Book Summary: Bold by Peter Diamandis & Steven Cotler

Book Summary: Bold: How To Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler


This is a first-pass at summarizing some the key things I took away from the book.  I’m sure I’ll fail to do it justice, so please recognize that there is a lot of valuable material in Bold that I left out.

Book Notes

Large and established companies are like today’s dinosaurs–big and inflexible.  As with the extinction of the dinosaurs, the survivors of industry disruption will be the small, nimble organizations open to new technology and ideas.

Disrupt yourself or be disrupted.

Exponential technologies are the “meteor event” of today’s business world.  They include networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, and synthetic biology.

The six “Ds” of exponential technologies:

  • Digitalization
  • Deception
  • Disruption
  • Demonitization
  • Dematerialization
  • Democratization

3D printing means that complex or price-controlled goods may soon be commoditized.  You can rent time on IBM’s Watson to complete AI / super-computer projects.

Big goals lead to the best outcomes.

Moonshot thinking is about making something 10x better.  This forces you to throw away the existing assumptions and create something bold and new.  Reality will eat into your 10x. At the end of the process it may only be 2x, but that’s still amazing.

Google’s 8 innovation principles

  1. Focus on the user
  2. Share everything
  3. Look for ideas everywhere
  4. Think big but start small
  5. Fail frequently, fail fast, fail forward—the importance of rapid iteration
  6. Start with creativity, learn with data—use data, analytics, and artificial intelligence if possible to make more informed decisions
  7. Be a platform play. A large number of the most successful billion-dollar growth companies in the last couple of years have been platforms
  8. Have a mission that matters

Flow follows focus. Everything else is just optimization.

Flow triggers:

  1. High stakes
  2. Novelty, unpredictability, and complexity
  3. Clear goals
  4. Immediate feedback
  5. Challenge just skills ratio: has to be hard enough to make you stretch, but not hard enough to make you snap
  6. Always say “yes, and…”

Break your vision into sub-goals to better align with phased capital investment



Trend began with Threadless, SecondLife, and KickStarter.  Evolved into micro-loans–Kiva and Lending Club–and evolved into many other facets.

ReCAPTCHA and DuoLingo use human image recognition to translate old books and foreign languages, respectively.

Two types of crowd-sourced tasks: micro-tasks and macro-tasks

Other examples of Crowdsourcing:

  • Fiver: five dollar micro tasks
  • macro task browsing style side
  • 99 designs: logos and creative content
  • Tongal: promotional videos
  • Top coder: hack-a-thons
  • Gig walk: pays network to perform simple, quick task
  • Kaggle: crowd sourced algorithms to process and visualize data
  • Youtest: QC and test code
  • Quirky: inventions
  • industry analysis, directory, resource
  • Crowdsortium: help entrepreneurs find, evaluate, and execute a crowdsourcing strategy
  • Galaxy Zoo: the crowd is utilized (at no cost) to perform valuable scientific work

Crowdsourcing Best Practices

  1.  Do your research: get familiar with different platforms, use the crowd
  2. Just get busy
  3. Message boards
  4. Be specific
  5. Prepare your data set, format it
  6. Qualified your workers
  7. Define clear specific roles
  8. Communicate clearly and often

Reward based crowdfunding is 60% more effective than debt crowdfunding.

Product should be in the late prototype phase to ensure best chance of success in crowdfunding..

“The smartest people on the planet usually work for someone else.” – Bill Joy

Aspects of DIY/Exponential Communities

  • Geographic barriers used to be a big problem in business.
  • The Internet prevents top down communication.
  • Cognitive surplus: there are trillions of hours of free time in the world
  • People in DIY communities spend time on their passion for free because they find it meaningful and important.
  • Based on “Reputation Economics” (Joshua Klein)

Non-financial trades creates less friction than financial ones.

Local motors: although today’s community is over 100,000 participants, the first product was built using a mere 500 people. The point is if your community can provide a release for a passionate following, you are unleashing one of the most potent forces in the world factors.

Six rules of online community building:

  1. Just get started. Build something authentic.
  2. Simplicity is key. It should be easy to navigate the site.
  3. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds for someone to sign up.  Ask for only their email address.
  4. Satisfy your audiences needs.  People join online communities for three main reasons–everything should be designed to meet these needs:
  • a sense of belonging
  • support network
  • greater influence
  • to explore new ideas
  1. Recognize top users and top content.
  2. Scalability: It’s better to have 100 passionate followers than 100,000 passive trollers.

The book’s final section covers the role of incentive prizes in helping exponential entrepreneurs achieve extraordinary results.

My Thoughts

Overall, I think this is a really useful book for expanding your thinking about exponential technologies and entrepreneurial strategies in the “age of the internet.”  In addition to sowing the seeds of high-level paradigm shift, the book also provides many detailed strategies on how to effectively use some of these technologies to take your idea to the next level.

Which brings me to my next point.  While the book hits its goal of inspiring the next wave of exponential entrepreneurs, it barely grazes the concepts of business viability and profitability.  While you can easily read about this elsewhere, I feel like commerciality should be discussed in any book about entrepreneurship or business.

One message that I found especially helpful was the six “Ds” of exponential technologies.  In order to capitalize on an emerging technology and forecast future demand and cost, it is important to understand both its current status and its trajectory.

As for the incentive prize section, I was already familiar with much of this material from the authors’ previous book, Abundance, and as such I did not gain a lot from this section.  Personally, I’m not convinced that such prizes are helpful for the majority of profit-seeking entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, It is an interesting study in how human behavior can be leveraged by offering an incentive prize to complete a “moon-shot” project.

UPDATE: after a lot of thinking about this book, I’ve been converted to the School of Bold Thinking.  I’m actually testing out a crowd-sourced idea of my own right now, with inspiration from this book and–wait for it–a local incentive prize.  If you have any interest in being an entrepreneur in the 21st century, you should read this book.

Side note: I listened to this book via Audible’s audio book, and found the narrator to be a little too conceited / “tough-guy” sounding.  This, along with the ubiquity of the words “exponential” and “technologies,” detracted from the book’s fascinating and in many ways, exciting, message.

Rating: 85/100

(Note: I dislike reducing a 300+ page book to a crude scale, but thought it might be useful.  My ratings are subjective, and therefore influenced by relatability, timing and sequencing of when I read it.)

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