Fearless Innovation: A book review by Bob Morris

Fearless Innovation: Going Beyond the Buzzword to Continuously Drive Growth, Improve the Bottom Line, and Enact Change
Alex Goryachev
Wiley (January 2020)

The Power of Pragmatic Innovation

In the Introduction, Alex Goryachev suggests, “It’s time to take a breath, step back, and truly begin to understand what innovation is and what it isn’t; how it can make a difference between surviving and thriving; and how it can be applied to more than just our day-to-day jobs, but also to the transformation of our businesses, our personal and professional success, and the improved conditions of our society and planet.” He begins to share this thoughts about these key issues in Chapter 1.

One of his valuable insights is potential power and impact of what he characterizes as “pragmatic innovation.” That is, a concept — with a specific mindset and methodology  — that requires gradual, steady progress, each step building on the previous one. It may seem counterintuitive, but this step-by-step process will get your product or service to market faster in the end, and with much better odds of success.”

I agree with Thomas Edison — and presumably Goryachev does as well — that “vision without execution is hallucination.” The value of pragmatic innovation is measured in terns of nature and extent of its [begin italics] impact [end italics]. How well does it work?  Given the alternatives, how much better is it? To what extent could it be scaled?

Goryachev makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices, notably seven mini-case studies that illustrate his key points. Also, a “Summary” section at the conclusion of each chapter that suggests the essence of the given material: its key consideration(s), required action, obstacle(s) to be overcome, and most important of all, results.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Goryachev’s coverage:

o From Buzzword to Reality (Pages xi-xii)
o The three (worst) responses to change (5-8)
o Know When to Take Action (14-16)
o Mini-Case Study: LEGO (16-17)
o Inclusion innovation teams (27-28 and 93-97)

o Mini-Case Study: Wikimedia Foundation (40-41)
o Metrics (45-64)
o Mini-Case Study: Trip Advisor (61-63)
o Disruption (69-84)
o “Thinking Disruptively” (71-74)

o Mini-Case Study: Dyson (81-82)
o Silos (93-97)
o Diversity in innovation teams (97-102)
o Mini-Case Study: Cisco (102-105)
o Co-innovation (111-129)

o Mini-Case Study: IKEA (127-128)
o Chief innovation officers (135-150)
o Mini-Case Study: Bloomberg Philanthropies (148-149)
o Communicating with employees (157-163)
o Mini-Case Study: Instant Pot (169-170)

Alex Goryachev concedes that “pragmatic innovation isn’t the sexiest term” but he believes, as do I, that “it best describes the process that is central to innovation: creating a bold vision and strategy, setting reasonable goals, and executing that vision and strategy in small, measurable milestones.”

Long ago, Einstein insisted that thinking be “as simple as possible but no simpler.” He would be delighted by this no-nonsense guide to innovation. Almost all of the information, insights, and counsel can be of substantial benefit to almost anyone in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.



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