5.0 out of 5 stars
The Myths of Innovation, 18 Feb. 2011
In the knowledge economy, Innovation represents the Holy Grail : the undisputed source of wealth, pride and prestige. It is one of the most respected and worshiped word in corporate vocabulary. Yet you can hardly find organisations that share a same definition, let alone have a clear plan to manage it. The reason is : we are misguided by common misconception that run rampant in business and popular culture (Berkun).
With The Myths of innovation, his second book, Scott Berkun aims to clarify the topic : he is merciless with wishful thinking using his ruthless wit and encyclopaedic culture on the subject.
This paperback re-edition is a revised version of the original 2007 edition including four new (and amazing) chapters. As usual with Scott, this is a fantastic read, filled with conviction, great ideas, provocative thoughts, common sense and unexpected bursts of humour. The telling stories, the usability of the advises, the hindsight and wisdom of conclusions and the Occam Razor approach of Scott brings bucket loads of value to the reader.
Julian Casabianca`s 8th Phrase for the Young is Unlocking life mysteries is the responsibility of dissatisfied people. Scott must be a hell of a dissatisfied guy.
Don't get me wrong : you won't find any bitterness, jealousy or envy in his writing. The dissatisfaction acts as a fuel, a positive energy leading his writings towards the Truth. The allegoric one. The one that innervates all his best sellers and blog posts. This obsession with truth is the mark of great writers as Nabokov said about the work of Tolstoi.
The tool set for this unlocking operation is books. This is one of the reasons why Scott is such a great writer : he is a great reader in the first place. The bibliography is quite impressive and every statement, claim, position, idea in the book is thoroughly documented, balanced and has patently required substantial research work. This confers a great authority to his essays.
Another reason of the great energy and conviction of Scott writings is that he scratches his own itches : he focusses on these mysteries that immediately surround him.
Scott used to be Project Manager at Microsoft on the Internet Explorer projet: Management and Innovation are logically the main subjects of his first two essays. Making Things Happen (initially published under the name The Art Of Project Management - Scott being a doer he puts a verb in the title the second time around) aimed to frame management tasks and responsibilities in a simple framework. He tackles innovation in this book.
Being now a writer and speaker he wrote about public speaking in his third best-seller : Confessions of a Public Speaker.
Whenever M. Berkun addresses an issue he really does so thoroughly. Again, the bibliography and the volume of ideas discussed here is quite impressive : history, creativity, business innovation, entrepreneurship, myths and mythologies all subjects are fed with serious research. This is a proof that Scott walks the talk and invests a considerable amount of effort to expose his ideas to the world.
In Making Things Happen he points out relentlessness as one of the principle quality of managers. In Myths Of Innovations, he identifies perseverance as one of the main difference between innovation that succeed and the one that fails. Just as 37Signals wrote, there is no shortcuts and overnight success take years. Not surprisingly, Epiphany happens to be the first myth cut down to pieces by our MythBuster.
This effort does not only encompass the research but also the actual writing : clear, intelligent and yet simple and funny. As ususal , humour comes in bursts of unexpected flashes : the rabid zombie rottweiler, the smelly Rupert table of contents or patients refusing from being cured from cancer because the proposed cure is not innovative are hilarious. This contributes to make the read a real treat.
In terms of management, according to Scott, there are 2 main prerequisites for innovation to happen : trust and the will to take some risks. The Myths of Innovation argues that a vast majority of teams are dysfunctional : there is no trust in these teams. As a result, ideas can't float freely between people. Since innovation is more often than not an association of ideas, people not able to voice freely their ideas can not exchange them.
The second point is the fact that most managers are conservative and risk adverse. Therefore they are not willing to cover risky ideas which is necessary to foster innovation.