Friday, March 23, 2012

The Making of an Innovation Master

A workshop attendee asked me this seemingly simple question: “So, what else should I read to learn more about innovation?”

It’s a hard question to answer because there is so much high-quality material out there. And specific recommendations depend on the specific topic about which you are most curious. But in thinking it through, I did eventually end up with a highly personal list I call “The Masters of Innovation” (which appears in my latest book). My intent was to provide a simple entry point to innovation literature by describing people I’ve found consistently insightful, distilling their key lesson to a single sentence, and pointing to where to go to learn more. To see my selections, click here.

So what makes a Master? I didn’t create any kind of ranking algorithm while making my choices, but did consider three basic criteria:

  1. Do the individual’s ideas bring clarity to the quest of improving the predictability and productivity of innovation?
  2. Are the ideas presented in a way that a practitioner can put them to work immediately?
  3. To what degree has the person’s work affected me personally?

These three questions lead to obviously biased selections. For example, I’m sure that most innovation practitioners wouldn’t put baseball researcher Bill James on their list, but his mission to find patterns, develop theories, and overturn orthodoxy has greatly influenced my own thinking. Michael Mauboussin doesn’t write about innovation, but his clear writing that blends finance, strategy, and psychology puts him on my list. Some readers have asked why I put A.G. Lafley and not Steve Jobs on my list. While Jobs and everything he accomplished at Apple is certainly worth studying, in my mind Lafley is a better role model for practitioners. After all, Lafley’s bent is to manage innovation in a systematic, disciplined way. From everything I’ve read, Jobs’s approach relied more on his singular genius. It’s much easier to become more disciplined than to become more of a genius!

Read the rest at Scott’s Harvard Business Review blog.

Scott D. Anthony is managing director, Innosight Asia-Pacific.

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