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inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #76 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Thu 5 Jul 07 13:07
    
Diego Rodriguez has an provocative thought on his Metacool blog, at the
end of a post about Ron Dennis, CEO of racecar-maker McLaren and
apparently a manager of Jobsian tendencies:

http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2007/07/stephen-bayley-.html

        How does one organize for innovation? I'm beginning to think
        there's a bimodal answer at work: either build an organization
        around an exceptionally "right" individual like Jobs or Dennis,
        and have every aspect of it amplify their personal decision
        making abilities, or build a powerful network of individuals, a
        la Mozilla, which determines what is "right" based on the power
        of thousands of individuals -- some talented, some not so --
        making deep bugs shallow. In other words, brilliant dictator,
        or brilliant network. Between those reigns the mediocrity of
        committees and task forces and focus groups.

        What do you think?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #77 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:36
    

> bbrasch wrote:
>
> I'm exactly like that, looking for the logic behind what 
> my instinct likes. What's a good reason to skip that step?

Depends what we're talking about - sometimes logic is irrelevant. If
you can't decide what to order off the menu at a restaurant, but you
can't stop looking at the steak, the risks are pretty low for just
following your instincts and explaining them later. But if we're
talking invention or design, you might need to justify your decision to
someone else, which makes things more complicated.

In either case the point stands - your creative instincts are almost
always right in some way and you can almost always worry about
understanding or explaining them later. That's the beauty of
prototyping, sketching, free writing, or any creative outlet that has
low pressure tied to it. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #78 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:44
    
> Jet asked
> 
> how do you think your book and _Blink_ overlap in terms of
> being based on the same "broad background of knowledge 
> leading to a single decision" concept?   Do you think 
> you're looking at different sides of the same process 
> or are there fundamental differences not obvious 
> to the naked eye?

I found blink to be a wonderfully written enigma - He's a fantastic
writer and it was a fun read, but it's impossible to know what
Gladwell's actual opinions were. Great stories, but I didn't leave with
many takeaways.

But to compare the two books: They ask different kinds of questions.
The Myths of innovation isn't worried much about what goes on in our
brains or why (except for the first chapter), or how much we should
trust our first, second or third instincts. Innovation is a process,
usually a long one, a marathon not a sprint and there is plenty of room
for mistakes. In fact mistakes are necessary for learning - so being
wrong has value - interesting mistakes are good! The question of
whether we should trust our split second instincts more or less has
little impact on who's able to innovate and who isn't. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #79 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:54
    
> Esau quoted Diego:
> 
> How does one organize for innovation? I'm beginning to think
> there's a bimodal answer at work: either build an organization
> around an exceptionally "right" individual like Jobs or Dennis,
> and have every aspect of it amplify their personal decision
> making abilities, or build a powerful network of individuals, a
> la Mozilla

I have a definite aversion to bimodal anything :) (I didn't read all
of Diego's posts on the subject, so I apologize if I'm too critical
here). The Jobsian-centric view of Apple is partially a Myth. Jonathan
Ive is no slouch and there are others involved in every Apple
innovation whose names never leave Cupertino (Steven Levy's books
"Insanely Great" about the Macintosh, and "The Perfect Thing" about the
i-pod make this clear). Chapter 5 in the Myths of Innovation is all
about the sole inventor mythology, and why it's so popular. 

On the other end, the open-source, distributed innovation model has
its myths too. Most open source projects (Mozilla included) have a core
group of 5 or 10 programmers who do most of the major work. Work from
others gets filtered through them and they make decisions in fairly
ordinary ways.

And of course there is an entire spectrum of innovative ways to manage
innovation that go on in between these polarized opposites. What if
you have 3 sub-teams, and organize each one differently? What if you
change your organizational model every 6 months? What if you we use an
open source model to decide on goals/requirements but a Jobsian model
for managing the design (or vice-versa)? The number of variants is
huge! 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #80 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Fri 6 Jul 07 08:28
    
Diego is being intentionally extreme in his post, but I think there's
an valuable expansion of the sole inventor viewpoint when thinking of
Jobs and others like him. Through force of personality and demanding
vision, he aligns people around him like metal shavings around a
magnet. Every decision is made with his approval in mind -- it's
something between inspiration and intimidation (mostly the latter).

In his book "The No Asshole Rule," Bob Sutton has a chapter he didn't
want to write, "The Virtue of Assholes," in which he discusses how
these strong leaders drive people to levels of performance they may not
have achieved otherwise. (He feels it's never worth the trade-off, and
most of his book is about the extreme damage assholes do to their
colleagues and businesses.) Michael Lewis makes similar points in
"Coach" about the value of tough love for pushing young athletes. And
in the design and architecture world, the classic model is of a
near-megalomaniac leader surrounded by micromanaged staff, who put up
with it until they build their portfolios strong enough to open their
own studio.

I know enough about Edison to know the sole inventor label doesn't
apply, but I don't know if he led his lab in a similarly
uncompromising fashion.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #81 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 10:15
    

Oh, I totally agree it's a common pattern - I just didn't agree that
it's one of two ways to go about making innovation happen :) Apologies
if I overstated my point.

As a rule, the fewer people that need to be convinced, the easier risk
taking becomes. There are simply fewer people to raise concerns and
say no :) One easy way to increase creativity in big organizations is
to centralize authority - even at the small team level - so some
individuals now have more authority to take risks than others. The
tricky part is, like the empererors of Rome, the more centralized
authority becomes the less stable the system is. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #82 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 6 Jul 07 11:18
    
some years ago, I was selling a software product to a New York company.
Every time I was in town, they'd pull a group together and I would preach to
them on the elegance of OnLine Help as the next step forward in three ring
binders.  This story somewhat dates me.

Every time, the talk felt successful, but someone would ask why they
couldn't just write this thing themselves instead of buying it.  As I said,
this was a while ago.  We had a few secret herbs and spices in there that
would take them some time, I would explain, so there were these things
called licensed products you could get instead.

Anyway, it never went anywhere, but then about a year later we got a call
from a total stranger, an outside consultant who needed to get something
done, and he licensed the product.

He later won the technology achievement award of the year for his online
risk management bulletin board.  He had to abstract a few things to get it
to work, and it wasn't even connected to an application, but he was that one
person who could make the call.

His solution still runs there, about 20 years past its initial release.

Maybe your next book could be about how to find the people who don't have
time to come to the sales presentations.  Those are the deciders.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #83 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 14:07
    
> Esau wrote:
> 
> Diego is being intentionally extreme in his post, but 
> I think there's an valuable expansion of the sole 
> inventor viewpoint when thinking of Jobs and others 
> like him. Through force of personality and demanding
> vision, he aligns people around him...

I was thinking about your comments over lunch and don't think I gave a
good answer. 

It's important to distinguish between leadership as a skill and the
auteur model of managing work. I think any good leader has: 1) force of
personality, 2) makes demands of his team and 3) aligns people around
him. The question is how much a contribution individuals are allowed to
make to the vision and how much feedback they're expected to
contribute to the leaders behavior. In the auteur model, the
stereotypical model of film makers and architects, the leader is
expected to be the primary, and often singular, source of creativity. 
But there is no rule that says a great leader of an innovative project
can't incorporate ideas from many people in the vision, and make
adjustments to the vision based on creative contributions from anyone
in the organization.

In many cases famous auteurs were protected within their studios by
not-so famous producers, or even studio executives. People who provided
the buffer and political savvy to allow the auteur to be so
self-centered. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #84 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 14:15
    
> bbraasch wrote:
> 
> Maybe your next book could be about how to find the 
> people who don't have time to come to the sales presentations.  
> Those are the deciders.

It always pays to ask how a decision will be made - if they're not
sure you are guaranteed it's not their call. And the numbers principle
often applies: the more people in the room, the further from a decision
you are. If it's just you and 3 people, you know you're in the right
room. If it's a committee size event, odds are high they still in the
early stages or they need you to make everyone feel involved.

My first book, The art of project management, has a whole chapter
(last one in the book) on politics and it's largely about figuring out
who you need to convince, how to get to them and what to say. So if I
haven't made a fool of myself yet in this discussion you might want to
take a peek at it. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #85 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 6 Jul 07 15:17
    
It looks great on that bookshelf you're filling up.

I enjoyed the xref of quotes to sources.  There's a 0 next to that book in
the list, but I'm sure there're much experience drawn from the time you
spent managing projects.  A fellow named Frances Frank used to say that
position was 'midway between the hydrant and the dog'.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #86 of 107: Autumn (autumn) Fri 6 Jul 07 15:37
    
Hi, Scott, welcome to the Well.  I think you accidentally overlooked
(bratwood)'s question in <72> about the Buffalo State center.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #87 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 18:55
    
Hi Autumn.

I'm not familiar with the Buffalo State Center, so I wasn't quite sure
what to say - but I can comment about this:

> people skills and team trust rings through loud and clear. 
> I do believe that designers will begin to understand the 
> value of "meaning makers" and focus on human factors in 
> their work

Some of the brightest engineers and designers I've worked with were
absolute failures at explaining their ideas to others. In working with
them it seems they were trained to focus on their brilliance and the
things they made - everything else was no their problem. This is the
"designer as artist" view of the world which is still surprisingly
popular in design, and engineering, programs.

So any design or creative training that doesn't spend 15% of its
curricula on the real challenges creative people face: convincing
others, listening to people with other expertise, being comfortable
explaining the basics of what they do, presentation skills, persuasion
tactics, etc. is doing them a dis-service. The bottleneck has rarely
been on the creative side - it's on the human/political side. 

Chapter 4 in The Myths of Innovation is all about this - and how the
responses people have to new ideas rarely have much to do with the idea
itself - it has to do with their fears about change, fears that any
creative person will need to expect and learn to persuade people to
overcome, if they're going to change the world.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #88 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Fri 6 Jul 07 21:06
    
One response to this has been the rise of storytelling as an integral
part of the design process. In the past, a graphic artist or renderer
may have been employed to document the outcome of a particular program,
sometimes in depth but more often to "prettify" the final
deliverables.

We (and others, I'm sure) now regularly hire people with communications
backgrounds -- writers and graphic artists with experience in
advertising or journalism, photographers, videographers -- to help tell
the story of the design's contexts or create prototypes that are much
more effective than even a looks-like/works-like model. A short video
can put a new technology into a context that can rarely be conveyed in
a conference room by a designer waving his or her hands in the air.

And, I should add, these new designers are equally part of the process
as industrial designers, engineers, and so on -- not mere bystanders
working as embdedded journalists.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #89 of 107: James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Sat 7 Jul 07 09:10
    

Scott, I enjoyed reading your book and am getting a much better sense of the
nuances in your perspectives from your responses to questions here.

Over the past 23 years as a design consultant, I've encounted a very vast
range of company structures, cultures, and business cycle contexts, all of
which have massive impact on how they conduct development, react to changing
circumstances, seek efficiencies and stable business models, and ultimate
thrive or decline.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the issues surrounding innovation
in terms a few other dimensions present in the spectrum of modern
businesses:

1)  The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained in
different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business vs. 8,000 employee
business).

How successfully can innovation really be inculcated in complex, multi-
layered organizations which have a great deal of stability and dynamics that
reinforce the old ways and attitudes?

2)  The differences in how innovation comes into play in companies that are
facing severely eroded marketplace success (take for example, the issues
facing handset makers and phone network carriers today, in light of the
appearance of the popular iPhone from Apple and AT&T).  In other words,
situations where innovation and repositioning (and quickly) are necessary to
avoid severe loss or worse.

Why do some companies and cultures cling to old myths about their relevance
and processes that have evolved over better times, when the ground beneath
their feet has changed?  Such situations can benefit from agile (and perhaps
in some ways, "reactive") innovation, but when this needs to occur
relatively abruptly, it can mean a lot of organizational resistance and
pain.

The reason I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about this issue is
that fostering innovation in a relatively stable, wealthy company that has
lots of time and is seeking optimization is a very different thing than the
more extreme situation of having to stop a company from plunging off a cliff
after years of relatively non-innovative behavior.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #90 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sat 7 Jul 07 11:35
    
then again, a plunge is a move forward.

I suppose the inertia relates to the earlier comment on the number of people
who need to be convinced to change.  Sometimes it's easier to keep the brand
and change the business:

http://flickr.com/photos/bbraasch/749075344/ is an example taken on a recent
flight.  PBR, big in Japan!
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #91 of 107: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sat 7 Jul 07 12:25
    
(PBR is a very hip beer in the US these days.)
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #92 of 107: Clare Eder (ceder) Sat 7 Jul 07 14:43
    <scribbled by ceder Mon 9 Jul 07 14:42>
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #93 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:02
    
> Esau wrote:
>
> We (and others, I'm sure) now regularly hire people 
> with communications backgrounds -- writers and graphic 
> artists with experience in advertising or journalism, 
> photographers, videographers -- to help tell the story 
> of the design's contexts

This is awesome - in the software world, the closest thing I've seen
is the rise of ethnography. There are lots of companies now that have
ethnographers and I think it's for the same reason you mention: they
tell stories. Of course they're telling stories about the customers,
but it's the power of narratives that make things clear to people. 

I do think all creators, including computer science majors, should
have some exposure to storytelling. Whether it's at the level of
pitching ideas, or in how good narratives work - storytelling is a huge
part of successful innovation.  
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #94 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:14
    
> Jleft wrote:
> 
> The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained 
> in different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business 
> vs. 8,000 employee business).

I recommend reading The Innovators dilemma by Christensen, which is
all about the challenges of maintaining innovation in established
organizations. 

The fundamentals are the same - you still want to same kind of
fostering: reward initiative, delegate authority, support experiments
and risk taking, but in larger organizations there are more forces
trying to protect the status quo. It gets harder to follow new ideas as
the amount of change they require increases. 

But if as CEO your goal is still high ambition - you want continual
change and reinvention - then you have to delegate the charter of
innovation to your VPs and get them to delegate to their middle
managers. The bigger the company, the less central the CEO or leader
can possibly be in the frontiers. 

But it's rare that so much innovation makes sense - if I really had
8000 employees, and say 10 product lines, depending on my strategy for
the next 2-3 years I'd be able to stack rack those product lines on how
much risk they should be taking and how much innovation in those
products they should be aiming for. Based on that strategy it'd be easy
to say Product lines 1-3 should be taking big risks, 4-6 should be
taking medium risks, and 7-10 should be conservative (relative to each
other).
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #95 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:56
    
I haven't yet read it, but I have had many people, colleagues and
others, recommend Christensen's sequel, "The Innovator's Solution," as
an even better book. I really enjoyed Dilemma, but Solution uses
successful cases to offer suggestions for what to do, rather than
Dilemma's mostly negative (if illuminating) stories of what not to do.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #96 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 16:51
    
I've read many of Christensen's books, but I find all of them, except
for Innovator's Dilemna, hard reads. It's not that they're poorly
written, it's that I find the advice heavily in the business school /
CEO / Executive training program style. It's hard material for me to
translate into practice as a manager, trainer or consultant. I can't
help but feel when reading Christensen that he's assuming I'm a CEO or
VP at a 10,000 person Fortune 500 company in an established industry.

By far my favorite book in all of the research I did was Drucker's
Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Unlike Christensen, I never feel
Drucker is blanketing me in theory: his points have clear applications
and his intention is pragmatism. I'd strongly recommend reading
Drucker's I&E over any of the popular innovation books today (mine
included). 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #97 of 107: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Mon 9 Jul 07 17:04
    
Scott,

Out of curiosity, why is your book so short?  That is, why is it
limited to questioning the myths of innovation?  I was really hoping
you'd get into some discussion and examples of how a workplace can
create an environment that fosters innovation.

I think you did a great job of dispelling the myth, but the immediate
question I have is, "ok, so how do innovatve organiations come to be
and stay that way"?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #98 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 17:37
    
Not sure I can answer that in any satisfactory way - Not that it isn't
an interesting question, it's just that I've never seen a writer, a
filmmaker, or any creator answer a question like this well :) 

But for fun, and entertainment value (watch Scott shoot himself in the
foot), I'll give it a shot: 

The best answer is design: I did my best to make clear the goals of
the book, to pick an interesting angle on a very well tread topic, and
then write to satisfy those goals as concisely and enjoyably as
possible for the reader. I don't think the book claims anywhere to be a
handbook or manual, and I deliberately stayed away from tangents that
went in that direction. I honestly didn't think a handbook can solve
the problem of underlying and deeply believed misnomers about creative
thinking, and as I mentioned in the preface, I wanted to strike at the
roots of innovation, not the branches.

However, I do think there's tons of advice and tactics in the book.
Particular to how innovative organizations come to be: pg 40-51 on the
seeds of innovation is a condensed history of many great innovators and
companies and how they did what they did, including patterns that can
be followed. And pg. 96-107 is my distillation of all the histories of
innovation management I read (which were numerous). Any manager who
frames their efforts around the 5 challenges listed in that section
will have a fantastic playbook for thinking about their work.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #99 of 107: Cupido, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Wed 11 Jul 07 05:47
    
>1)  The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained in
different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business vs. 8,000
employee business).<

The impact of scale is an important but seldom addressed subject in
many human activities. Most of us have seen differences in the dynamics
of even going from five to ten people in a gathering. There may be
scales at which some things,e.g. innovation, grow with little effort
while other scales where the same things is damn near impossible. 

We talk of economies of scale, why not creativities of scale?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #100 of 107: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 11 Jul 07 06:12
    
What an excellent question. 

In large organizations, I think there is sometimes suspicion of those
who prefer to work, or who work best, individually or in very small
teams. 
  

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