Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making – Tony Fadell Book Summary

Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making – Tony Fadell | Free Book Summary

Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making – Tony Fadell

Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, written by Tony Fadell, is a book that provides insights on how to develop products that are meaningful and have lasting value. The book covers topics such as understanding customer needs, building the right team, setting goals and timelines, embracing failure, and much more.

Fadell’s book is full of examples from his own experience as well as advice from other successful entrepreneurs and innovators. It also provides a comprehensive overview of the entire process of product development, from idea generation to launching a successful product.

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By following the principles outlined in this book, readers can develop products that are of lasting value and make a real difference in the world.

Get a Job

If you’re going to throw your time, energy, and youth at a company, try to join one that’s not just making a better mousetrap. Find a business that’s starting a revolution. A company that’s likely to make a substantial change in the status quo has the following characteristics:

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  • It’s creating a product or service that’s wholly new or combines existing technology in a novel way that the competition can’t make or even understand.
  • This product solves a problem—a real pain point—that a lot of customers experience daily. There should be an existing large market.
  • The novel technology can deliver on the company vision—not just within the product but also the infrastructure, platforms, and systems that support it.
  • Leadership is not dogmatic about what the solution looks like and is willing to adapt to their customers’ needs.
  • It’s thinking about a problem or a customer need in a way you’ve never heard before, but which makes perfect sense once you hear it.

Just Managing

You do not have to be a manager to be successful. Many people assume that the only path to more money and stature is managing a team. However, there are alternatives that will enable you to get a similar paycheck, have similar amounts of influence, and possibly be happier overall.

Remember that once you become a manager, you’ll stop doing the thing that made you successful in the first place. You’ll no longer be doing the things you do really well—instead you’ll be digging into how others do them, helping them improve.

Your job will now be communication, communication, communication, recruiting, hiring and firing, setting budgets, reviews, a whole lot of meetings, setting goals and keeping people on track, conflict resolution, helping to find creative solutions to intractable problems, blocking and tackling political BS, mentoring your team, and asking “how can I help you?” all the time.

Becoming a manager is a discipline. Management is a learned skill, not a talent. You’re not born with it. You’ll need to learn a whole slew of new communication skills and educate yourself.

Data vs Opinion

Data-driven decisions are based on facts and numbers, while opinion-driven decisions rely on gut instinct and vision. Without sufficient data, decisions can become stuck in analysis paralysis.

In this case, insights and outside input can help inform one’s opinion and create an intuitive feeling of what to do. Ultimately, trusting one’s gut and taking responsibility is key in making opinion-driven decisions.

Make the Intangible Tangible

People are easily distracted. We’re wired to focus our attention on tangible things that we can see and touch to the point that we overlook the importance of intangible experiences and feelings.

But when you’re creating a new product, regardless of whether it’s made of atoms or electrons, for businesses or consumers, the actual thing you’re building is only one tiny part of a vast, intangible, overlooked user journey that starts long before a customer ever gets their hands on your product and ends long after.

So don’t just make a prototype of your product and think you’re done. Prototype as much of the full customer experience as possible. Make the intangible tangible so you can’t overlook the less showy but incredibly important parts of the journey.

You should be able to map out and visualize exactly how a customer discovers, considers, installs, uses, fixes, and even returns your product. It all matters.

How to Spot a Great Idea

Are you looking for a great idea? Spotting one isn’t easy, but there are a few key things to look out for.

  • First, make sure it solves for “why” – why would people want it?
  • Second, it should solve a problem that many people have in their lives.
  • Third, and most importantly, it should follow you around – even after you’ve researched and learned about it, you should still be excited and thinking about it. 


To help you make the right decision, practice ‘delayed intuition’ – don’t rush into it. If it’s something that you’ll be spending a lot of time and energy on, take your time and research it – really make sure it’s something you’re still excited about!

Are You Ready?

The world is full of people who have an idea and want to start a company. Often they ask me if they’re ready. Do I have what it takes to create a successful startup? Should I launch my project within a big company instead?

The answer is that you’ll never know until you take the leap and try. But here’s how to get as ready as you’ll ever be:

  • Work at a startup.
  • Work at a big company.
  • Get a mentor to help you navigate it all.
  • Find a cofounder to balance you out and share the load.
  • Convince people to join you. Your founding team should be anchored by seed crystals—great people who bring in more great people.


Hiring a  great team requires investing in training new graduates and interns, having a defined hiring process, a thoughtful approach to growth, processes to ensure new employees are immersed in the culture, and keeping HR and hiring top of mind for the leadership team.

It’s also important to give employees plenty of warning and opportunity to course correct before firing them and helping them find a better opportunity.

The method to Marketing

Marketing isn’t just about soft messaging—it’s an analytical and rigorous process. That’s why the marketing team should be involved in product development from the very beginning.

As you build and evolve the story, use marketing to make it tangible—it’s part of every customer touchpoint. And most importantly, make sure to tell the true story of your product—that’s the best marketing you can do.

Becoming CEO

Being the CEO of a company is unlike any other job – nothing can prepare you for taking on such a huge role. You’re the one everyone looks to set the tone and make the important decisions.

You need to be able to push your team to strive for greatness and then give them the support and resources to get there.

There are three types of CEOs – babysitter CEOs who prioritize safety and predictability, parent CEOs who take risks for larger rewards and incompetent CEOs who may be inexperienced or ill-suited for the job.

Unbecoming CEO

Knowing when to step down as a CEO isn’t always easy, but there are a few signs that it may be time.

Have you noticed that the company or market has changed too much, so much so that your current skillset isn’t enough to manage? Or, are you feeling more like a babysitter than a CEO, as if you’re only meant to keep things running and not take risks anymore?

It could also be time to move on if you have a clear succession plan and the company is on the upswing, or if you simply don’t enjoy the job anymore. Whatever the reason, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to step down and make sure you leave the company in good hands.

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