Book Review: The Innovator’s DNA

the-innovators-dnaThe research piece behind this book might be the next thing I read, as I’m intrigued by the academic rigor applied.

The reveal and living examples of the five skills – questioning, networking, experimenting, observing and associating – are tangible and approachable given their articulation through well-known and highly visible entrepreneurs running innovative companies. There’s much to be gleaned by looking at the way these people behave and, even through simple emulation, enhancing one’s own skills.

My only real disappointment with the book is its limited approach to practical, daily application for those not yet at the top of the tree. It’s rather a different kettle of fish for the innovation-minded, but stuck in bureaucracy, worker who wants to make things better, is still motivated, and hasn’t been crushed by the machine.

How does that person actively innovate? And, in some cases, get away with it?

A section in this book (or an accompanying volume) focussing on daily, in-work, innovation would be useful.

Review – Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin

Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A useful explanation of what makes for design thinking.

As a design thinker, having some of Martin’s articulate words in your head will no doubt be of use when you need to explain what it is you do and how you do it to the more reliability-oriented, deductive thinkers you’ll encounter almost every day.

Martin goes to great effort to distinguish the validity-centric design thinker’s abductive, “what if” mindset as a key tool, balanced against the reliability-centric mindset of most of the world, focused on ensuring repeatability and low levels of variation. So too, he makes a powerful point that for many design thinkers, the tools we trade in – understanding and empathy, language, context – are something that in working with clients or in the businesses that employ us, we allow to grate rather than seeing that in itself as a design thinking challenge. Clever!

Not a book of practical, try this, tools for design thinkers, Martin’s book, rather, seeks to explain the nature of thinking and working this way for those curious as to what design thinking IS.

For the design thinker, there will be many “Yes!” moments, but an equal number of “Why is he explaining this?” ones. Remember, this book is not for you, the design thinker, but a tool to help you explain why and how you do what you do. Get your boss to read it.

I keep saying “yes”, but want more

A Whole New Mind
A Whole New Mind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of those books that, as I read it, I kept quietly saying to myself, “yes!”

At times, I felt like Pink had been inside my mind when recounting certain anecdotes, or drawing certain conclusions. So, take this review with a solid dose of confirmation bias in action.

Throughout A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink looks at, and addresses, issues of interest, dare I say passion, for creative thinkers and knowledge workers the world over. Sure, for those folks, it’s pop psych, pop sci, self-affirming stuff. But for the creative knowledge worker – those of us who rely on our minds as our most powerful tool and source of inspiration – Pink has drawn together many of the burning issues and biggest (even wicked) problems and dealt with them. He offers us as a community a number of ways to deal with our often complex and frequently misunderstood work styles, personalities and obsessions.

A Whole New Mind isn’t a cornucopia. It leaves more questions unanswered, and matters glossed over (this isn’t a negative, by the way), than it adequately deals with. But as people who work with our minds, we should deal with that, right?

If knowledge work, solving problems and uncomfortably wedging yourself into corporate life is your lot, it’s definitely worth your time and effort to read this.

Book Review – The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business by Umair Haque

I’ve never been one to conform, and Havas Media Lab Director and HBR blogger, Umair Haque isn’t either. The radical re-imagining of economics and capitalism he proposes in The New Capitalist Manifesto is an idea for the 21st Century, rising out of the ashes of a still-burning post-Industrial economy. Illustrating his new economics through comparisons between old economics (and the companies living off it) and the new “betterness”-based economics, Haque argues extensively and convincingly that what organisations need to do in the 21st Century to continue to survive is focus on an operational model:

The twenty-first century capitalist’s agenda, in a nutshell, is to rethink the “capital”—to build organizations that are less machines, and more living networks of the many different kinds of capital, whether natural, human, social, or creative. And, second, to rethink the “ism”: how, when, and where the many different kinds of capital can be most productively seeded, nurtured, allocated, utilized—and renewed. What we need, then, is a new generation of renegades, laying deeper, stronger institutional cornerstones.

Haque’s argument resonates super-powerfully with me. While I certainly don’t have the chops to have written The New Capitalist Manifesto, it articulates many of the arguments I’ve put to people in the past 10 years; business today is no longer sustainable in the way it was before. It can’t go on cannibalising profits and circulating the same money (and making more and more “pretend” money that only exists in a computer somewhere. Business needs to act to add real social value and not only make money but make social goods as well, as Haque suggests, the paradigm needs a shift thus:

  • Loss advantage: From value chains to value cycles
  • Responsiveness: From value propositions to value conversations
  • Resilience: From strategy to philosophy
  • Creativity: From protecting a marketplace to completing a marketplace
  • Difference: From goods to betters

I can’t recommend The New Capitalist Manifesto strongly enough, and also highly recommend Umair Haque’s new, short ebook, Betterness, which extends his articulation of some of the themes in this book. If it was mathematically possible to give a book 6/5, I would give it here.