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Innovation Capital: A book review by Bob Morris

Innovation Capital: How to Compete–and Win–Like the World’s Most Innovative Leaders
Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, and Curtis Lefrandt
Harvard Business Review Press (June 2019)

How to secure the necessary resources to turn novel and risky ideas into reality

As Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, and Curtis Lefrandt explain, “Our study of [hundreds of] innovative leaders revealed that they are masters of persuasion, and they consistently use seven specific techniques to manage the impression of others. We call these techniques impression amplifiers [i.e. broadcasting, signaling storytelling, materializing, comparing, committing, and FOMO…fear of missing out]. We define impression amplifiers as observable actions you can take to get attention and support for your ideas.  More specifically, they can be used to sell your idea by making it understandable and appealing or to demonstrate that others believe in and support your idea.”

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can possibility do full justice to the quality of information, insights, and counsel that Dyer, Furr, and Lefrandt provide. My hope now is to suggest why, for  many executives who read it, this book will be their most valuable source for personal growth and professional development. It helps those who read it to think innovatively about about innovation.

For example, the co-authors focus on the components of innovation capital, then explain how to ignite the virtuous cycle of innovation leadership as well as how almost anyone can build their innovation capital. They also explain which human capital skills are essential (i.e. forward thinking, creative problem solving, and persuasion), and in the final chapter, they recommend three steps “for putting it all together.” That is, applying effectively whatever material in the narrative is most relevant to the needs of each reader’s organization.

The top 25 most innovative business leaders in the world (2018) share in their interviews the WHAT and WHY of accumulating innovation capital. Of even greater value is knowing the lessons they have learned about the HOW, the dos and don’ts.

Dyer, Furr, Lefrandt: “We combine the results from this research — the innovation outliers, the successful leaders, the historical case studies, and the up-and-comers –spreading examples of each throughout the book, to help you understand how to build your innovation capital, no matter your position or project. These insights are critical for leaders or managers in business, entrepreneurs And change agents, artists and designers, scientists and inventors, or anyone else who has an idea and needs to win support to make it real.”

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of th co-authors’ coverage:

o Virtuous cycle of innovation leadership (Pages 24-25 and 169-173)
o Forward thinking (36-47)
o Creative problem solving (47-55)
o Innovation capabilities of Amazon (48-49 and 198-209)
o Persuasion skills (56-62)

o “Access Your Human Capital That Contributes to Innovation Capital” (63-64)
o Social capital (65-88)
o Networking (73-86 and 228-229)
o “Access Your Social Capital That Contributes to Innovation Capital” (87-88)
o “Access Your Reputation That Contributes to Innovation Capital” (116-117)

o Broadcasting (121-128)
o Signaling (128-134)
o Storytelling (134-139 and 210-211)
o Idea impressions (141-167)
o FOMO: Fear of Missing Out (162-166)

o Sterling Anderson (169-170, 174-175, 185-186, 189-190, and 217-218)
o Brutal intellectual honesty (!86-190)
o Innovation capital as a source of competitive advantage (195-222)
o Executive skills (223-227)
o Getting Started (228-232)

Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, and Curtis Lefrandt nail it: “As you build your innovation capital, you will become more valuable to your company. As more people in your company develop their innovation capital, tour company’s reputation for innovation — your company’s innovation capital — will also rise.”

Just about everything you need to know in order to become such a leader is provided in this brilliant book. I hope that you will help others to complete that process so that — over time — your organization has effective leaders of innovation at all levels and in all areas of its enterprise.


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