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on 15 August 2011
This book is useful to the extent that it identifies and rationalises the things that those of an innovative mind already do, but not necessarily to the degree, emphasis and interconnectedness that would make them more effective innovators.

In addition, the principles described in this book, can be applied to a broad range of activities, such as pertain to industry and the liberal arts. Which is not surprising, since the development of an innovator's increased powers of association, are to be derived from a broad range of influences, as described for the Steve Jobs' example.

The website material that is mentioned in the book is also a useful adjunct, since it provides the means with which to self-assess one's potential as an innovator, and provides guidance about how one may take steps to improve one's potential as an innovator who is better able to prosper in an increasingly globalized and knowledge dependent economy.
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As is true of others who have written business books that also offer breakthrough insights, the authors of this one set out to answer an especially important question: "Where do disruptive business models come from?" What Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen concluded is shared in this book. It's too early to be certain, of course, but I think this book is destined to become a "business classic," as have so many of the other books that Christensen has authored or co-authored. It is worth noting that The Innovator's DNA emerged from an eight-year collaborative study, suggesting that its information, insights, and counsel are research-driven, anchored in the real world.

Some of the most valuable material was generated by interviews of dozens of "inventors of revolutionary products and services as well as founders and CEOs of game-changing companies build on innovative ideas." They also include what they learned from Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Howard Schultz (whom they did not interview) whose innovative thinking has transformed entire industries. "We wanted to understand as much about these people as possible, including the moment (when and how) they came up with the creative ideas that launched new products or businesses."

The title of this book refers to an aggregate of five primary discovery skills that enable various innovative entrepreneurs and executives to generate breakthrough ideas. "A critical insight from our research is that one's ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely the function of the mind, but also a function of behaviors. This is good news for us all because it means that if we change our behaviors, we can change our creative impact."

It should also be noting that an abundance of entrepreneurial research throughout the past 17-20 years reveals that, in terms of personality traits or psychometric measures, entrepreneurs do not differ significantly from typical (even traditional) business executives. My take is that almost anyone in almost any workplace can develop the five discovery skills. The extent and velocity of that development will largely depend on leadership. "The bottom line: If you want innovation [enterprise wide], you need creativity skills within the top management team of your company."

The co-authors include a disclaimer (sort of): "First, engaging in the discovery skills doesn't ensure financial success...Second, failure (in a financial sense) often results from not being vigilant in engaging all the discovery skills...Third, we spotlight different innovators and innovative companies to illustrate key ideas or principles, but not [repeat NOT] to set them up as perfect examples of how to be innovative."

The five Discovery Skills are hardly head-snappers: Associating with stimuli (mind, heart, and five senses); Questioning anything and everything, especially one's assumptions and premises; Observing with intent and intensity, noting what many others miss; Networking by connecting people as well as dots while accessing new (i.e. unfamiliar) resources; and Experimenting (e.g. test the untested, disassemble and deconstruct, prototype, add new knowledge). In the most innovative organizations or portions thereof, all five are institutionalized in terms of incentives and rewards, division of labor, allocating resources, transparency, cross-functional collaboration, recognition/celebration, and (yes) protection for prudent but bold risk-takers.

Not everyone is willing and/or able to thrive in such a culture. Disruption is by nature messy, unpredictable, confusing, upsetting, and often threatening. When Joseph Schumpeter introduced the process of "creative destruction," his ultimate objective was, in fact, creative creation. Just as Albert Einstein urges us to make everything as simple as possible but no simpler, Schumpeter urges us to destroy everything except what is essential...and then build on that. The authors of this book urge us to strengthen the five skills through individual and team initiatives that are guided and informed by a business model that, if it is designed properly, will be continuously self-disruptive.
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"But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it." -- Numbers 14:24 (NKJV)

Innovation is one of those subjects about which there is a lot of agreement ... and disagreement. Some people believe innovation is inborn, while others argue that it is mostly learned behavior. Some people find it so hard to develop new ideas that they spend much time learning how to think differently, without much considering if those different thoughts are helpful or not. Others have so many different ideas that they have difficulty focusing on just a few of them.

Into such agreement and disagreement, individual studies of actual innovators and non-innovators can be helpful in pointing out differences. If the differences can be learned, then others can become innovators. That's the premise behind this book.

Disruptive innovations are those that leave existing business models and offerings hung out to dry, such as what happened to Bowmar and its portable electronic calculator business. Most innovation is, instead, incremental, providing just a little twist on what's always been done in an evolutionary change. If you have read any other books in this series, you know that most organizations focus on incremental innovation because it is so immediately profitable ... leaving the competitive door open for those with disruptive approaches.

In The Innovator's DNA, the authors use about 80 interviews of disruptive innovators and survey information for a large number of non-innovators to identify that these factors are important (as summarized in the model found described by Figure 1-1 on page 27:

(1) Courage to innovate
(1a) Challenging the status quo
(1b) Taking risks

(2) Engaging in helpful behaviors
(2a) Questioning
(2b) Observing
(2c) Networking
(2d) Experimenting

(3) Cognitive skill to synthesize novel inputs (characterized as associational thinking)

The book goes on to describe these characteristics in more detail and to suggest ways to increase your effective use of them through people, processes, and organizational philosophies.

To greatly oversimplify the book's key point, you should assume that there's an enormously valuable disruptive innovation waiting for you to discover that will greatly reward you for your efforts. Therefore, making finding that disruptive innovation your top activity and organize accordingly.

If someone told you that you could count on finding large flawless natural diamonds by simply looking around for them where you live and work, you would certainly be looking. And if, in fact, there were such diamonds, you would be more likely to find them.

So are disruptive innovations almost always available. Well, my research and teaching experiences have convinced me that's the case. This book, however, doesn't try to make that case. It just assumes it to be true in a tacit way.

How applied is the information? Well, it's great for someone new to the subject. For someone who isn't, it's pretty simplified. As a result, this book will mainly appear to those who don't have a clue how to start looking for a disruptive innovation, and that's all to the good.

I must admit that I think the notion of an innovation premium in stocks probably can't be accurately verified by the methods used in this book. It just assumes any premium is due to innovation. My own research shows that innovation is only one factor in gaining and retaining a stock-price premium value. So take that bit with a big grain of salt.

Otherwise, the work is solid ... as far as it goes.

I do hope the authors will do a more applied version of this work aimed at those who are more advanced practitioners of disruptive innovation. Now, that would be a most helpful book!
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Innovation gurus Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen studied today's innovators and synthesized their findings into this immediately applicable handbook. They never oversimplify or suggest that innovation always succeeds, but they do indicate that the practices they identified in their research correlate with commercial achievement. getAbstract recommends their expert compilation to those who want to become more innovative, to business leaders seeking to revitalize their firms and to trainers who want to help learners think more creatively.
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on 17 May 2013
Really good analysis of what makes up successful innovation. Effective guidance on how to improve one's innovation capability. Based on solid research. All entrepreneurs should read this book.
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on 15 March 2014
The authors do a very good job at explaining and illustrating the 5 key skills of innovators. They also propose a way to find a better balance in would-be innovative companies between the fight for daily delivery and the need for discovery through smart, effective, fast risk-taking.
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on 11 December 2013
Well written and structured. I found myself using elements of the book in everyday activities as I was reading it. Anyone who wants to make a difference and is wondering why it's not happening could find out here.
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on 12 January 2016
The book has a nice title and maps out some ground of what good innovation practices are. It is more of the broad view and to my taste, a bit of everything. There are quite a few references to well known persons and brands, but all together I am not able to find the right nerve, not really being inspired by the words, not really learning enough and not quite getting value for time spent. You might just read a summary of this book and rather dive into another one.
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on 3 October 2013
On the verge of working on an innovative product. The book gave lots of insight on how to get about this.
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on 6 February 2012
Okay, I got it: innovators excel at one or more of four skills (questioning, observing, networking and experimenting), through which they draw new associations between things no-one previously made.Innovative organisations and companies are those that embed these skills into each aspect of their activities.

If you have no problems accepting the statement above, you shouldn't buy this book. If you're still skeptic, you'll find numerous examples in the book -some repeated frequently (the way Amazon's CEO asks new recruits to tell him about their inventions is mentioned at least four times).

Sure, the core ideas in the book will resonate with me for long, but they could have come in the form of a paper or a lengthy article.
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