Sunday, September 03, 2006


Innovation Book Review, Enroute to Mexico

I’m enroute to the Ibero-American Innovation Congress in Puebla, MX. I’ll experiment with daily blogging from the conference—I’ve been seeing this on other people’s blogs, on a variety of topics. My cynical self says it just makes the blogger feel important, and my other self says it is a service to the members of the community who can’t get to the meeting.

New book: Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want by Curtis R. Carlson and William W. Wilmot. Recommended by our Bay-area friends Art Mlodozeniec and Josh Abend. Josh is a former SRI (Stanford Research Institute) colleague of the authors, and coined some of the phrases we are all using today, such as “innovation is a process.” The 5 disciplines are
1. Important Needs
2. Value Creation
3. Innovation Champions
4. Innovation Teams
5. Organizational Alignment

In other words, it is disappointing but not surprising that TRIZ isn’t mentioned in this book. These are all useful issues that require attention. Whether TRIZ or any other method, systematic or not, is used to create the new idea, it still needs to be nurtured through the corporate system and into the marketplace (3,4,5) and it needs to have customers who value it (1, 2) The actual creation of the idea is buried fairly deeply in section 2.

The book suffers from the usual consultant bragging (all the wonderful stuff that SRI has done—and there is quite a lot that really is worth bragging about, but once per concept would be enough). They introduce some new vocabulary that is useful (the “Exponential Improvement Wave” is more easily grasped than Kurzweil’s “Singularity”) and some of which just puts new labels on well-established concepts (“Continuous Value Creation” and “Customer Experience”)

TRIZ teachers will find this book a rich source of technology evolution anecdotes, especially those from the information technology branch of the economy.

Anecdotes are useful as teaching tools, but ultimately they make this book disappointing. There is no overall system or methodology. The conclusions drawn from the anecdotes are very general. Ironically, I heard about this book in a Chinese restaurant, and the most important advice in the book could fit into fortune cookies:
Ø Work on what is important, not what is interesting—there’s an infinite supply of both. There’s discussion of the criteria for importance, but it is only useful retrospectively!
Ø Pay attention to whether customers’ needs are met. GREAT anecdotes, but no system.

Summary: Good airplane reading, good anecdotes, no contribution to the overall understanding of innovation or the development of systematic methods.

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