Book Review: The Innovator's Guide to Growth
I really liked The Innovator's Guide to Growth because it attempts to take all the great concepts about innovation and break them down into an actual guide that an innovator could follow to bring more innovation to his or her company. This book has a lot of good templates, forms and examples to help a nascent innovation leader define the innovation intent and goals and convince the management team to engage in an ongoing program of innovation.
The book is breaks down into five sections: precursors to innovation, identifying opportunities, formulating and shaping ideas, building the business and supporting systems and structures. Key points from each section:
- A firm can't innovate successfully until it's house is in control and a good game plan is in place
- Many innovation opportunities exist in "nonconsumers" (think the unbanked or un-insured) or in situations where products and services "overmeet" the needs of customers (think Southwest in airlines)
- The chapters on identifying ideas spend a significant amount of time on defining the "jobs" that people want to complete - again harking back to Christensen's books and to the concept of Outcome-Driven innovation which has also been popularized by Strategyn.
- Developing and shaping ideas focuses on refining ideas and targeting opportunities using a strategy map borrowed from Blue Ocean strategy and using innovation techniques such as ideation sessions, analogies and internal and external submissions
- I felt the chapter on assembling and managing project teams was fairly strong and identified a number of good points, especially on the interactions between an innovation team and the executive team, and the innovation team and the rest of the organization
- The chapter on innovation metrics should be must reading for any innovation program
There are a few quibbles I have with the book, however. The first two thirds of the book are really loaded with good advice, templates and forms and case studies. Somewhere in the late middle of the book, where the book begins to address refining ideas and building the innovation team, the book begins to become more theoretical and less practical. For example, what kinds of people or skill sets are better or worse for an innovation team? Should innovation be a centralized or decentralized capability? What are the best idea generation methods? What should an innovation process or methodology look like? What are the roles and responsibilities within innovation? These questions are addressed obliquely, if at all, and important topics like rewards and recognition and corporate culture are not addressed at all. Perhaps the team assumed these items are already addressed if the firm has decided to become more innovative.
While I have a number of concerns with the book as a practical methodology for deploying an innovation capability, I can wholeheartedly recommend the book, especially the first six chapters which focus on the alignment of innovation to corporate strategy and intent, and chapter eight, which is about building and managing innovation teams. I think that the segue in the middle and last third of the book from practical advice, templates and forms to more theoretical advice may align to the fact that the actual deployment of these programs is subject to many more variables, but I would have expected a bit more detail in the chapters on organizing to innovate. I will point out that chapter ten on innovation metrics, while a bit short, is an excellent overview and mirrors a lot of good advice on building innovation metrics and the expectations around innovation returns.
This book definitely belongs on the shelf of any executive considering an innovation program or initiative, and on the desk of any innovation leader.