The Innovation Expedition: A book review by Bob Morris

Inno ExpedThe Innovation Expedition: A Visual Toolkit to Start Innovation
Gijs van Wulfen provides
BIS Publishers (2013)

Just about everything you need to know about how to establish and then sustain an innovation culture

By the time I began to read this book, I was already convinced that the innovation process is a journey of discovery but it never occurred to me to think of it, also, as an “expedition,” a much more structured process. Indeed, the accounts of the greatest expeditions throughout history — such as Roald Amundsen’s Search for the Northwest Passage, Hernan Cortes and the Fall of the Aztec Empire, Charles Darwin’s Journey on the HMS Beagle, Ferdinand Magellan and the First Circumnavigation of the Earth, the Travels of Marco Polo, Stanley’s Search for Livingstone, Lewis and Clark and the Expansion into the West, Sir Edmund Hillary and the First Successful Everest Expedition, Christopher Columbus’ Discovery of the New World, and Neil Armstrong’s First Steps on the Moon — reveal lessons in leadership and management lessons that can be of incalculable value in the global business world.

In this volume, Gijs van Wulfen provides a brilliant analysis of what he has learned from Amundsen, Armstrong, Columbus, Edmund Hilary, and Magellan. When doing so, he frames much of the material within the FORTH Innovation Method, a 20-week expedition previously introduced and explained in Creating Innovative Products and Services, another of van Wulfen’s books that I also highly recommend. Here is my take on the essence of this method:

Full steam ahead (Five Weeks): Begin the process with passion and determination…and meticulous preparation
Observe & Learn (Six Weeks): Assume nothing, be curious about and alert to everything
Raise/Generate) ideas (Two Weeks): Consider all possibilities without pre-judgment, scrutinize with progressive rigor
Test/Refine/Validate ideas (Three Weeks): Obtain candid feedback from as many relevant constituencies as possible
Homecoming (Four Weeks): Team members complete the expedition process and introduce the results of their efforts

All of this is explained in detail within the narrative (Pages 68-73)

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

o Ten Innovation Lessons (Page 46)
o 21 Situations When You Should Not Innovate (50)
o 6 Ways of Committing Innovation Suicide (52)
o 40 Reasons Why People Struggle with Innovation (54)
o 10 reasons to Innovate (60)
o 10 Problems at the Start of Innovation (62)
o The FORTH Innovation Method (68-73)
o The Perfect Innovation Team (88-89)
o It’s All About the Right Moment (92)
o Thinking Like a Designer (100-101)
o 10 Enemies of an Open Innovation Culture (114)
o 11 Brilliant Inventions Made by Mistake (128)
o 25 Rules for Perfect Brainstorming (154)
o 30 Ways to Present a New Idea (192)
o New Rules for Realizing New Ideas (206)
o The Innovation Toolkit (218-240)

Readers will also appreciate the provision of five mini-profiles:

o The Origin of Harley Davidson Motorcycles (100-101)
o The Origin of Wii and Super Mario (130-133)
o The Origin of Ben & Jerry’s (156-157)
o The Origin of Twitter (178-179)
o The Origin of “Liter of Light” (200)

When re-reading this book prior to composing a review of it, I was struck again by the fact that reading this book is itself a expedition, and, that Gijs van Wulfen serves the reader in several different ways: as a travel agent during the pre-start phase; then as a guide, mentor, instructor, facilitator, evaluator, and eventually as the owner/proprietor of a “hardware store” that offers is a full range of resources (tools, manuals, techniques repair service, and expert advice) during the final phase of the reader’s expedition.

My own experience during more years than I wish to acknowledge is that the most challenging phase of any process by which to establish and then sustain a culture of innovation is – by far – the first. With all due respect to the abundance of material provided in this book, the success or failure of your expedition will be determined almost entirely by the nature and extent of your ability and determination to execute effectively what you learn.

Before concluding the brief commentary, I also want to say that — in my opinion — the illustrations in this book are among those of the highest quality that I have yet encountered in a work of non-fiction. Heartiest congratulations to Frederik de Wal for graphic design and typography. Also, readers will be pleased to know that there are Quick Response (QR) Code kinks inserted throughout the narrative that provide direct access to a wealth of valuable resources, such as various innovation maps and 20 practical checklists and formats to innovate the expedition way.

* * *

Those who share my high regard for this book may wish to check out these three volumes that examine another expedition from which valuable business lessons can also be learned:

Leading at The Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition (Second Edition)
Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B Murphy

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition
Caroline Alexander

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing

Posted in

Leave a Comment