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Speed Review: Just Start

Speed Review: Just Start

Speed Review: Just Start

Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future

by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer & Paul B. Brown

Written by a trio of seasoned business leaders, Just Start combines fascinating research with proven practices to deliver a reliable method for helping you advance toward your goals—despite the uncertainty that is all too common today. Babson College President Leonard Schlesinger, organizational learning expert Charles Kiefer, and veteran journalist Paul Brown share their own deep and varied experiences and draw from a source where striving amid constant uncertainty actually works: the world of serial entrepreneurship.


What Separates Serial Entrepreneurs?

According to Babson College President Leonard Schlesinger and international consultant Charles Kiefer, the authors of the book Just Start, serial entrepreneurs have a completely different way of thinking from the rest of us. Much more importantly, serial entrepreneurs act on what they are thinking, and it's this action — this willingness to take immediate steps — that separates them from the non-serial entrepreneurs in society.

At first, readers of Just Start might believe that the authors, now joined by journalist and editor Paul Brown, have just fancied up the familiar concepts of "ready, fire, aim" or "leap before you look." Readers soon discover, however, that the authors have a concept a bit more sophisticated and nuanced in mind — a concept summarized in a rather ugly word that they coined: Creaction.

What Is Creaction?

To understand Creaction, the authors write, you must first understand Prediction, the authors' short-cut term for "predictive reasoning." Predictive reasoning is the way that we are taught to think, and is based on the assumption that the future behaves in the same way as the present and the immediate past. Prediction allows us to make a plan to reach a goal, and then to put our plan in effect until the goal is reached. The problem is that during our journey to the goal, things either change or don’t happen as predicted, and the plan becomes obsolete.

Serial entrepreneurs, according to the authors, have a very different process for reaching their goals. They come up with an idea, then take a small step toward implementing that idea to see if anyone is interested. If they get the reaction they're looking for, they take another small step forward and assess interest again. If they don't get the reaction they were hoping for, serial entrepreneurs will regroup and take another step in a different direction.

Creaction is this process of creating through action, write the authors. You find or think of something you want — what the authors call "desire." You take a "smart step" as quickly as you can; a smart step means acting quickly with the means at hand, staying within an acceptable loss and bringing others along for more resources. You then build on what you have learned from taking that step, which may mean adjusting your path to the goal or changing the goal entirely. This highlights the importance of what the authors write about the first step, desire. Desire doesn’t necessarily mean passion or obsession. It simply means a goal, which you may quickly decide is not the right goal.

A Smart Step in the Right Direction

Throughout Just Start, the authors offer a variety of stories to support their framework. One story involves the former executive vice president of the production company of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Eliot Daley had extensive experience raising funds from foundations, corporation and government entities, which led him to an idea: Donor organizations rarely operated from any kind of donating strategy. Instead they simply reacted in an ad hoc or random way to requests as they came in. Daley’s desire was to create a consulting company to help donor organizations develop donation strategies to guide their decisions. Daley took a quick step in this direction using the substantial means he had at hand: his extensive experience working with donor groups, and a broad range of contacts related to the field. He hired staff and started making sales calls to small foundations that could benefit from efficient strategizing. Nothing happened. Foundations didn’t need strategizing; they had a certain amount to give and they were giving. What more could they ask for? Building on what he found through his failed sales efforts, Daley realized he needed to approach the places that demanded more accountability for charitable giving: large corporations. Daley’s next action was to approach what was at that time America’s largest corporation: AT&T. He successfully sold the services of his consultancy and his new business was launched.

The methodology of Just Start may seem familiar and there’s a reason, the authors write: As children, this is how we learn. We act and build on what we learn through our actions. To be successful, according to the authors, we need to overcome the adult habit of overanalysis and over planning.

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