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10/13/2010

Book Review: The Myths of Innovation

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I am a simple guy.  I like simple ideas and simple solutions.  I also am not fond of abstract ideas or recommendations that do not really accomplish anything.  I prefer those where I can get down to it and accomplish something.  So when I picked up Scott Berkun’s book The Myths of Innovation I’ll admit I was a little skeptical.  My perception is that a book that talks about innovation will be abstract and not practical.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Scott’s book opened up a new way of thinking about what it means to be innovative and to create new ideas and “things.”  He walks through our misconceptions of history and of how ideas are / were created.  He discussed some pitfalls that stifle ideas and innovation (if you are a manager or on a project team you will want to pay attention to these – they may dramatically improve your team).  He discussed the sweet spot of innovation and the value of good old hard work.

There was one topic in the book that I found ironic (granted on a personal level).  Interwoven in some of the discussions was a reference to Darwin’s theory of evolution.  These were not main points of the book, but nonetheless there.  My personal inquiry leads me to believe that this is an “idea” misunderstood and assumed, similar to other examples of belief noted in Scott’s book.  In other words, we take it for granted as being true.  That is a personal observation granted, but it got me thinking about one of his discussions on how culture and our environment play a role in the ideas that are generated and that grab hold.  I simply wonder how many of our current ideas are erroneous and will end up in a similar chapter of a future “ideas” book, simply because we do not challenge them.

There were a number of things that I did like, but the number one thing was Scott tearing down the notion that it is the geniuses or super creative people that come up with the great ideas.  On the contrary, each of us can and should be creating and generating new ideas.  And Scott provides the steps to do just that.  I will not spill the beans (get and read the book instead!), but it is simple, straightforward, and will motivate you to just start.  So many of us either do not work hard at something, we give up, or we think we cannot do it.  Think again!  One of Scott’s quotes from the book is that “you must create things to be creative.”

 I also liked his discussion on trust within teams and how important that is, framing problems differently to generate new ideas, and not being afraid to make mistakes and even fail.

This is a project tools blog related to using project management tools to facilitate better project management.  How does this book relate to that?  I see a few ways.

Projects are so often about solving problems, whether it is creating a better widget, redefining a key process, or performing a better service.  Ideas are critical to that.  I wonder if in the pursuit of project methodologies, techniques, and certifications we have lost the ability to simply generate new ideas to solve problems and get things done.  If nothing else, this book will challenge you as a project manager to bring more to the table, and free up your team to think of new ideas to solve problems.

We are also reliant on tools – whether it is “project management software”, spreadsheets, email, or whiteboards.  I believe there are some innovative ideas out there for how you can use your tools more effectively, and how those of us that develop tools can generate new ideas for better tools.

Finally, this will challenge you personally in your career to think differently and generate new ideas for how you can contribute to your organization or branch into new areas of your career or life.  And that can be a very good thing.

Pick up a copy of the book and I believe you will learn something.

You can download two free chapters to whet your appetite. Then once you’ve read those, you can grab the rest here: http://bit.ly/mythspb.

 

 

 





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