Thinkers 50 Innovation: A book review by Bob Morris

50 InnovationThinkers 50 Innovation: Breakthrough Thinking to Take Your Business to the Next Level
Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove
McGraw-Hill Education (2014)

How does an organization establish and/or strengthen a capability for discontinuous innovation?

This is one of the volumes in a series published by McGraw-Hill Education and co-authored by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. They wrote it in response to that question.

I really like the basic concept: Crainer and Dearlove selected a major business subject such as innovation and then asked, “Which cutting edge thinkers should we consult to share their thoughts about this?” They had already read their books and articles and even interviewed several of them. A generous selection of the most valuable material they obtained is provided in this volume. The first chapter is called, appropriately, “How We Got Here.” That is, how perspectives on innovation have evolved over time.

Here is one of the Q&As from an interview of Clay Christensen:

What exactly is disruptive innovation?

Disruptive innovation has a very specific meaning. It is not a breakthrough innovation that makes good products a lot better. It has a very specific definition, and that is that it transforms a product that historically was so expensive and complicated that only a few people with a lot of money and a lot of skill had access to it. A disruptive innovation makes the product so much more affordable and acceptable that a much larger population has access to it.

And so it creates new markets. But the technology leaders who made the complicated, expensive stuff find it very hard to move in the direction of the affordable and simple because that is so incompatible with their business model. And so it’s almost a paradox within itself. But what it says is, if you are a little boy and want to kill a giant, the way you do it is by going after this kind of product, where the leader is actually motivated to walk away from you rather than engage you.

Here is another Q&A, from their interview of C.K. Prahalad:

What would be an example of co-creation?

Let’s take Google. But if I look at Google, it does not tell me how to use the system. I can personalize my own page; I can create iGoogle. I decide what I want. Google is an experience platform. Google understands that it may have a hundred million consumers, but each one can do what he or she wants with its platform. That is an extreme case of personalized, co-created value. Our shorthand for it is “N=1.”

On the other hand, Google does not produce the content at all. The content comes from a large number of people around the world — institutions and individuals. Google aggregates it and makes it available to me. That is the spirit of co-creation, which says that even if you have a hundred million consumers, each consumer experience is different because it is co-created by that customer and the organization, in this case Google. So resources are not contained within the firm, but accessed from a wide variety of institutions; therefore, resources are global. Our shorthand for that is “R=G,” because resources are now coming from more than one institution.

Other thought leaders who contributed to this volume include Teresa Amabile, Henry Chesbrough, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Vijay Govindarajan (Q&A), Gary Hamel (Q&A), Ionnis Ioannou, Constantinos Markides (Q&A), Procter & Gamble, Berndt Schmitt (Q&A), and Don Tapscott (Q&A).

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the Thinkders50 volumes on management, leadership, future thinkers, and strategy. Also, Crainer’s The Ultimate Business Library: The Greatest Books That Made Management, published by Captone/A Wiley Imprint, and The Management Century: One Hundred Years of Thinking and Practice, part of the J-B BAH Strategy & Business Series.

I also greatly admire Dearlove’s The Ultimate Book of Business Thinking: Harnessing the Power of the World’s Greatest Business Ideas and Business the Richard Branson Way: 10 Secrets of the World’s Greatest Brand Builder (Big Shots Series).

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