Book Review : Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

Social entrepreneurship is a business oriented approach towards building and running an  organization devoted to a social cause.  Best practices of the business world like reporting of results, measuring the return on investments, minimizing the overheads and waste, and continuous improvement of social development programs are applied in such setups. “Room to Read” is one such  global social entrepreneurship undertaking founded by John Wood who was a Marketing Director in Microsoft.

Room to Read’s mission is to provide opportunity for under-privileged children to gain the gift of education.
Till date (May 2012)  Room to Read  has helped build over 1500 schools and 13,000 libraries and benefited about 6 million children of Third World countries like Nepal, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Tanzania.

This  book is an  inspiring and fascinating saga of Room to Read. It has a great lessons on fund raising, organizational design and management of any social entrepreneurship setup.

A must read for  all entrepreneurs !

Key takeaways from this book:

  •  Don’t hesitate to ask – Most people in the nonprofit world hate to ask others for money. They need to get past this barrier, quickly or their organization will suffer.
  •  5 Core principles kept in mind  by the author  while  meeting with prospective donors:
    1. Play up the fact that the donors, who would have been helped in their own life by education, now have the opportunity to give that same gift back to hundreds of children in the developing world.
    2. Show the donors a direct connection between what they give and what gets done as a result.
    3. Keep the overhead for running  Room to Read low, so donors will know that 90 percent on the dollars goes to the projects, not to administrative and fund-raising expenses.
    4. Passion sells. There is not enough of it in the world, so when people meet a passionate individual, that person really stands out.
    5. People are looking for more meaning in their lives. Funding education provides a great feeling that you have helped to change the world for better.
  • Hope and Optimism, Not Doom and Gloom – Guilt should not be used as a marketing tool. This is also in the financial interest of the charity because potential donors want hope and optimism in their lives. They want to see solutions. If we accost them with images of a poor person, they are likely to be sad, but may not take action. If you instead present a photo of a kid from the inner city in his graduation cap and gown then people are more likely to share in that optimism by donating to the cause.
  • Think Big from Day One – There is a saying at Microsoft – “Go big or go home” – and this lies at the heart of author’s advice to anyone who wants to create change. If a cause is worth devoting your time to, you owe it to yourself – and those you will serve – to think in a big way. Thinking big can be self-fulfilling prophecy, because bold goals will attract bold people.
  • Every entrepreneur needs a strong second-in-command.
  •  Lessons learned at Microsoft that author applied in Room to Read :
    • Intense Focus on Results – Rather than talking about what we are going to do, talk about what we have done.
    • You cannot attack a person, but you can attack an idea.
    •  Be data-driven. Passionately study every facet of your operations to such a degree that related facts and figures are seared into your brian.
    • Be loyal to those who work for you
  • True change requires mass participation, because one person writing a large check is never enough. Rely more on small contributions from large number of people rather than a few big donations from a small number of  donors.
  • True entrepreneurs simply take the leap. They are not afraid to declare to the world that they are going to fill a market gap or offer a new product or service, even if they are not yet entirely sure how they are going to do so.


Book Details: Author: John Wood , Published:2008, Publisher: Collins , Paperback: 284 pages.
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3 Responses to Book Review : Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

  1. Ram Jayaraman says:

    Dear Gopi:

    An excellent review indeed. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I specially love the paragraph on “5 Core Principles”.


    • Gopinath says:

      Thanks Dr. Ram. Glad that you liked it. In this blog I generally post reviews on books related to my profession. I have another blog “Bookworm Reads “( where I post reviews and summaries of the other books I have read. You may go through that also at your leisure and give your feedback.

  2. sanousy says:

    so so noble …

    by the way I was browsing the web this morning so I found the below article …

    so I decided to see who else “leave Microsoft” … and I really found a lot of super-guys who “Created the legend of Microsoft” they were in the shadow …

    Finally they realized they have their own personality and identity … they have eyes … ears … minds to think really out of the box … and to think of the mankind not of lines of code!

    I think the world need you all guys to change … I think retired guys from huge companies … after a while they get a “Vision” to see beyond … they should try to do something to the world … some union should exist … not to leave our lives for the lier politicians while guys with IQ > 140 are there !!

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