The Four Lenses of Innovation: A book review by Bob Morris

4 Lenses of Inno

The Four Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool for Creative Thinking
Rowan Gibson
John Wiley & Sons (2o15)

How to establish a culture within which everyone’s abilities are free to enrich high-impact innovation throughout the enterprise

First of all, I cannot recall a book that I enjoyed reading more while learning so much about cutting-edge thinking, seamless organization, rock-solid content, brilliant illustrations, and superior production values. I offer a hearty “Bravo!” to Rowan Gibson, of course, but also to those whom he acknowledges, notably Adriana Matallana, Gustavo Valentino, Peter Barratt-Jones and his team at Rethinking Group Design, and the publishing team at Wiley.

* * *

In this volume, Gibson provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel in response to critically important questions such as these:

“How do innovators manage to spot the opportunities for industry revolutions that everyone else seems to miss?”

“What is it that enables them to imagine radically new or different ways of doing things that will fundamentally change customer expectations and behaviors, or break long-established industry paradigms, of shift the entire basis for competitive advantage?

“Where don they get the brilliant flashes of inspiration that lead them to their game-changing discoveries?”

To what does the book’s title refer? According to Rowan Gibson, “If we could distill from our study of the Renaissance a key principle of creativity and innovation, it would be this: The breakthrough discoveries of that period [roughly 1300-1700] were made not because people were simply connecting and conversing with a rich network of contemporaries from different fields [although that certainly occurred], but because they were looking at the world from some refreshingly new and very particular angles of view.”

More specifically, Challenging Orthodoxies (i.e. questioning deeply entrenched beliefs and assumptions, and exploring new and highly unconventional answers), Harnessing Trends (i.e. recognizing the future potential of emerging developments, and using these trends to open up new opportunities), Leveraging Resources (i.e. understanding our limitless capacity for redeploying skills and assets in new ways, combinations, or contexts), and Understanding Needs (i.e. paying attention to issues or frustrations that others have ignored, and experimenting with new solutions to problems).

“These four perceptual lenses were an important part of the recipe for Renaissance invention and innovation. And they can be an equally powerful formula for catalyzing the innovations of your own organization.”

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

o The Mind of the Innovator (Pages 1-59)
o The Elusive Source of Creative Genius: European Renaissance (6-10, 12-14, 20-29, and 40-45)
o The Four Lenses of Innovation (40-45 and 54-57)
o The Power of Patterns (61-88)
o Resistance to Change (74-77)
o Challenging Orthodoxies (92-117)
o Meet the Challenges (102-104)
o On a Path of Disruption (105-110)
o Seeing the Future in the Present: Harnessing trends (118-151)
o Apple Store: “A global change bomb” (120-121 and 137-141)
o The race for tomorrow 122-125)
o Learning to ride the waves of change (126-136)
o Meet the trend surfers (130-133)
o Jeff Bezos (134-136)
o Steve Jobs: The man from the future (120-121 and 137-141)
o Fast Forward Companies (142-146)
o The next big thing for your business (147-149)
o Leveraging Resources from Others (152-177)
o Extending the boundaries of business (160-165)
o Understanding needs: Innovating from the customer backwards (178-201)
o How Big Ideas Are Built (202-235)
o The Archimedes Principle (204-207)
o Unpacking the Creative Process (224-229)
o What Exactly Is an Insight? (236-259)

I agree with Rowan Gibson: “Once we accept that creativity is not a birthright of exceptional people but a skill [or set of skills] that can be taught and acquired, we can begin to seriously tap into the latent innovation potential inside all of us and across our organizations.” This is precisely what David and Tom Kelley had in mind when writing Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. “As brothers who have worked together for thirty years at the forefront of innovation, we have come to see this set of misconceptions as ‘the creativity myth.’ It is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call ‘creative confidence.’ And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics] creative…Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you’ll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place.”

To paraphrase Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can be or can’t be innovative, you’re probably right.”T

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