The Innovator’s Guide to Growth: Putting Disruptive Innovation to Work
Scott D. Anthony, Mark W. Johnson, Joseph V. Sinfield, and Elizabeth J. Altman
Harvard Business School Press (2008)
The co-authors offer a great deal of valuable information and counsel and much of the credit must be given to Scott Anthony who is a long-time and close associate of Clayton Christensen’s and co-author with him of Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change. The author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution (with Michael E. Raynor), Christensen wrote the Foreword to this volume in which Anthony and his co-authors (Mark Johnson, Joseph Sinfield, and Elizabeth Altman) explain why and how taking “the right steps and putting in place the right structures can allow managers and entrepreneurs to improve significantly their odds of creating profitable growth businesses. This view contrasts with a prevailing stream of thinking that innovation is random and requires creative genius.”
This last sentence caught my eye because I had just read a book by Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. In Chapter Nine, Colvin suggests that two views characterize what most of us know “that just ain’t so” about innovation and creativity. “One is that creative ideas come to us in the way a famous one came to Archimedes, in a eureka moment when everything suddenly becomes clear…The other thing we all think we know about creativity is that it can be inhibited by too much knowledge. We often say that someone is `too close to the problem’ to see the solution. The broader principle is that if you know too much about a situation, a business, a field of study, then you can’t have the flash of insight that is available only to someone unburdened by a lifetime of immersion in the domain.” Colvin’s repudiation of both views is best revealed within the narrative, in context. His point is, that great innovators (e.g. those who devise disruptive technologies) aren’t burdened by knowledge, they’re nourished by it. For them (with very rare exception), innovation doesn’t strike, it grows. Therefore, innovation requires a culture within which to thrive.
After providing a “Disruptive Innovation Model” with a brief explanation (Figure 1-2 on Pages 17-18), the authors carefully organize their material as follows: Part One: Identify Opportunities (e.g. nonconsumers, overshot customers, and jobs to be done); Part Two: Formulate and Shape Ideas (e.g. development of disruptive ideas and assessment of a strategy’s fit with a pattern); Part Three: Build the Business (i.e. mastering emergent strategies as well as assembling and managing project teams); and Part Four: Build Capabilities (e.g. “organize to innovate” and formulate innovation metrics). Then in the final chapter, “Conclusion,” the authors review several key points and then briefly discuss ten “key innovation traps” (six that are project-related, such as “Pursuing unattainable perfection,” and four that are company-related, such as “Too many lingering projects”) and then review a series of lessons to be learned from innovation initiatives at Procter & Gamble. The authors conclude the chapter with their “Final Words of Wisdom,” eight guiding axioms suggested by the extensive research and intensive field work that led to their writing of this book. I especially like #8, “Devil’s advocates are abundant, problem solvers are scarce.”
I presume to add one other perspective. Think of an innovative organization as a “nursery” where trees thrive and flowers blossom because they are planted in nutrient rich soil and receive constant nurturing. Seedlings are not pulled up “to see how well they’re doing.” And when necessary, there is pruning to protect growth. Extending the metaphor, the information and counsel the authors of this book provide can help each reader to develop a “green thumb.” Producing a harvest is up to you.