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Review: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

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Title: 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be'
Author: Paul Arden
Publisher: Phaidon

Paul Arden was a legend in sales and marketing and is responsible for some of the most memorable advertising campaigns ever devised. For instance the Castlemaine ~ 'Australians wouldn't give a XXXX for anything else' campaign; the British Airway's smiling face TV advert and the oblique posters featuring slashed purple material of Silk Cut. Sadly Paul Arden died earlier this year but left behind him a legacy that will probably never be overshadowed. Part of this legacy is a book which outlines what made Arden the success he was.

The book 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be' can be consumed in less than an hour but will pay dividends by being re-read and reviewed at later intervals. Although it's only a paperback it's beautifully put together using great page formatting, graphics and knock-out design - you wouldn't expect anything else from Arden though. The fact that a simple paperback can be so creatively put together is inspirational in itself and to a greater extent that's what this book is, inspirational. It's full of simple concepts, basic tenants: common sense which is sadly hardly ever common.

"If you can't solve a problem, it's because you're playing by the rules."

Paul Arden

It's not a 'how to' book, there are no elementary steps to success outlined here. Instead there are a series of ideas, proposals and counter intuitive suggestions which jolt your staid and constrained thinking out of its tracks and heads you off into exciting unexplored territory. Reading this book helped me to radically overhaul my PowerPoint slides. There’s nothing in the book about PowerPoint - there’s nothing in it even about graphic design - but the simple concepts discussed here helped me to fundamentally change my approach in this medium.

"The person who doesn't make mistakes is unlikely to make anything."

The chapter titles are worth the paltry £3.96 cost of this book alone. Let's take just one: 'Do not seek praise, seek criticism'. What does it mean? Essentially that asking people what they think will often leave you with nothing but bland compliments. Asking people what's wrong with your ideas can get a truth and you always have the right to reject the feedback. I have found this to be generally sound advice but you need a strong constitution.

For anyone who likes having challenging ideas thrown at them and derives pleasure from seeing logic twisted, this book is for you. I have a confession, I don't enjoy reading, it's often a chore but this book grabbed me from the first page and threw me around like a nerd in a rugby pack. (Not that I'm a nerd or follow rugby, it was an analogy, now back off!) Although aimed really at marketing people I appreciated reading about their approaches to clients and could immediately see the parallels to dealing with my own customers and my own creativity.

Originality *****
Ease of Understanding ****
Practicality ***
Overall Rating ****

* = Sucks ** = Poor *** = OK **** = Good ***** = Excellent


Garry Platt is a senior consultant at Woodland Grange specialising in management development and trainer training. He can be contacted on 01926 336621 or e mail: [email protected]

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