Becoming Professional: A Blog

Sleepy-Eyed Book Reviews: Groundswell

Posted on: April 24, 2010

I finally managed to finish another book: Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. For they who are considering this book, here’s the quick review: Wonderful. Buy Now.

Though I can’t imagine there are very many who are just considering buying this book at this point in time. I’m a little late on the pick up, here. This book has been critically acclaimed by august personages of the business world. It won the Berry-AMA Book Prize for the best book in marketing in 2009. It was published in 2008. It is currently 2010. I would have read it earlier but I’d been trying to knock out these other book reviews. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t waited.

This book is truly phenomenal. It combines well-developped research and case studies with an engaging writing style. It helped me wipe the sleepies out of my eyes when I was trying to wake up even earlier than usual (While reading this book I switched from waking up at 6 am to 5 am in order to work-out in the mornings).

Unfortunately, because it is currently 2010 and the book was published in 2008, some of the information is a bit behind the times. Not that it is useless, but more like when Levi’s is posting the Facebook “Like” button in its online store, perhaps the idea of ratings and reviews on a website isn’t quite so novel anymore. Still, it is inspirational to read the stories of how companies just got into this world of the groundswell. Though the great giants of business, like Levi’s, are playing ball with a gusto, smaller and medium size companies, like the one I currently work for, are still trying to figure out the rules. They don’t have enough time to develop a full team to figure out how to win at this game while managing inventory.

This book is still awesome and wonderful, even if I’m a bit late reading it. Through my search of previous reviews, I know this book has been used in many a classroom. Since I’m pretty fresh out of the college myself, I distinctly remember the hefty tomes I was forced to carry. I wish that my professors had made this one of their integral texts, instead. This book’s size, weight, and cost alone make it superior. I got a hardback, like most students would have had to. It cost me $30. I wish my other textbooks were that cheap! And it is roughly half the size of my other texts, perhaps a quarter. I would, however, go so far to say that it is full of 4 times the useful information. Useful defined here as present and accessible, because no matter how much info is in those gigantic bricks, if a student uses it more like a pillow than a book, it’s not useful.

What makes it such a good read is all the good data and examples. The book tells the story of how Dell went from “Dell Hell” to the happy blogging state it’s in now. Every chance Li and Bernoff got, they personified the struggle to make a company active in the groundswell by dropping it down from impersonal company to very personal person. They name the people who came up with the ideas and implement them. For instance, they describe Tormod Askildsen, the LEGO Group’s senior director of business development, and his plan for energizing the adult Lego enthusiasts who account for a large percentage of Lego’s business. They even discuss what happens to a business once it accepts the groundswell and how the role the reader might play in that change.

But it isn’t all anecdotal. Forrester Research is a research firm, after all, and they give tips on how to use demographics to engage your customers, even on how to rank a customer’s participation in the groundswell. I am a big fan of their graphs and have started to use these theories already in my own work.

Which brings me to my conclusion: excellent writing style. The examples and the data are woven together seemlessly so I forgot I was reading a business book and just enjoyed the learning.


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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