Out Think: A book review by Bob Morris

Out ThinkOut Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes
G. Shawn Hunter
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (2013)

How and why innovative leadership must “leverage a culture that will stop at nothing to fix bad ideas and stomp out mediocrity

Shawn Hunter wrote this book to help business leaders cope with the competitive marketplace to which Warren Bennis refers: “I can’t recall a period of time that was as volatile, complex, ambiguous, and tumultuous. As one successful executive put it, ‘If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.'” Many executives are confused. Hunter is among the advocates of what is generally characterized as symphonic thinking. As Hunter explains, “Symphonic thinkers see the big picture; they look at the whole system and take their information from a variety of sources. They take a multidimensional approach to solving problems, seeing connections, and finding effective solutions” in what has become, as Hunter describes it, “marketquake.”

So, what to do? Hunter’s response is to master the ten elements of a process, the Out Think process (see Pages 173-184), steps that are not necessarily sequential or discrete from one another but, that said, all (or most) can be essential to the success of “a journey that may start from an unexpected place, go off in tangents, and circle back to the beginning. And it is never really over, since the marketplace is constantly in motion and demands continuous innovation.”

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

o The Innovation Gap Shrinks (Pages 10-15)
o Innovation Is the Answer: Out Think Competitors (20-25)
o Leave People More Energized (38-44)
o Exercise Divergent Thinking (49-54)
o Choose Optimism (54-60)
o Deal with Innovation Blockers (79-83)
o Make It Personal (92-93)
o Find the Edge (108-111)
o Embrace Social Risk (115-122)
o The Culture Defines the Outcome (126-134)
o Build the Team Through Shared Vision and Personal Engagement (134-141)
o Borrow Brilliance (151-156)
o Pay Attention to Customers’ Unorthodox Use of Products (164-168)
o When to Trust, But Qualify, Your Gut Instinct (180-184)
o Connect Individuals to Purpose (210-216)
o Put It All Together (229)

I commend Hunter on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices throughout his narrative that include a “Let’s Racap” at the conclusion of all twelve chapters and, at the conclusion of Chapters 1-11, “Remember” (generally, micro key points), “Your Turn Now” (recommended action steps to reach in, reach out, and spread out), another “Remember” (generally macro key points), and another “Your Turn Now” (additional recommendations for implementation of relevant material). These devices serve two especially important purposes: They help the reader to interact with the material, to become both mentally and behaviorally engaged with Hunter’s observations and recommendations; also, the devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent material of key material later.

Presumably Shawn Hunter agrees with Richard Dawkins’ thoughts about the current and imminent business world. Here are two Dawkins quotations to keep in mind when struggling to survive and then thrive in the current marketquake: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché” and “By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” I presume to add one thought of my own: Unless and until you think innovatively about innovative thinking, it is possible but unlikely that you can become an innovative leader, much less one who can drive exceptional outcomes. However, innovative leaders always need innovative followers, those with initiative and judgment to help achieve innovative breakthroughs and then implement them at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

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