The Little Black Book of Innovation

Summary Written by Bill Hortz
"Innovation – something different that has impact – is both more important and more accessible than ever before."

- Little Black Book of Innovation, page 15

The Big Idea

Innovation is attainable

"...there is a tremendous innovation energy within every individual and every company."- Little Black Book of Innovation, page 9

The author repeatedly reinforces that you do not need to be intellectually superior, genetically predisposed, or a Jedi knight to become more innovative–just determined in solving your business challenges by seeking new paths. This is the single most important message for anyone involved in innovation and growing their business: build your creative confidence.

By providing clarity, unearthing patterns and principles, letting you know in advance where the main pitfalls are and offering a detailed roadmap, the book puts you into the right mindset. While it is clear that innovation is hard, by breaking it down and understanding the elements and steps involved, the author demonstrates how “innovation”–as a process–becomes eminently “doable”. Most importantly, he leaves you with a sense of courage. “There is nothing here that you cannot do.”

The book even ends with a challenge that all readers take the Innovator’s Pledge: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all have the ability to innovate, that they are endowed with certain unalienable capabilities, that among these are curiosity, creativity and the pursuit of growth.”

Insight #1

Innovation's Seven Deadly Sins

"The seven deadly sins have very clear parallels in the world of innovation, serving as a useful and memorable way to highlight an innovator’s most common mistakes."- Little Black Book of Innovation, page 71

The author equates the seven deadly sins to the major pitfalls that stand in the way of innovation success. He equates:

  1. Pride to overshooting the innovation target. Solution: Take an external viewpoint to understand client’s perspective.
  2. Sloth to not applying enough sweat to your innovation. Solution: Follow Edison’s formula of 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
  3. Gluttony to slowing down innovation with too many resources. Solution: Start with less resources to push your creativity.
  4. Lust to bright shiny object syndrome. Solution: Keep focused on value.
  5. Envy to control and internal sniping that can derail innovation. Solution: Celebrate both core business and growth efforts.
  6. Wrath to punishing the wrong behaviors. Solution: Reward behavior, not outcomes.
  7. Greed to impatience for true growth to materialize. Solution: Be patient for growth and impatient for results.

While Pride, Sloth, Lust, Greed can trip up all innovators, Envy, Wrath and Gluttony are particularly troublesome within large companies. Being mindful of these traps (along with the book’s advice on how to avoid each of them) can help would-be innovators not to be pulled off course. Being forewarned and forearmed goes a long way to meeting your innovation challenge head-on with confidence.

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Insight #2

The 28-Day Challenge

"Innovation is a process that combines discovering an opportunity, blueprinting an idea to seize that opportunity, and implementing that idea to achieve results."- Little Black Book of Innovation, page 17

Innovation is a process and can only be learned by doing. The second part of the book shows you what innovation actually looks like by challenging the reader to walk through a precise roadmap and, in so doing, demonstrate that the budding innovator can make it happen.

The 28-day Challenge is broken down into the 4 main components of the innovation process, then further broken down into daily steps and tips in achieving each component:

Week 1: Discovering Opportunities for Innovation
Week 2: Blueprinting Innovative Ideas
Week 3: Assessing and Testing Ideas
Week 4: Moving Forward

The author outlines through this 4 week challenge that innovation can be reinforced in your business life in 7 simple ways:

  1. Triple your time with customers.
  2. Routinely ask Why? Why not? and What if?
  3. Run a cheap, easy experiment every day.
  4. Always look for ways to keep learning without spending money.
  5. Get to the intersections of ideas and people.
  6. Call the most iconoclastic person you know and ask to be introduced to the most iconoclastic person they know.
  7. Teach a friend 3 key innovation lessons.

The Little Black Book of Innovation is a book of elementary principles and practical guidance on how to become more innovative and squeeze the greatest commercial value from the effort. It provides a roadmap of how to proceed with clarity and purpose. Along the way, the author also does a great job of using visual analogies (i.e. Mt Rushmore and the 7 deadly sins) as a technique, along with others, to make the book’s lessons more accessible and memorable.

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Scott D. Anthony

Scott was named managing partner in 2012. Based in the firm’s Singapore offices since 2010, he has led Innosight’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific region as well as its venture capital activities (Innosight Ventures).In his decade with Innosight, Scott has advised senior leaders in companies such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, General Electric, LG, Credit Suisse, and Cisco Systems on topics of growth and innovation.Scott has written extensively about innovation. He is the author of The Little Black Book of Innovation, published by Harvard Business Review Press in January 2012, The Silver Lining published by Harvard Business Press in December 2011, and forthcoming book “The First Mile.” He co-authored the eBook Building a Growth Factory published by Harvard Business Review Press in November 2012, Seeing What’s Next in 2004 with Harvard Business School Professor and Innosight cofounder Clayton Christensen and was the lead author of The Innovator’s Guide to Growth. Scott is the author of the article “The New Corporate Garage,” which appeared in the September 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review as well as “How P&G Tripled Its Innovation Success Rate.” He has written articles for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Sloan Management Review, Advertising Age, Marketing Management and Chief Executive, and serves as a judge in The Wall Street Journal’s Innovation Awards. He has a regular column at Harvard Business Online.

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