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The Myths of Innovation by Scott BerkunThe Myths of Innovation is an interesting and challenging take on innovation and the creative process. It cuts through the many myths associated with creativity and especially breakthrough “Eureka!” moments.

Innovation, Creativity as a Driver of Positive Change

Scott Berkun feels that the word “innovation” is so grossly over-used that it has become meaningless in general use. It is so much of a cliché that even the most banal business idea or product is described as “innovative”. He tries to avoid using it in this book; he prefers to talk about” positive change”. True innovation needs to create positive change otherwise it is merely an idea without purpose.

Innovation, the Big Idea and Hard Work

Berkun argues that success, in this case creative success in achieving positive change, comes from hard work and commitment. It comes from deep immersion in the problem and preparation over extended period of time. In that respect The Myths of Innovation aligns with the thinking expressed by Malcom Gladwell in Outliers where he demonstrated that exceptional performance came from intense practice, Gladwell suggested 10,000 hours, around five-years full time work. Much earlier, Edison, the archetypal innovator, expressed the view that “Invention is 5% imagination and 95% perspiration” – that is certainly how Edison (and his extensive team) achieved so much success.

The Myths of Innovation debunks the myths around creativity in a very positive way that should encourage those who are prepared to work at achieving creative success. Chapter by chapter it debunks the common myths:

  • Myth of epiphany
  • We understand the history of innovation
  • There is methods for innovation
  • People love new ideas
  • The lone inventor
  • Good ideas are hard to find
  • Your boss knows more about innovation than you
  • The best ideas win
  • Problems and solutions
  • Innovation is always good

Encouraging and Nurturing Creativity

Berkun moves on to demonstrate how creativity, invention and innovation can be encouraged and nurtured. It will give hope to those who find creativity hard work as they are in good company. All the great innovators have worked hard to achieve their success in understanding and solving their problems. The insightful “Big Idea” and wider success is invariably the culmination of a long period of hard work and commitment. That is true in business, as explained by Felix Dennis in How to Get Rich, or as Edison showed for invention.

The real innovator believes there is a solution and is prepared to accept dead-ends without becoming discouraged as they increase the understanding needed to find a solution to the problem. Indeed, such reversals can themselves lead to new opportunities such as the “Post-it” note. As Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favours only the prepared mind”; hence the importance of full commitment to, and deep immersion in the challenge.

It provides supporting advice to the inventor and innovator and suggests ways of pitching ideas and how to stay motivated despite the struggles and setbacks.

Highly Recommended

The Myths of Innovation is a great little book and a good read. I grew up in a creative household, my late father, Peter Wilson, was a physicist and the inventor of the Wilson Yarn Clearer. He was granted many other patents and would have agreed wholeheartedly with Berkun’s arguments. He would have loved this book and Berkun has inspired me to pursue my interest in creativity and the creativity process more formally – I have started by reading The Myths of Innovation again.

So Myths of Innovation is strongly recommended for anyone interested in innovation and creativity especially as it applies to practical applications. It is not about artistic creativity although it will provide some insights to the nature of the creative muse. It will open your mind to your own creative possibilities and should inspire you to work at your own creativity.

The Myths of Innovation (2010, ISBN: 978-1-449-38962-8) by Scott Berkun is published by O’Reilly in paperback at $17.99 (Can$20.99)

The Author

Scott Berkun is now a full-time, widely-published writer and speaker. He writes widely on innovation building on his former career as manager at Microsoft (1994-2003).

References

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Sometimes a programme or project needs fresh thinking to get it running smoothly; it may be that a health check has exposed issues.

Solidus has considerable experience with putting projects and programmes back on track. Usually it is a case of a project team using Solidus to facilitate an exploration of the challenges. Often the team are too close to the issues, Solidus helps them step back to “see the wood for the trees”. The client can then often resolve matters themselves. In extremis Solidus can take over project leadership until it is running smoothly.

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Quick Thoughts

Falling Pound, an Opportunity

Major Currency SymbolsThe pound has fallen by around 8% against most major currencies over the last few months. It is a good time for British businesses to look at opportunities for increasing overseas sales. The internet means even the smallest business should look to export. A creative sales approach can exploit this siginificant improvement in competitiveness; British product still have a cachet in many markets.

 

Of course it makes things difficult for importers of raw materials, components or finished products. Time to look for ways of increasing the value added in Britain to compensate. Perhaps it is time to insource back to Britain?

Invention and Innovation

As this BBC article suggests there is nothing new under the sun. Invention and innovation are rarely down to one big idea. Colin Chapman, the Formula 1 racing car designer and founder of Lotus Cars, was renowned for his creativity. But most of his innovations were old ideas which new technology now made possible. Wings on racing cars had been tried many times but it was not until 1967 that Chapman, with Maurice Philippe, made them work effectively. Creative genius is often about recognising when an idea’s time has come.

Transparency in Taxation

Handing over cashGovernments demand increasing transparency from companies, most recently: utilities banks and oil companies. That is fair enough, but perhaps consumers and business should demand similar transparency and reduced complexity from government. If governments will not do it then there is a way for business to increase pressure for less complex and more manageable tax systems.

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