Beyond the Idea: A book review by Bob Morris

Beyond IdeaBeyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization
Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
St. Martin’s Press (2013)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison

According to Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, “The most important message in Beyond the Idea is very simple: innovation execution is its own unique discipline. It requires time, energy, and distinct thinking. Unfortunately, few companies treat it as such. In fact, few companies give it much thought at all.”

Years ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes observed,” I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” More recently, Albert Einstein suggested, “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.”

The methodology that Govindarajan and Trimble propose has twelve fundamental principles (Pages 153-156). Here are the first three:

1. Companies must shift time and energy from [begin italics] this side [end italics] to the other side of innovation.

2. Organizations are not built for innovation, they are built for ongoing operations…and there are fundamental incompatibilities between the two. [Please see Pages 6-9.]

3. There are three powerful models for overcoming these incompatibilities and allowing innovation and ongoing operations to simultaneously to thrive. All three models can coexist in a single company, but it is crucial to match each initiative to the proper model.

a. Model S, for Small initiatives, attempts to squeeze innovation into slivers of slack time. It can deliver a very large number of very small initiatives.

b. Model R, for Repeatable initiatives, attempts to make innovation as repeatable and predictable as possible. It can deliver an ongoing series of similar initiatives, regardless of their size.

c. Model C, for Custom initiatives, is for all initiatives that are beyond limitations of either Model S or Model R.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Govindarajan and Trimble’s coverage.

o Organizations Are Not Built to Execute Innovation (Pages 6-9)
o Only Three Models [for Executing Innovation] Make Sense (12-15)
o The Key to Model S Success Is Motivation (25-28)
o The Key to Model R Success Is Process Excellence (34-37)
o First, Dispose of the Myth (46-48)
Note: The myth is that great ideas come from an inspired visionary. (“Eureka!”)
o You Must Create a Dedicated Team for Each Model C Initiative (58-61)
o Dedicated Teams: Six Common Mistakes (67-72)
o Five Specific Mistakes: Into “Little Performance Engine Trap” (85-93)
o Four-Step Process to Support a Shared Staff (101-102)
o Disciplined Experimentation: Four Essential Principles (117-123)
o Be Aware of the Limitations of Spreadsheets (126-128)
o Go Ahead, Put a Stake in the Ground (135-139)
o Innovation Leaders Must Be Evaluated Differently, But with No Less Discipline (145-148)
o The Most Fundamental Principles for Innovation (153-156)

Before concluding the latest and, in my opinion, their most valuable collaboration, Govindarajan and Trimble make an important distinction: “Even though innovation and change are closely related and one often leads to the other, it’s quite helpful to differentiate your company’s innovation agenda from its change agenda. The prescriptions in Beyond the Idea apply only to innovation.” The Holmes quotation with which I began this review correctly suggests the importance of the information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume. Those who read the three volumes on which Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble collaborated, especially this one, will be well-prepared to lead their companies during the perilous but promising journey to the other side of innovation.

That is why I highly recommend Beyond the Idea as well as How Stella Saved the Farm: A Tale About Making Innovation Happen (2013), Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere (2013), and The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge (2010).

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