While travelling around the globe in support of the MEDC 2007 World Tour, I read "The Myths of Innovation" written by Scott Berkun and published by O'Reilly Media. As a marketer, software developer and entrepreneur, this kind of book is right up my alley. Berkun takes the reader on a tour of the history of innovation to show how ideas can become successful innovations. Of course, one take away I had from the book was that innovation doesn't always come quickly and sometimes it isn't recognized for decades after it happens. In some extreme cases, an innovation literally dies on the vine for hundreds of years after the death of the innovator before seeing the light of day.
Berkun breaks out 8 challenges that innovators face in trying to turn their ideas into a success:
It's likely that many great ideas from the past failed to knock all 8 of the above challenges out of the park thus causing them to never become innovations. Berkun also does a quick run-through where people will tell you your idea is crazy, will never work, won't be wanted by consumers, or is just a solution in search of a problem. I'm sure many of my fellow startup-junkies have heard all these things and more when trying to raise money from Angel investors or Venture Capitalists.
One other aspect of the book I really liked centered around how innovators often conflict with their managers. Fresh out of school MBAs want to try out the latest management theory that optimizes and measures performance, reduces defects, and eliminates inefficiencies. Berkun refers to Steve Jobs being asked "How do you systematize innovation?" Jobs retorted, "You don't." You don't have to look any futher than the recent BusinessWeek cover story on how Six Sigma almost sucked the innovative life out of 3M. Berkun says that managers responsible for innovative teams must do the following:
"The Myths of Innovation" rang true with many of my past startup experiences while bestowing some new insights that I hadn't though of. It's definitely well worth the read and I highly recommend it.