Book review: Predicting the Turn by Dave Knox
A view from Damian Collier

Book review: Predicting the Turn by Dave Knox

I would encourage anyone building a start-up or working within a much larger organisation to take the few hours to read this book of valuable insights...


Reviewed by Damian Collier, founder and chief executive, Blend Media

...Predicting the Turn is an easy read, which I consumed in one sitting on a flight from Beijing to London.

Author Dave Knox currently holds a range of impressive posts (managing director of WPP Ventures, chief marketing officer of WPP agency Rockfish, managing partner in Vine St. Ventures and co-founder of The Brandery, a US accelerator), and has vast experience working both with major brands and agencies, as well as start-ups.

‘The Turn’ itself, as the author explains, is the exact moment at which a poker game can change dramatically in one of the players’ favour. The book analyses the increasing competition that well-established organisations are now facing from nimble start-ups, which can bring about a ‘turn’ in their favour, even against the most formidable corporate opponents. The author examines the approach that those incumbents might wish to adopt, in order to defend their territory.

This book provides valuable insights for global brands, start-up founders and investors alike in relation to the battle for market share, relevance and industry domination.

For brands, Knox highlights the importance of confronting disruption faced from start-ups, which are often able to focus on one core digital offering that can shake the largest organisations to the core. He underlines the dangers faced by an ‘arrogance of the mighty’ approach, namely a company which views itself as an expert in an industry and so finds it incredibly easy to dismiss any start-up as an outsider that does not understand the complexities of that marketplace. Underestimating a disruptor is possibly the most dangerous behaviour in business.

The book includes quotes from serial entrepreneurs including Elon Musk who said: "Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster."

The author encourages conglomerates to look forward to future disruptors rather than those competing today, and to consider an M&A strategy driven by innovation alongside R&D, highlighting that start-ups very often have access to funding, talent and the ability to incentivise new hires through fast-increasing stock options and a dynamic workplace.

The book is peppered with real-world examples to illustrate the author’s perspective. In one chapter he highlights that sales of carbonated drinks have been declining for over a decade, so, in response to this, Coca-Cola launched its Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) group to (in VEB’s own words) "identify and nurture brands with billion-dollar potential". It is that focus on innovation and growth through external investment that Knox encourages throughout. 

If you don’t have time to read the book, read this: Three key takeaways

  • Learn from others. Bite-sized interviews from founders contained within the book offer insights direct from the horse's mouth, alongside real-world examples, so you can easily dip into these.

  • Know your competitors. Your rivals of today will not be the ones you face tomorrow. One lesson is that one of the biggest mistakes that big companies make is underestimating their "total available market" and where their future competitors will emerge from. 

  • Meet disruption from start-ups head-on. Don’t dismiss them as someone who does not understand the complexities of the marketplace. It could be your biggest mistake.

    Predicting the Turn by Dave Knox is published by Paramount Market Publishing