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Book Review : Myths of innovation by Berkun, Scott

In the book ‘the myths of innovation’, Scott Berkun debunks common myths about innovation. This book opens with a chapter that talks about – “Is it really that Newton found ‘laws of gravity’ when he saw apple falling to the ground” – Author gives explanation of why this is a myth that sold very well for ages.These myths are mostly human short cuts or quick fixes our minds take to help to transmit (promote) the information to other people. Innovation is not something that can be processed and manufactured and I felt Berkun did a great job in describing these realities in the book.This book should not take you long and can be finished in one sitting of 3 to 4 hours.
Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

Some of the Book’s key messages for managers:

Decision making: How does a manager know whether a hot new technology will succeed or fail? How managers commercialize an idea? These and other questions essential to producing thoughtful marketing/new product decisions and approaches are considered in the history of innovations and most importantly how they became successful. Examples come from the history of technology, business and the arts and tell how knowledge/ideas convert to commodities. Business managers will find this an important key to understanding and aids them in their decision making.
Collaboration: Good managers facilitate collaboration that has a huge impact on the success of innovation in the corporations. The best ideas derive from a mix of self-awareness and the ability to recognize and explore opportunities when they arise. Berkun talks about how good managers set up an environment which fosters creativity and innovation, how innovators are able to build off their prior experiences and a number of other critical factors. Political shielding: the appropriate role of managers in innovation; in the chapter #7, “Your boss knows more about innovation than you”, Edison provided his team of researchers with the political shielding they needed in order to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

How does this can book help you plan or reconsider your own personal creative journey in your work or career?

Whether we work or not at creative companies like IDEO or Google, myths described in the Berkun’s book provides a set of practical insights that will help anyone come up with ideas or combination of ideas that can be applied to one’s own settings. I always thought creativity is something to be born with but Berkun has done a great job by debunking many of cherished myths that hold many people like me back from innovating. This book made me rethink and question the stories of innovation that have become part and parcel of our culture and society. Once we solve this riddle, then I believe it’s possible to truly understand how innovation occurs, and how we all can play a part in that.

Two significant “take-aways” from the book.

Berkun captures thought provokingly the difference between what we’ve been led to believe about innovation as opposed to how it actually works. For each myth, Berkun uses the actual stories behind a variety of innovations, using innovations whose stories we think we know. The examples I took away from the book include the following:
Edison and the invention of the light bulb: Berkun uses Edison and the invention of the light bulb throughout the book to support several points. In the chapter #9, “Problems and solutions”, Berkun points out that city had just invested millions of dollars in gas lighting. Realizing this, Edison did not frame his problem as “make a working light bulb,” but “make an electricity system that cities can use to adopt my lights.” Framing the problem in this way properly identified the challenge that Edison needed to overcome to make the light bulb successful and that it’s rarely a single person that is the source of innovation. In chapter#5 – “The lone inventor” Berkun points out that many inventions are created by different people relatively simultaneously. Edison was not, in fact, the first person to invent the light bulb. Two other lesser known inventors have that distinction.
Newton and his inventions in field of physics: Newton is credited for many advances in the field of physics. But he’s as much a product of his location and time as he is of his studies. Born in a different country or 100 years earlier, Newton doesn’t exist as the key figure. But that’s not to say that his ideas would have never been uncovered. Others working in the same field with the same surroundings could likely have traveled the same path. Innovation is hard work, and it’s a process, not a moment in time.

Summary:

Innovation is unpredictable. Berkun suggests ways that it might be cultivated. One should strive to define a problem precisely. Perhaps advantage is that no one else sees it as a problem or where it is believed that a solution exists for the problem. Then, try to tackle it. How some inventors got their ideas? As Berkun puts it, sometimes, clarifying a problem starts you on the road to innovation.

Click me Myths of innovation text book

Video: Book Author Berkun talks about his latest book

Much of what we know about innovation is wrong. That’s the bet this talk takes, as it romps through the history of innovation, dispelling the mythologies we’ve constructed about how we got here. This talk, loosely based on the upcoming O’Reilly book (May 2007), will help you to recognize the myths, understand why they’re popular (even if you don’t believe in them), and how to use the truth to help you innovate today.



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Posted By: Kalyan | Date: October 5, 2007 | Categories: MBA

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