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"But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it." -- Numbers 14:24 (NKJV)

Innovation is one of those subjects about which there is a lot of agreement ... and disagreement. Some people believe innovation is inborn, while others argue that it is mostly learned behavior. Some people find it so hard to develop new ideas that they spend much time learning how to think differently, without much considering if those different thoughts are helpful or not. Others have so many different ideas that they have difficulty focusing on just a few of them.

Into such agreement and disagreement, individual studies of actual innovators and non-innovators can be helpful in pointing out differences. If the differences can be learned, then others can become innovators. That's the premise behind this book.

Disruptive innovations are those that leave existing business models and offerings hung out to dry, such as what happened to Bowmar and its portable electronic calculator business. Most innovation is, instead, incremental, providing just a little twist on what's always been done in an evolutionary change. If you have read any other books in this series, you know that most organizations focus on incremental innovation because it is so immediately profitable ... leaving the competitive door open for those with disruptive approaches.

In The Innovator's DNA, the authors use about 80 interviews of disruptive innovators and survey information for a large number of non-innovators to identify that these factors are important (as summarized in the model found described by Figure 1-1 on page 27:

(1) Courage to innovate
(1a) Challenging the status quo
(1b) Taking risks

(2) Engaging in helpful behaviors
(2a) Questioning
(2b) Observing
(2c) Networking
(2d) Experimenting

(3) Cognitive skill to synthesize novel inputs (characterized as associational thinking)

The book goes on to describe these characteristics in more detail and to suggest ways to increase your effective use of them through people, processes, and organizational philosophies.

To greatly oversimplify the book's key point, you should assume that there's an enormously valuable disruptive innovation waiting for you to discover that will greatly reward you for your efforts. Therefore, making finding that disruptive innovation your top activity and organize accordingly.

If someone told you that you could count on finding large flawless natural diamonds by simply looking around for them where you live and work, you would certainly be looking. And if, in fact, there were such diamonds, you would be more likely to find them.

So are disruptive innovations almost always available. Well, my research and teaching experiences have convinced me that's the case. This book, however, doesn't try to make that case. It just assumes it to be true in a tacit way.

How applied is the information? Well, it's great for someone new to the subject. For someone who isn't, it's pretty simplified. As a result, this book will mainly appear to those who don't have a clue how to start looking for a disruptive innovation, and that's all to the good.

I must admit that I think the notion of an innovation premium in stocks probably can't be accurately verified by the methods used in this book. It just assumes any premium is due to innovation. My own research shows that innovation is only one factor in gaining and retaining a stock-price premium value. So take that bit with a big grain of salt.

Otherwise, the work is solid ... as far as it goes.

I do hope the authors will do a more applied version of this work aimed at those who are more advanced practitioners of disruptive innovation. Now, that would be a most helpful book!
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am 15. August 2011
This book is useful to the extent that it identifies and rationalises the things that those of an innovative mind already do, but not necessarily to the degree, emphasis and interconnectedness that would make them more effective innovators.

In addition, the principles described in this book, can be applied to a broad range of activities, such as pertain to industry and the liberal arts. Which is not surprising, since the development of an innovator's increased powers of association, are to be derived from a broad range of influences, as described for the Steve Jobs' example.

The website material that is mentioned in the book is also a useful adjunct, since it provides the means with which to self-assess one's potential as an innovator, and provides guidance about how one may take steps to improve one's potential as an innovator who is better able to prosper in an increasingly globalized and knowledge dependent economy.
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