“Play Bigger” Takes Your Business Beyond Innovation


If you are tired of playing nice in your little “niche” or category, then “Play Bigger” is for you. Written by experts in category-breaking and consistent market disruption, this book offers the framework that built the most successful companies on the planet, like Google and Uber.

Play Bigger Takes Your Business Beyond Innovation

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If your company is to survive in this highly complicated world of business, it has to fill a tall order. Not only must that business be innovative, disruptive, tech-savvy and a fun place to work, it also has to make money.

The problem is that every business is trying to follow this advice. So why does it seem like so few survive? Why did companies like Uber, Airbnb and Google survive when other companies with similar experience sink? Play Bigger tries to answer these questions.

What is Play Bigger About?

Although the book’s title seems to imply that it is about competing on a large scale, it’s not. The book is about playing differently. Play Bigger asserts that the world is a complex one. Consumers literally have thousands (or possibly even millions) of choices when it comes to shopping for just one item. Because of this complexity, consumers have to rely on mental shortcuts.  They might decide to buy a product from a store in the mall, on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon. The choice out of these options depends on the right mix of price, shipping option, condition and shopping experience that is important to the consumer at that time.

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Essentially, consumers don’t care about the business, but the category.

It is these mental categories that Play Bigger wants businesses to dominate. The book points out several examples of companies that didn’t just innovate. They created a whole new way of doing things (what the book calls a category king). They are the companies that become the nouns and verbs in everyday language. We don’t just search online. We “Google it”. If we don’t want to ride in a taxi, we go with “Uber”.

Category kings have the benefit of establishing themselves in a consumer’s “mind space” before any other businesses do. As a result, a consumer will consider that business first as the solution to their needs and wants. When we run out of milk, we replace it at the nearest grocery store. When we want a new book, we check Amazon. By developing the business and marketing around a category instead of the product, category kings are able to dominate the market for a consistently long period of time. “Play Bigger” is about the philosophy and methodology of becoming a category king.

Co-authors Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson and Christopher Lochhead are founders of a consulting company — also called Play Bigger — which focuses on helping businesses become category kings. A fourth co-author, Kevin Maney, is a journalist, author, musician and columnist who specializes in the future of business and technology.

What Was Best About Play Bigger?

The biggest strength in Play Bigger is the world-shifting concept behind the book. As the book itself points out, there has been an excessive focus on startups and product development as we progress through this complex world of marketing. This focus, however, doesn’t address a consumer’s reality. This book helps explore that reality and provides a plausible explanation and methodology for dealing with it.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The downside of Play Bigger is that it isn’t for every entrepreneur, as the book readily admits. If you don’t buy into the philosophy of disruptive (but different) innovation, you will probably not benefit as much from this book. That being said, the book doesn’t tell readers what business could be a category king. It only shows how a business can become a category king once it has a category-breaking idea.

Why Read Play Bigger?

Play Bigger provides a good idea of the kind of person who will most likely benefit from its approach. The book focuses on business owners who are not content to battle within their niche but want to redefine their category. These groups of entrepreneurs are tired of the same old advice and have bold aspirations. The authors, with their unique experience of working with startups and all types of companies, definitely provide this with the kind of irreverent streak that many entrepreneurs will likely enjoy.

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

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