Creative Construction: A book review by Bob Morris

Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation
Gary P. Pisano
PublicAffairs (January 2015)

How and why human beings can modify their DNA, for better or worse

When Charles Darwin discussed his concept of natural selection in his classic work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), he observes, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” I was reminded of that observation as I began to work my way through Gary Pisano’s latest and his most valuable book, Creative Construction.

He poses a question: “Why do so many innovation initiatives fail? Or as Darwin would ask, “Why do so many efforts to adapt fail?” Pisano is convinced that “organizations are not natural phenomena; they are completely man-made, designed and run by people.” Therefore, “organizational DNA is not immutable. Unlike you or me, organizations can manipulate their own DNA.” How? Building an organization’s capacity to innovate and that involves three essential leadership tasks:

1. Formulating an innovation strategy
2. Designing an innovation system
3. Building a workplace culture within which that innovation system is most likely to succeed

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Pisano’s coverage:

o The Challenge of Creative Construction (Pages 9-11)
o Why Most Innovation Initiatives Fail (12-15)
o The Concept of Innovation Strategy(24-28)
o A Framework for Innovation Strategy (30-34)

o Value Creation and Capture as Your Compass (38-51)
o Principles of Business Model Design and Innovation ((72-83)
o Strategies for Navigating Threats to Your Business (98-105)
o Innovation as a Hunt for Problems and Solutions (113-114)

o Looking for the Missing Bullet Holes (118-127)
o Innovation as Synthesis (130-133)
o Processes: Design for Exploration and Experimentation (141-144)
o Making Better Judgments About Innovation Project Selection (158-160)

o Selection as a Process of Learning (165-167)
o The Paradox of Innovative Cultures (182-194)
o Engineering an Innovative Culture at Scale (198-207)
o The Creative Constructive Leader (218-222)

In his classic work, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), Joseph Schumpeter shares his thoughts about the concept of creative destruction (derived from the work of Karl Marx), “a process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Whereas creative destruction eliminates what is no longer necessary, creative construction adds whatever is needed to achieve the given objective(s). It drives positive formation or transformation.

As indicated earlier, he is convinced that “organizations are not natural phenomena; they are completely man-made, designed and run by people.” Therefore, “organizational DNA is not immutable. Unlike you or me, organizations can manipulate their own DNA.” Adaptation is not therefore predetermined.

Near the conclusion of his brilliant book, Gary Pisano shares his thoughts about developing creative constructive leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. The strategy, system, and culture that result from their efforts will determine whether or not their organization will have the DNA needed to achieve the life-changing innovation required to adjust best adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself” in the months and years to come. 

 

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