Ten Commandments for Business Failure Book Summary

On inflexibility, infallibility, fouls, and more from D. R. Keough with foreword by Warren Buffett.
Ten Commandments for Business Failure Book Summary
Ten Commandments for Business Failure Book Summary

In Ten Commandments for Business Failure, Donald R. Keough offers valuable lessons on what not to do in order to succeed in business. Drawing from his experiences as a former Coca-Cola president, Keough provides readers with a humorous yet insightful guide on the common pitfalls that often plague organizations. These “commandments” serve as a roadmap for business leaders to learn from others’ mistakes and avoid making their own, covering topics such as the importance of risk-taking, flexibility, clear communication, and maintaining passion for work and life.

Why this is a good approach?

Charlie Munger, who worked with Buffet, liked thinking method of inversion, which is avoiding bad and opposite scenarios instead similar to Taleb’s Via-negativa. The commandments in the book do that for you.

Munger’s inversion has more meanings that people usually explain it. Based on the quote below it is about:

  • thinking about directions leading to not achieving the goal, or getting to the worst case
  • working backwards as in Amazonian Way
  • inverting along the problem’s symmetry or anti-symmetry axis

Quoting Charlie Munger’s Almanack:

What Carson did was to approach the study of how to create X by turning the question backward, that is, by studying how to create non-X. The great algebraist, Jacobi, had exactly the same approach as Carson and was known for his constant repetition of one phrase: "Invert, always invert." It is in the nature of things, as Jacobi knew, that many hard problems are best solved only when they are addressed backward. For instance, when almost everyone else was trying to revise the electromagnetic laws of Maxwell to be consistent with the motion laws of Newton, Einstein discovered special relativity as he made a 180-degree turn and revised Newton's laws to fit Maxwell's.

The Commandments

  1. Quit Taking Risks (be up for challenge and discontent with the status quo)
  2. Be Inflexible (don’t be dismissively stubborn)
  3. Isolate Yourself (talk to variety of people, but take time to think - see below)
  4. Assume Infallibility (admit problems and look for them)
  5. Play the Game Close to the Foul Line (do the right thing with a big margin)
  6. Don’t Take Time to Think (dedicate time to distraction free thinking)
  7. Put All Your Faith in Experts and Outside Consultants (focus on fundamentals over hype)
  8. Love Your Bureaucracy (red tape to the minimum)
  9. Send Mixed Messages (communicate simply and clearly - objectives, marketing)
  10. Be Afraid of the Future (avoid pessimism)
  11. Lose Your Passion for Work - for Life (connect emotionally with customers, employees, dreams)

Yes, there are 11 of them, I was surprised as well :).

Created on 12 Dec 2021. Updated on: 14 Dec 2023.
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