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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

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on 15 January 2014
"The storms of creative destruction are blowing us to a better place". This is a quote directly from "Megachange, the world in 2050". If you watch the technology trends, there is no question about it. Big data, the internet of things, social media, genetics, biology, quantum computing are all big waves. In that context, innovation and future proofing your business, become more and more important.
nnovation as the key challenge
99% of our clients are now struggling with innovation as their key challenge. Companies need to become asymmetric. They need to embrace the unexpected. They need to be able to cope with chaos, hyper-competition, uncertainty and change. They need to embrace ambiguity, disruptions and turbulence. They need to rehearse the future and serendipity is a big part of the scenarios. Optimisation is a given, not a distinctive feature any more. What set the standards in one market, sets the standard for all. Innovation and opportunity spotting will give you the edge.

Explosive mix
We have read many (MANY!) books on innovation. My favourite are "Business model innovation factory" , "Makers" and "Digital disruption". Mix it with some books on future trends (like Megachange) and you have an explosive mix of big bang disruption and innovation.

Serendipity is interesting. There are not that many books on that subject. Surprisingly so. In commodity hell, happy accidents will become more and more important as early warning signals for a potential opportunity.

The science of serendipity
"The science of serendipity, how to unlock the promise of innovation" by Matt Kingston, talks about serendipity as the raw material for innovation. In fact, the books is not about serendipity at all, it is about successful innovation.

Serendipity is hard work
Matt Kingston argues that happy accidents is hard earned. You need to create the connections, collisions, stimulus and "fill your mental filing cabinet" to create the connection, the serendipity and the innovation. Serendipity is an application of connections, not a random process. He makes the point that serendipity is not creativity. Creativity is futile, it is about commercial launch of an idea.

Innovation is a contact sport
In his view innovation is a contact sport (putting a baby in the boxing ring). Innovation is extremely social. It is people sparking of people. Innovation is tough, particularly in big organisations.

Innovation therefore needs to be humanised and taken away from complex business terminology. It needs a goal people can identify with ("putting a dent in the universe', Steve Jobs). A rally cry if you want. And it needs a deep, deep understanding of the customer.
Posh Spice wanted to be as famous as Persil Automatic. Kennedy wanted a man on the moon. It needs to be expressed in everyday, blunt language.and needs to appeal to basic human instincts.

Game of two halves
It is a game of two halves. Colliding with as much stimulus as possible, then seize on the connections and do something with it. Not creativity. Active serendipity and innovation.

The ideal innovator
The ideal innovator according to Matt is intuitive, agile, ambitious, with a small ego, able to make your own decisions. Nor afraid to leave the company. Values diversity. Collaborator (as in distinct from team worker, collaboration is more robust). The master plumber of the organisation. External facing. Has audacity. Has passion. Has ability to listen. Can go expansive as well as reductive. Goes with guts. Is capable of finishing things off. Note that creative is not mentioned.

Lenses of provocation
Innovation is fuelled by new insight. To create that insight you need lenses of provocation as the raw material for serendipity and innovation. Which means you need to bust the silos and go to the margins. Meet the angry, the ambivalent, the rejecters, the do-it-yourselfers. Find extreme and eccentric users.

Prepare you mind
Other ways to prepare your mind:
* Imagine if you were addressing a five year old.
* What if you break all the rules in your industry?
* What does nature tell you? (The bullet train is based on Kingfishers)
* What do related worlds tell you? (BP invigorate is based on insights from a herbal doctor)
* Surf the net
* Map the flow of can and profit across the value chain (read "The wide lens")
* Use value maps
* Randomise tools on your smart phone
* Role play customers (good for breaking down cynical executives)
* Walk in the customers shoes
* Look for the contradiction

Make it real

And then you have to make the ideas real. Create the right environment (both physical and mental), give it focus with a limited scope and with constraints, create a sense of urgency and intensity, get a good ringmaster and get some handpicked customers.
Develop prototypes, Ask the questions (who, how, when, what, whom, where). Start co-creating with your customers. Use different media. Experiment. Start fast and start quickly. And keep it low cost so you can keep experimenting. Go radical. Explore alternatives.
Key question; "What would MacGuyer do?"

Getting innovation accepted in the organisation

The book looses momentum at the end, when it starts talking about how to get the organisation to accept the new ideas. Although we know form bitter experience how important it is. Here are his tips:
* Get contact with the the enemy as quick as possible. Good enough is good enough
* Make sure the prototype is not too finished. Something that is too polished does not invite comment. Commenting makes people part of the innovation.
* Operate in stealth mode.
* Watch the energy management of the the group. There are lots of ups and down. If members of group get dishearten or even disruptive it could kill the project. No festering. Open communication. Avoid the innovation doom loop
* Don't underestimate the physical environment. Make all ideas visible (so they are not hidden on a hard drive). Create collisions (office design, farmhouse kitchen, watering holes, creative ninjas). Keep it light.
* It will need leadership involvement and buy in from the top. This included getting a very careful framing (why, how) of the challenge. The organisation needs to know why it is important and what is in and out of scope.
* Keep the teams small (pizza teams) and focus on collaboration rather then team.
* Narrative is everything. Frame the story. Create the symbols and use the grapevine to percolate your messaging.
* Let a 1000 flowers bloom (or kiss a lot of frogs)
* Make metrics meaningful. Focus on "how much to find out if it works" vs "how much will we make". "Digital disruption" uses the metric ROD (return on disruption).
* Introduce business leaders to consumers. Makes them realise how far removed they are from the real world. Great to kill off the cynics.
* Celebrate all the successes and build pockets of optimism.

Cracking book
Serendipity (as a search term and as part of my research in asymmetric management) got me to this book. I am glad it die. It is a cracking book that makes innovation real. Not many books on innovation do that.
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on 17 November 2012
I am very sad, as I have a large library of innovation books - but I have almost stopped buying them because few say anything new, and even fewer make it real or entertaining enough for me to remember anything.
Enter Matt, who talks utter sense and in an engaging way rammed full of short, pithy and meaningful stories.

And it is these informative stories that is the triumph of the book.

Even if their is no mind blowing overarching breakthrough in thinking - like with the excellent Sticky Wisdom, his last book - this one is even more useful and readable and dare I say enjoyable . Yes I said it.

Nowadays I use my brilliant GetAbstract subscription to avoid having to read overinflated hard backs that they can, and do, summarise down to 3 pages. Not this book. Frustratingly, I had to read it all and have enjoyed every moment.
Good on you Mr Kingdom
In short.... The only innovation book I would actually buy right now, apart from the Brilliant Little Bets... Which has a bigger message but actually was easy to summarise down to 3 pages. Tis one you have to buy it all.
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on 26 November 2012
Matt is one of the great experts on innovation, and his book reads like a traveller's guide written by an author who has not only been there, but knows the best bars. He's distilled over 20 years of experience into a readable, practical and entertaining tour of what it takes to innovate in business today. Having spent a few years innovating in large companies myself, it's the book I wish someone had given me at the start.

The strength of this book is its practicality. Matt explains how to innovate by drawing on real world examples from companies large and small, and the book is crammed full of case studies and anecdotes, describing what works and what doesn't, and providing tips, ideas, stimulus and inspiration. Given this, the title is actually a bit of a misnomer, since one thing Matt doesn't do is set out a "scientific theory" of innovation, and the book is (intentionally I suspect) light on models and analysis. So if this is a science book at all, it's not one designed for those studying innovation, but for those who are out in the field actively experimenting.

But actually I don't think it's a science book. I think it's a travel guide, and an immensely readable and useful one at that. If you're going on any kind of innovation journey, you should take it with you.
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on 18 January 2013
Decades of reading business books has left me jaded with their typical format: a good idea or insight that could easily be explained in a concise article, padded out with analyses, statistical data, comparative data, intellectual theorizing... yawn...

So Matt Kingdon, and his book decoding the hard work that sits behind those innovations that look like a stroke of good fortune, was going to have get past my defenses and prejudices if it was going to impress me. Reader, he succeeded.

The format of the book is an innovation in its own right, a feast of colour and multi-formatting. Split into five sections, boldly colour coded (instant winner for me, colour coding is one of my guilty pleasures) and sprinkled with quotes in big fonts, case studies in shaded boxes, lists, summaries, photos and illustrations.

A quick fan through this lovely book revealed that the first page of each section states "If I only I had 30 seconds, I'd tell you..." followed by a page of bullet points summarizing the section. So I read all five straight away, for a fast executive summary of the whole book, secretly hoping that that would be enough. But it whetted my appetite for more.

Next, still trying to avoid any theory, I flicked through to find the practical case studies, easy to spot in their shaded boxes. Not so much case studies as it turned out, as real, proper stories, with characters I could picture and feel, and plot lines that captured my imagination, told in a writing style that is clear, irreverent and witty. My two favourite stories were how Gü got it's name and Telefonica's launch of 48, a tariff aimed at the 18 - 22 age group "for the best 48 months of your life".

Then I read the introduction and the conclusion (or, as Kingdon terms it, "A Call to Arms" ie just do something) and the acknowledgements. Then I threw up my hands and surrendered, all defenses breached, and read the whole thing from beginning to end. Kingdon promises it's a book that takes two hours and fifteen minutes to read, hinting that I'm not the only one that finds standard business books wearing. I didn't time myself because I didn't care. I loved it: it's a must read in a challenging business landscape where innovation is the only key to a thriving business.
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on 9 December 2012
How come business books don't normally follow the same rules as 'normal books'? A compelling biography or a ripping novel are beautifully written (style) and leaves you feeling enriched and intellectually nourished (substance). All too often business books get by without style and sometimes little substance.

By contrast, Matt Kingdon's book has a refreshingly human and engaging style and brings to life the drama of business with a pace and verve that makes it a page turner (it's an easy and entertaining read in one sitting). But not at the expense of substance. It makes the sometimes theoretical and elusive topic of innovation into something real and commercial. Examples bring innovation to life in a way that should bring it in reach of even the most staid organisations. The practical tips give me confidence to try them and make innovation work - my copy is already getting dog-eared from referring back to the helpful 'let's get practical' tips and the 'if you had 30 seconds' summaries.

I can't recall a book that crams in more real life examples and practical, revenue generating knowledge in per page. The concepts in this book could make a lot of money for big, and small, businesses. With his passion for bringing the joy of innovation to the corporate masses, Matt Kingdon might just inject some fun and stimulation into the day of those toiling in big business - by giving them access to the magic of inspiration, serendipitous moments and the quest for innovation.
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on 4 April 2013
Whether you skim read or dive straight into this book, it give you much more than other 'how to' bibles or ego-driven guru guides... and tells it straight.

What I found really valuable was the format - short bites of real advice with longer experienced accounts of how both ?What If!'s clients and other organisations have flung off the restrictive barriers that exist in big, creaky corporations. Matt faces up to the fact that these will always be there - rather than dreamily casting them aside - and gives the reader a realistic set of examples.

I love the line that innovation "isn't just the preserve of the groovy.." as it sums up Matt's approach: be human, be ambitious and keep asking different questions.....

If you believe that innovation is never really 'normal' but a good antidote to the humdrum of risk-averse, cautious and pessimistic business.......then reading the Science of Serendipity will not just remind you to be a bit more adventurous - it will reinstall your belief that it can happen anywhere.

Thanks Matt!
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on 9 January 2013
As an `Innovation Pirate' working in a large Multi national this book resonated completely with me on every level. Matt Kingdon obviously has a deep understanding of all things Innovation that can only be acquired through real, front line, battle scars. Free of corporate jargon he manages to articulate the fundamental principles of what it takes to innovate despite the corporate machinery. It's packed full of stories from a variety of sectors and some simple no nonsense explanations of what other Innovation books love to over complicate! It's a truly remarkable book that I'm calling the new `Innovation gospel according to Matt'. I'm sharing this book actively with my colleagues as a MUST READ. My own, precious copy, is now very dog eared with notes scribbled in the margins. Always the sign of a great book!
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on 24 June 2013
I was looking for a practical book to assist with ideas around driving innovation and creating an in-house innovation team within a relatively small organisation. Absolutely loved this book. It's an easy read - and very dip 'in and outable'. I made so many notes throughout - and the book sparked so many ideas. Great pace and energy in the writing, packed with useful case studies and stories - and I really enjoyed the 'If I only had 30 seconds I'd tell you... before each chapter. Very insightful - so many gems. It's one of those books you don't lend to people as it's a keeper and a book I'm sure I'll keep referring back to for a long time.
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on 10 February 2013
In my view this is very, very good. It took me longer than some business books to read, but I think that is actually because there is much to reflect on. I do think this one is a cut above the average business book and in its field of innovation I would put it up with the best of them.

It is structured but very fresh in the insights, engaging and colourful. It doesn't fizzle out after the first chapter, nor go all ethereal. I am recommending it to people and I am confident it will do very well.

Importantly, I think it will advance the field of Corporate innovation.
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on 8 February 2013
I'm in awe of people and companies that have track record of innovation (not one off innovations but that innovate again and again). This may be easier for small companies or penniless entrepreneurs. If they don't innovate they might die (necessity is still the mother of most inventions). It's much hard for larger companies to do so and to do so systematically. This is without a doubt the best and most practical guide I've read on how to create and sustain a true culture of innovation that with practice stands to increase the quantity and quality of innovations in any organization.
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