Take A Bite From Sharkonomics to Compete and Survive

If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

SharkonomicsRight before I started to take a bite of Stefan Engeseth’s fourth book, Sharkonomics: How to Attack Market Leaders, the book cover got my attention in a scary way. With a picture of a great white shark, it looked like a movie poster for a thriller like Jaws.

I read the statement (”A stimulating read!”) by Professor Philip Kotler and got the nagging feeling that this book could actually be a breathtaking read. As I relaxed, I then read in the introduction that the book is not intended to spread fear in any form (”except in the boardrooms”).


The subtitle is ”how to attack market leaders,” but the second part of the book covers ten points on how market leaders could defend themselves from shark attacks. In order to do research for the book, the author took a scuba-diving certificate and spent plenty of time in the water with sharks in South Africa.  Full disclosure: I have known Stefan for some time and I received a review copy of his book at an early stage. I wrote the following blurb in the book on page 3:

”Catch a wave of the groundswell and surf the social Web with Sharkonomics! Stefan Engeseth’s book will take off and swim by itself.”

As a a blogger and social media evangelist, I am glad to see that Stefan Engeseth (@engesethsblog) is covering the power of new media in the book and is including social media in the to-do list for smaller sharks (read: small businesses):

10 Points for Smaller Sharks for Attack and Defense

1. Dive with fleshy friends.
2. Dive below surface to find new opportunities.
3. Team work is like sharing a whale (team workers also taste good).
4. Do less, bite harder (saves energy).
5. Take a test bite (blood in the water is always bad news).
6. Big prey are vulnerable – they underestimate an attack from a smaller shark.
7. Bite off the fin (make them sink).
8. Swim together to look bigger and stronger than you actually are.
9. Use social media to find prey and spread buzz.
10. Move faster than your environment.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 7, timing is key to successful attacks, on page 85, describing social media as a sonar system:

”If a predator knows the agenda of its prey, it will be easy for it to predict the prey’s next move. Social media tools such as Facebook and Linkedin together function even better than the shark’s senses. Through social media, the prey not only reveals its behavior but also what it is doing currently and what it will be doing next.”

Small Businesses Have Plenty to Chew on in Sharkonomics

I think that small business owners will appreciate Stefan Engeseth’s idea on how to do market research in smart ways, taking ”test bites” instead of trying to take a huge chunk at once.

For example, Apple took a test bite of the mobile phone market by starting out small. The company started out putting iTunes into a Motorola mobile phone, instead of creating a totally new phone from scratch. The Apple fans were not happy at first.  But I think it’s safe to say, they’re happy today – with the iPhone.

I must admit that I am an Apple fan since I purchased an iPhone and then got a MacBook from my brother. I am now an active member in a Mac user group (Got a Mac) in Gothenburg, Sweden.

So, it is a bit hard to digest Stefan Engeseth’s posts on ways Apple could become prey for sharks due to management problems and leadership challenges. But this is the ”big thought” (phrase coined by Tim Sanders) of Sharkonomics:

”Always do more than these lists (attack and defend) and never, ever stand still (”move or die”).”

How can we learn from the behavior of the Great White Shark? Do you think we will be able to draw parallels from the business cases in the book and then apply them to our own daily work life? Will we soon hear the following phrase in the boardroom:

”Do you remember the Sharkonomics’s moment of X company?”

Lots to Love About Sharkonomics

What I like best about the book is Stefan Engeseth’s frank language.  It is refreshing that he’s not afraid of stirring up a healthy debate now and then. Take his response to Michael Muth’s question as to whether the ideas found in Sharkonomics are applicable with those in the book, Blue Ocean Strategy:

”Kim and Mauborgne based their book on a study of 150 strategic moves in 30 industries over a period of 100 years. Sharkonomics is based on sharks which have been around for more than 420 million years and made billions of strategic moves. Blue water has become red and it’s time to change strategy. Sharks don’t care what colour the water is when they attack and feed.”

I want to end this review on a lighter note (but at the same time, still an important message and lesson from the world of sports). The hockey team, San Jose Sharks, (pun intended?) has built a strong team culture by focusing on both the forwards and defensive players.

“The team also invites its fans to play a role in its fanzone and community on the website, thus making the fans feel a part of the team. Being one internally and externally inspires everyone to be loyal to the team. The culture of defense is also powered by fan websites such as FearTheFin and ArcticIceHockey, where fans analyze every part of their Shark’s defense team.”

In the beginning of this review, I told you that I had a gnawing feeling that I would be missing something if I didn’t read this book. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m glad I didn’t let the cover scare me away.

If you feel that doing business in today’s economy is akin to swimming with sharks – then let Sharkonomics be your survival guide.

Improvement Photo via Shutterstock

Get discounts and special offers on new and classic business books with an Audible Premium Plus membership. Learn more and sign up for an account today.


Martin Lindeskog Martin Lindeskog is helping businesses use new media to boost their supply and value chain. Martin is a tea enthusiast and you can find him on his blog, Ego.

4 Reactions
  1. Great book review, Martin. My to-read list is getting longer by the day. Thanks for your contribution to it. 🙂


  2. Ti: Thank for your comment! I have a pretty long reading list too! 😉 If you get “bitten” by Sharkonomics, you could also check out Stefan Engeseth’s three other books:

    The Fall of PR & the Rise of Advertising
    ONE: A Consumer Revolution for Business
    Detective Marketing: Creative Common Sense in Business