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Book Review: The Method Method. Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down

In their new book The Method Method: 7 Obsessions that Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down, Method cofounders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry with coauthor Lucas Conley take the occasion of their unconventional company's tenth anniversary to step back, and offer readers the opportunity to peek inside their business, learning from their mistakes and acquiring the secrets to their success.

The Method Method offers a refreshingly honest look at how to create and maintain a successful business in a changing market where consumers demand more than function and are advocating for brands that share their philosophies and values.

This book is a must read for those just starting a consumer business today, those seeking inspiration, and, for the sake of the planet, the naysayers that believe a business dedicated to sustainability cannot be successful and profitable. This book is an especial joy to read for those of you out there like me, the method advocates, who can't get enough of the French lavender soap or lil' boy blu.'

Method's high-quality products, commitment to sustainability, dedication to full transparency, and ability to inspire change on a grand scale attracted me to Method years ago — and are well-documented in the book. Like many in the green marketing world, their unconventional style of doing business quickly attracted my attention and made me want to learn more. My cumulative learning is showcased in a case study published in my recent book, The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).

Representing a marquee position illustrating what I believe to be the New Green Marketing Paradigm, in the case I underscore how Eric and Adam were able to create a company that has, through an innovative approach to sustainability, spurred innovation in a seemingly stagnant industry, promoted better health, and demanded transparency all the while providing superior products and promoting an entire philosophy beyond just building a brand.

Culture is the Secret Sauce
I thought after researching the company in detail I was up to speed on their methodologies, beliefs, and practices. But in The Method Method Eric and Adam seem to hold nothing back, providing even the most diehard advocates like myself with much that's new.

I found the chapter on creating a corporate culture particularly eye opening. (Made me say, "So that's how they do it!") No company achieves nearly overnight success across such fiercely competitive, slow growing product categories as home cleaning, personal care, laundry, as well as babies and kids, complete with distribution in Target, Kroger, Whole Foods, Toys R Us and other major retailers, without creating a culture like theirs — branded from the inside out and marked by innovation, collaboration, resourcefulness, speed, and value placed on ideas and opinions.

Operating as a David in a world of Goliaths like Procter and Gamble, Colgate and Unilever, the Method team excels by staying one step ahead of the market. Likely representing the secret sauce behind the method madness, Method's culture is fueled by painstaking recruitment practices, Monday morning huddles, a team-based organizational structure facilitated by a fully open office layout, and staying true to their values and their social mission — to do good in the world by giving people a great, healthy, cool product that is good for both them and the environment.

In the book, Eric and Adam pose the question, "how do you chart a course to a place no one's ever been?" Then they go on to offer the key to their success in one short sentence, "we believe the answer lies in creating an innovative culture in which new ideas can thrive." The authors cite a personal connection between employees and their work to ignite morale and quality, summarized in this statement from the book: "because our employees are actually creating products for themselves and their families, visionary and revolutionary ideas come straight from the heart".

Method's transparency and oft-published articles in the business press can give one the impression of easy familiarity with the company. But this culture connection to their success is likely the most critical and not as public or publicized as their products or oft-quoted founders. So, if you still work for a company that makes look-alike products that don't resonate with a fast-changing consumer taste, pick up this book for no other reason than to learn more about the role culture can play in providing your own company with a competitive edge.

Learn more about The Method Method here, and for more information on Method and their products, visit the method website.

Jacquie Ottman is a pioneer in green marketing, who's been advising Fortune 500 companies and U.S. government ecolabeling programs (Energy Star and USDA Certified Biobased, among others) since 1989.

She's the author of 5 books on green marketing and… [Read more about Jacquelyn Ottman]

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