Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Innovator's Guide to Growth": readable, productive prescriptions for disruptive innovation

I didn't really understand Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" when I read it many years ago. Perhaps like a lot of people employed by large companies, I suffered "innovator's myopia." But after experiencing disruptive products like Skype, Linux and it started to make more sense to me.

Christensen and his followers are still preaching the disruptive innovation gospel, and now, with "The Innovator's Guide to Growth" I am finally getting the picture.

It's the size and shape of a textbook, and works as one. Written by Mark Johnson, Scott Anthony and Joseph Sinfield, along with Motorola's Elizabeth Altman, "The Innovator's Guide" provides a rigorous introduction and a process for nurturing disruptive innovation. It guides a company through identifying opportunities, developing ideas, devising strategies, and deploying them.

There are no magic bullets presented--the core strategy, to find innovations that fundamentally reshape markets, is still difficult for market leaders to follow. Leaders' instincts are to protect market share and "feature up" their products, precisely the wrong approaches to disrupt a market.

One tenet of disruptive innovation is to target "overshot" customers. These customers have grown disenchanted with the continual upgrades of a product and won't pay more for new features. It occured to me that users of Microsoft Windows Vista--a huge product that just isn't exciting anyone (and annoying many)--are just such overshot customers.

The chapter entitled "Mastering Emergent Strategies" was worth the price of the book alone. Referencing the work of Rita Gunther McGrath and alluding to managerial complexity as elaborated by Boone and Snowden in a recent HBR article, it lays out the case for an iterative approach to planning as opposed to an all-out march to a clearly-defined objective.

The authors define three critical steps for iterative planning: (1) identifying areas of uncertainty, (2) performing "smart experiments" and (3) adjusting and reflecting.

The rest of the book is similarly insightful. If you're an innovator, or need to be one, this book should stay on your bookshelf as a valuable reference for many years.

Related posts:
Use your strategy to drive your acquisitions and vice versa
Rita Gunther McGrath

, , ,