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Poop Like an Elephant

Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services
January 1, 1999

Guy Kawasaki was part of the team that developed the Apple Macintosh in the early 1980s, and he has spent much of his time since then thinking and writing about the factors behind a new product’s commercial success. The conclusion this irreverent, battle-scarred computer industry veteran has reached is that the product is only a part of the story.

Sure, products with the right qualities are more likely to catch on. Specifically, Kawasaki thinks the best products are deep, indulging, complete, elegant, and evocative (DICEE)-meaning that they grow with their users, do more than they strictly need to, come with service and support, reflect their creators’ pride and engender creativity.

But creating and marketing such products takes people with the right attitudes and practices, Kawasaki argues. Some of his most important rules for revolutionaries are to ignore naysayers, to “evangelize” a product so that customers don’t simply buy it but believe in it, and to “eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.” This unappetizing (but memorable) dictum means companies should constantly gather information about their industry, customers and competitors, and should at the same time cultivate trust and goodwill by giving away as much of their own information as possible.

You know what they say about hindsight. Indeed, if Apple Computer had followed this advice by licensing the Macintosh operating system to other computer manufacturers in the 1980s, the company might never have lost so much ground to Microsoft. Kawasaki’s shrewd, entertainingly presented rules will help aspiring entrepreneurs avoid such blunders.

If reading a how-to book could prepare every Steve Jobs wannabe to succeed with a revolutionary new product, of course, there wouldn’t be so much second-hand office furniture for sale in Silicon Valley. “Many revolutionary ideas are the result of blind, dumb luck,” Kawasaki concedes. The Macintosh, for example, might not have survived at all if Aldus (now Adobe) hadn’t developed PageMaker, the “killer app” that made the Mac indispensable for desktop publishing.

Even if Kawasaki’s rules were futile, however, his book would still be valuable as a glimpse of the rash mindset found within many of the hottest technology startups. He reveals, for example, that Apple’s Macintosh division was “arguably, the greatest collection of egomaniacs in Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley is full of egomaniacs, so this is saying a lot.” Only the unreasonable, Kawasaki seems to be saying, can start revolutions.