Blog | Hugh Kennedy 05.31.19

The Unconventionals: How Our Podcast Became a Book

On Saturday, June 1, I’m publishing my first business book (and third book overall) with my partner in crime, Mike O’Toole, PJA’s president. The book’s title – The Unconventionals – is to me less compelling than its subtitle: “How Rebel Companies are Changing Markets, Hearts, and Minds – and How You Can Too.”

Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but as a sentiment this subtitle perfectly captures what we hoped to do with this book. That is, deeply reflect on what six years of creating dozens of episodes of a nationally distributed podcast about business innovation taught us – then serve up those best practices in a concise format that’s anti-business book as much as it is traditional HBR fare.

The book’s lessons are as easy to articulate as they are hard to achieve:

  1. Find the gaps in your market, the places where it’s stuck; as in, eyeglasses cost way too much, cabs are nasty experiences, all beer tastes the same.
  2. Define the change you want to make and how you want to make it; for example, cut out the retail middleman, crowd-source real-time traffic reports, create a high-end spin class at home.
  3. Co-create with your “Crazies,” the people who care deeply about things that overlap with your company’s interests: small businesses that want to stay on Main Street, everyday fashionistas who want to keep the clothing supply chain transparent, or CIOs who see their roles as champions of business innovation, not just the people who keep email running.

The stories are inspiring because they inspired us, and they’re often about people who were told “No” all the way to their success. They’re stories of next-generation capitalism in the same way Billie Eilish is the next generation of American music: independent, unique, tough, and just the right amount of off-center.

At their core, Unconventionals are companies focused on changing the status quo and using their brands to drive change. Because we at PJA are so often focused on getting our clients the credit they deserve and, as we say in our own mission statement, “help sell amazing things to the world’s toughest buyers,” these entrepreneurs and the experiences they create feel like a perfect fit for what we do.

So just as PJA develops branding programs that drive market change for companies interested in building a better world, our book, The Unconventionals, lays out how there is another way of doing business that doesn’t mean ‘I win, you lose’, but ‘Let’s all benefit from rethinking the status quo.’

Finally, unlike traditional 300-page business tomes (admit it, you almost never get past page 100), The Unconventionals clocks in at about 130 pages, including a terrific foreword from our Columbia Business School collaborator David Rogers and a rousing Afterword from the irreverent but always insightful Andrew Davis. If you’re a speed reader, you can soak it all in on the shuttle from BOS to LGA. If not, you may need two or three hours. But we think you’ll get a lot out of it either way.

If you’re interested in ordering – and if you enjoy it, reviewing – our book (we thought you’d never ask), just click here.