but still true.

I used to read a lot more business and leadership books.  I have now come to the realization that I am neither all that interested in business nor all that good at leadership.

What has always interested me about business and leadership books are the insights into human behavior.  And that is why I still pick up the occasional business book.

The Myth of the Garage is collection of essays from Dan and Chip Heath’s column in Fast Company.  It is a free kindle or audiobook (which is the real reason I picked this one up.)

There are 16 essays and most of them are pretty good.  The three things that I found most interesting are all related to going against our common assumptions.

The essay on mutual funds gives a variety of reasons why you should never buy an actively managed mutual fund.  Essentially when you look at all the history of mutual funds, in only 8 percent of the cases do they out-perform unmanaged index funds.  That is because even if the managers do out perform the market (which they often do not) the fees associated with the management eat away all of benefit.  We may feel better knowing some trained economists and brokers are working for us, but if we do not benefit, then we should not be doing it.

The title piece is about the fact that while we have a cultural myth about entrepreneurs working in a garage to bring a product to market, in reality most entrepreneurs have a long history of business experience in the field.  They may have a short term garage experience, but prior to that garage experience, they probably worked for a large company gaining the experience they needed to lead them to the garage.  This is somewhat similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of 10,000 hours to breakout success.

There is also a chapter on the problems of incentives that I think did more to convince me of the problems of overreach that any the dozens of articles from conservative and libertarian political bloggers and authors.  Essentially it is the problem of unintended consequences, which is very pragmatic and non-ideological.

Overall this is a good 2 hours of audio or about 70 pages in ebooks.  It clearly is put together to introduce you to the Heath brothers and their other books.  But their other books are supposed to be very good (my wife highly recommends Made to Stick, but I haven’t read it yet).

I appreciate these repurposed and introduction books.  I like being introduced to new authors.  What I am not a fan of, are teaser samples that are not complete in and of themselves.  I don’t want to read something that does not have an ending.  That pretty much will guarantee that I will not read your books.  But a short self contained introduction to your work is likely to get me to read more.

Purchase Links: Free Kindle Edition, Free Audible.com Audiobook

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