Why You Should Read “Awesomely Simple”

A few months ago, John Spence, the author of Awesomely Simple, sent me an autographed review copy of his book. I started reading it. I got through a few chapters and put it down. I just wasn’t ready to read it then. I didn’t know why, I was just frustrated. It took a couple of business and market planning activities to bring me back to the book. And when I picked it up again, I figured out where that frustrated feeling came from:  resistance to logic.

I heard somewhere that human beings are the only creatures on the planet who will actually decide to do something that isn’t good for them – or decide NOT to do something knowing that they will ultimately experience something bad. Must be why I have that extra piece of pizza when I know I shouldn’t.

This is what “Awesomely Simple” does. It reminds us that a thriving successful business is about doing the basics right and not just doing what feels good.

John Spence – The Human Cliffs Notes

I don’t know John Spence (yet) so I did a little searching and found out that some of his clients affectionately refer to him as the “Human Cliffs Notes” because of his uncanny ability to process massive amounts of data, combine it with his experience and deliver programs that turn ideas into action.

You’ll see that skill in action if you dig into this book.

Awesomely SimpleWhat is it About Awesomely Simple That Should Put It On Your Reading List?

The book covers six principles to success and there are six chapters, one for each of the principles:

  • Vivid Vision
  • Best People
  • Robust Communication
  • Sense of Urgency
  • Disciplined Execution
  • Extreme Customer Focus

See what I mean – you already KNOW this stuff! It’s no secret.  It’s nothing new. So what is it about Awesomely Simple that should put it on your reading list today?

Awesomely Simple is very much a road map. I’m not sure if John Spence would approve, but I can almost see you giving this book to your management team and scheduling a strategy session where you decide that you will actually WORK this book and the concepts in this book throughout the year.

Each of the six principles and chapters ends with the following sections:

  • Summary of Key Points: If you’re not in the mood to read the whole section that day, read the points. They will define key terms and remind you of what really matters in that chapter. It’s John’s way of helping you process all that information in the same way that he seems to.
  • Effectiveness Audit: I love this section because it will help your organization see how well you’re doing on the key items. Here is an example from the “Vision” section:
    • We have a clear, vivid and compelling vision that is extremely well communicated throughout our entire organization. (enter a number 1-10 where 1 is strongly disagree and 10 is strongly agree)
    • Things to Think About and Discuss: These are just the kinds of conversations that count, but most management teams miss. My experience has been that there were always more important things to talk about and this was wasted time. And John’s point in this book is that there is NOTHING more important to talk about because getting clear on these points is what will set you apart and create results that count.
    • Turning Ideas Into Action: This is my favorite section in every chapter. So many of us don’t implement because we just don’t know where to start. John gives you a clear how-to list that will get you started. Once you’ve implemented a few, perhaps you’ll get ideas of your own. But you can clearly see his determination to have you simply TAKE ACTION.

Who Should Use This Book

If you’re a small business owner, no matter what the size of your business, this is your bible. You will save yourself heartache, time, frustration, anguish and a multitude of other small business frustrations by simply taking this book and making it your roadmap.

Department Managers will also benefit from this book. Running a department is just like running a business. Even if your current organization isn’t subscribing to these six principles, that shouldn’t stop you. Your department and team will shine, you will be happier and your performance will get noticed.

Awesomely Simple is on my shelf for the next few years or until John Spence decides to write an updated version. It should be on your shelf too.


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

8 Reactions
  1. Ivana – wow, I am humbled, what a great review! And I agree with you 110% — there is nothing totally new in Awesomely Simple, just a statement of the obvious key fundamentals to running a successful organization and lots, and lots of ways to help a business person put them into ACTION! I want to also mention that there is a VERY robust and FREE companion website (www.awesomelysimple.com) where you can down load PDFs of all of the audits, summaries, questions for discussion – because you were right on target Ivana – this book is specifically designed for a team to go through together. I have been teaching this information at companies for more than 15 years and I can tell you with great confidence that when a team sits down and goes through all of the exercise together it can be revolutionary for the organization.

    Thank you so much for the positive review, I am extremely pleased you found my book valuable.

  2. Thanks for sharing your review on this book! I will definitely add this to the wish list of business book must haves.

  3. Ivana: You are always writing awesome reviews! 🙂

    John Spence: Could you list some companies with a “Vivid Vision”?

  4. I will recommend reading this book.
    It is a condensed presentation of the most effective and powerful business ideas distilled after an incredible amount of research, presented in an immediately actionable format.

  5. Martin – I list several examples in the book – the best is probably Medtronics – I have some great links to vision, mission, values statements on the companion website – here is the direct link to that page: http://www.awesomelysimple.com/ch1-vivid-vision If you do not find what you need there just send me a note and I will try to get you exactly what you need — John@johnspence.com

  6. Your review nails it. It seems we want the next magic trick or complex idea to move our business forward. Because if we’re not successful, it must be that missing piece. But more often, it seems it’s those simple things we’re not always focused on that trip us up. And we ignore them because they seem to simple that it CAN’T be THAT holding us back. Thanks for the review – this book sounds like the whack on the head we need from time to time.