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To innovate, ACT different



"How did Steve Jobs, Howard Shultz, Michael Dell, and others come up with their world-leading innovative ideas?" "How can I or my team learn from them and innovate?" If you have these questions, you will be happy to pick up and read The Innovator's DNA. The book answers exactly these questions that a lot of people today are asking (yep, that includes my audience at a recent Innovation & Business Technology seminar as well.).

The best news for the curious comes from the authors' 6-year research ... Genetic endowment is not everything ... what matters more is how we act. And the book goes on to describe five specific skills that people can learn and use. So, the book basically underscores the point that: You too can be an innovator.

When I tried to see if I had done anything common across the three practice innovations that I have come up with, I distilled 7 things. Two of them are "Break boundaries" and "Integrate and reconstruct the practice." As an example, take my second innovation called Process-Centric Design (PCD), which differentiated and helped spike the growth of former employer Cognizant Technology Solutions during the firm's formative years. Here's how I came up with PCD ... I connected the two "unrelated" disciplines of software user interface design and business process management. My Columbia Business School exec-edu professor William Duggan's book Strategic Intuition too describes the innovator's act of "selective combination of previous elements into a new whole." So, I'm happy to see The Innovator's DNA having an early chapter on this crucial concept, which it calls "associating." The book shows how associating, which is a cognitive skill, is the cornerstone of innovating and how skills such as questioning can be used to come up with ideas for associating.

What's said in the book is based on a study of actual innovators and innovative companies. And they are all contemporary and therefore easy to relate to! Another thing that adds to the persuasiveness of the book is the fact that all the three co-authors are top university professors and innovation consultants. That includes Clayton Christensen, who has his own stream of quality books.

I was surprised though to see Nano (car) as an example for innovation. Literature on consumer driving experience and safety suggest that it's a car "just like in the old days."

Overall ... If I have to press a book into the hands of people who want to convert curiousity into some action, this would be among the first.

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