May 23, 2011

The Myths of Innovation - A Review by Gary Smith

The most successful innovations are not the most valuable or best ideas, but the ones that appear on the sweet spot between what’s good from the expert’s perspective, and what can easily be adopted, given the uncertainties of all of the secondary factors combined.

The Myths of Innovation
Scott Berkun
O’Reilly Press
225 pgs - paperback
ISBN: 978-1-449-38962-8

I don’t recall what prompted me to pick up Scott’s book - perhaps the idea that it would offer a recipe for innovation hidden within the myths? In fact, the idea of an “innovation methodology” is cited (early) as one of the myths of innovation on page 37.

The chapter titles hint at the myths to be addressed:

* The myth of epiphany
* There is a method for innovation
* People love new ideas
* The lone inventor
* Good ideas are hard to find
* The best ideas win
* Innovation is always good

By the end of this great little book you’ll be convinced that:

* Epiphany moments do not drive innovation (hard work and follow through do).
* There is no methodology that always yields innovation.
* People do not love new ideas (they often resist them tooth and nail).
* The “lone inventor” usually has help (often a lot).
* Good ideas are a dime a dozen!
* The best ideas do not always win and
* Innovation is not always good when viewed through the lens of time and consequences.

I really liked this one! When reading a book that I suspect I’ll subsequently review I tag pages with those skinny, colored Post-it flags. This one ended up with 33 markers on pages that contained ideas I wanted to highlight. I thought about simply copying out those ideas and letting Scott’s words speak on behalf of the book (in fact, if you contact me, I’ll send you the list).

I believe that those of us who have chosen to work in the field of human-computer interaction tend to strive for innovative ideas and approaches in what is (for the most part) a discipline that requires us to draw on the successful patterns of others. We want to be innovating! Innovation is popular! When I searched Amazon on “innovation” I got 43k hits! This book (#6 on the Amazon list) offers us absolution by dismissing many of the deeply held myths we’ve all accumulated in an industry that thrives on innovation (or at least the perception of innovation).

You can find Scott online on Twitter @berkun or via his website:


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