TNW Book Review: Velocity: The Seven News Laws for a World Gone Digital

Velocity: The Seven News Laws for a World Gone Digital is a manifesto for keeping ahead in the digital world. The book takes readers through the seven new ‘laws’ which will help them take action in the ever-evolving digital world. Co-authored by Ajaz Ahmed, founder of innovation agency AKQA, and Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, Velocity is a part self-help and part practical advice book for leaders.

Each of the seven laws has a chapter dedicated to it and the central theme throughout the book is that change is coming, so you’d better be ready for it.

The book is written as a conversation between Ahmed and Olander which helps keep the book succinct and gives it a unique flow which makes it very easy to read. You get the feeling of being a ‘fly on the wall’ at a thought-provoking meeting between these two creative people.

The chapters have unique names such as ‘A Smith & Wesson beats four aces’ and ‘The best advertising isn’t advertising’ and feature traditional business tactics, such as building trust and the power of networking. This advice is mixed in with stories from the authors’ experience. The book becomes most engaging when the authors are telling these insightful and inspirational stories.

An example of the storytelling in the book is in the chapter ‘No good joke survives a committee of six’ which is summed up in the chapter introduction:

“For organisations with structures that sand down all rough edges and desiccate anything juicy, something terrible will happen: nothing. It’s time for decision-making regimes that hold up to Velocity.”

Making decisions, listening to your gut, not letting committees dilute ideas and knowing when to push forward with ideas are key themes in this chapter. Olander uses a story from his career at Nike to illustrate how the team have successfully pushed through seemingly impossible ideas they were passionate about. Olander describes the journey of how the song ‘A Little Less Conversation’ came to be featured in the short film Nike produced called ‘The Secret Tournament’ for the 2002 World Cup. The campaign demonstrates how the team at Nike took what seemed like a crazy idea (adding an Elvis track from 1968 to a modern football film aimed at a young audience) and resulted in a hugely successful global campaign for Nike and gave Elvis his 31st number one single. The campaign was only a success because the team truly believed in their idea and were willing to put their careers on the line to see it through. In fact, Olander goes on to say that nobody should be more passionate about ideas or products than the person who created them.

What’s interesting about the book is how both Ahmed and Olander truly believe in what their companies do and how their companies’ values dictate every decision they make. ‘Just Do It’ is not just a meaningless corporate statement from Nike, it’s something the company believes in and something which helps them to keep ahead in the changing digital world as the ethos of the company is that nothing is impossible.

Ahmed looks at Velocity more in terms of using it for leadership purposes in his commentary whereas Olander sees Velocity from more of a creative and inspirational aspect. As they discuss the themes of the book, this dynamic really works as the reader receives a rounded perspective.

The main downside of the book is that some of it does veer off into unclear ‘business motivational speak’ at times, particularly in the chapter conclusions, which at times is confusing and seems to miss the main points made in the chapter. Also, the majority of the stories in the book feature how Nike uses Velocity to develop and launch products and, although interesting, it would have been nice to see more examples from Ahmed and his company AKQA as well.

Ultimately Velocity is a book about ideas and imagination and is a fantastic motivation tool if you’re on a plateau in your business, whether you business is a start up or an established company.

For more information about Velocity: The Seven News Laws for a World Gone Digital, see the book's official website.

Sarah is joint owner of the UK copywriting companyPure Ink,which she co-founded in 2008. She has been creating content for clients' websites and offline projects for over five years and has worked with clients such as Avon, Best Western, Ford and the Private Health Partnership as well as a range of other companies in the B2B and B2C sectors.

Sarah specialises in search engine optimisation copywriting, developing tone of voice for clients and also crafting headlines and tag linesfor projects.

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