Book Review: Delivering Happiness

By Associate Director - Mon, Jun 7-->


Book ReviewGeneral

A few weeks ago Tony Hsieh gave bloggers the opportunity to get an advance copy of his newest book, Delivering Happiness - A path to profits, passion, and purpose in exchange for a review and the ability to give away a free copy of the book. I have been a big fan of Tony and Zappos of for some so I jumped on the idea. Below is my take on the book and how I believe higher education is not all that different from the corporate world.

Delivering Happiness first thoughts

Upon hearing the title of the book I was excited because every thing I have seen Tony do comes from his drive to be real and make a difference. He doesn’t sugarcoat things or think in a theoretical terms. His examples are all real world and from his own experiences, this makes things even more relatable and applicable.

Tony’s writing style is a little like mine, he was not formally trained as a writer so often his grammer is a little off, I found it okay because the style is very conversational and easy to read. The book was a personal narrative about how he got to where he is now, his dreams, successes and mistakes. My hope was to learn something that can be easily transitioned to higher education.

My hope for at least one thing was an understatement, the book is filled with examples and personal stories that can be applied to any industry. The overall take away from the book is happy employees make a happy company. This has been talked about over and over but Tony goes on to prove it.

If you have ever purchased anything from Zappos you know the feeling Tony is trying to convey. Free standard shipping is the norm but often you are upgraded to free overnight shipping, I know it makes me smile when ever I see that pop up. If you have ever had to return something you know how dead simple they make it, It’s almost easier than the Amazon’s one click checkout. And if you have a questions about anything calling, emailing or chatting with them will feel like you just got a new shopping buddy. They don’t just answer questions and hang up, they give opinions and talk to you like a real person. It’s this type of caring that makes an experience worth spreading.

What higher education can take away

In most cases higher education is a completely different beast than the corporate world but where it is similar is in the people. Regardless, the experience a student has can make a break how they view an institution, which in turn changes how they talk about it with their friends and family.

As students we would love institutions to make us happy, empower us and really feel welcomed. Any institution that doesn’t have clearly defined values or mission that everyone can undertand and stand by is going to have a hard time giving that student an experience they are looking for.

Often employees don’t know any better, they are not trained to think about the student as a customer. I know a few of you will disagree with the statement but I believe it is true, students can go anywhere they choose. They are currently at your institution because you have a product they are interested in paying for.

It’s time to break the knee jerking fear of being human. I have seen it far too often, students working the call center in admissions reading off a script, following the steps and passing a student off to some unknown department because their screen told them to. Zappos has a communication policy that states “Be real and use your best judgement”, they let their employees be human and trust they will do the right thing. Administrators biggest fear is some sort of “incident” where the blame gets put on them, this paralyzes them to take the safest route possible which in turn produces a sub par experience for the students. If Tony ran a higher education admissions office who knows what could happen. One thing I know for sure is the administrators wouldn’t be able to turn a blind eye  from the true culture of the institution.

Administrators can learn a lot from this book and Zappos in general, it’s not all about numbers, it’s about doing what is right for the students. Don’t sell your institution to someone who isn’t a good fit, their experience will spread far too wide because of it. Be real and embrace the potentially “ugly” side of your institution and don’t be afraid to take risks. As long as your intentions are good there is always something to learn from the experience.

With what seems to be more and more institutions popping up overnight the choices for students are becoming harder. Fully online institutions are complicating things even more. As students are interacting with your institution at a younger age be sure to always deliver happiness at every interaction. Even if they don’t end up applying they will remember it and spread it to their friends and family.

Win a free copy!

Like I mentioned above, Tony also sent us a copy to give away. One of the many things I like about Zappos is their Core Values. These values run through every decision their employees make and are engrained into the atmosphere of the place. Winning a copy of the book is easy, just answer the following question in a comment before midnight on Wednesday, June 9th and we will pick one comment at random to win the book!

Which of the Zappos core values do you think is most important for a higher education institution to embody and why?

That’s it! We will announce the winner on Thursday, June 10th via @eduGuru on Twitter and on the blog.

6 Responses to “Book Review: Delivering Happiness”

  1. Says:

    I’m reading this now. Interesting to see the higher ed takeaway from it.

  2. Says:

    Enjoyed the book review, Nick. Of the Zappos core values, I’d say “Embrace and Drive Change” is the most important for a college or university. As so many of us know first-hand, with the growing number of challenges facing institutions and higher ed as a whole, we need to drive change before change happens to us.

  3. Says:

    It’s hard to pick just one core value that would be important in higher ed. Right now in my role at our university I would say “Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit” is the focus right now. When the students are feeling positive and part of a “family,” communication is more open and honest, community is stronger, and their college life experience is much more rich.

  4. Says:


    I’m finishing this book now! Really enjoying their “core values” and how they create an annual culture book. It’s really amazing how they seemed to recognize from the get-go that they would need to spend a LOT of time working on company culture and honing their customer service skills. Hsieh seemed to feel in his gut that those would result in the large long-term gains for them rather than sacrificing the brand for the short-term successes.


  5. Says:

    Also wanted to add — it goes to say that I don’t need to be considered for the book, since I already bought my copy — thanks! =)

  6. Says:

    Sorry for the delay in picking a winner but the time has come!

    Congratulations Rob Zinkan for winning the “Delivering Happiness” book! Just email me at with where you want it sent and I’ll get it out to you the next day.