Two New Books On Innovation And How To Think Like An Innovator.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on September 7, 2007

I have advanced copies of two books that I’m going to read this weekend. One is by Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management and a leading thinker in the innovation field—The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, by Harvard Business Press.

The Second is by John Kao, a jazz-playing, ex-HBS prof founder of Kao & Co. consultant—Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and How We Can Get It Back.

The two books set my agenda for the rest of 07. First, to explain Design Thinking (Integrative Thinking) to the private and public managerial class of the world. Second, to open a dialogue on who will be the Best Innovation President for 08 (a non-ideological discussion please). Kao is an innovation advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton. Do other candidates have innovation advisors?

Reader Comments

Pete Mortensen

September 7, 2007 4:07 PM

Great recommendations, Bruce. I've only read Roger's HBR article, but he hits on some critical insights for great leadership. The Kao book sounds fascinating as well, though I must admit to being a bit more skeptical about its premise.

One thing, though. Why continue to use the term design thinking to describe a process that is inherently integrative? Great innovations come from the edges, and the edges are between disciplines. Integrative or hybrid thinkers are the ones who solve the really big problems. If Design thinking is meant to describe those folks, that's fine, but it's awfully dismissive of great accountant thinkers, economist thinkers or even food chemist engineer thinkers like Alton Brown. I just don't think it makes non-designers feel good.

Design thinking isn't set in stone yet as the vision for a new era. Let's encourage what we're all really looking for in the current economy: Hybridity, generalism, optimism, empathy, leadership. Those things don't come in a box.

Bruce Nussbaum

September 7, 2007 4:12 PM

Pete,
You are absolutely right. I've been noodling around in my head for two years about what to call this process that we recognize but can't quite name. I actcually prefer your term "hybrid thinking." Can I use it?
And how would you describe it to a CEO in three graphs.
Bruce

Alex Castellarnau

September 7, 2007 4:40 PM

Hi Bruce, hi Pete,
I definitey like the hybrid thinking denomination. Personally I've been using the word Frontier thinking, to it has connotations of searching beyond the unknown, figuring out how to go through the know frontiers, exploration, etc. And also in relation with, concerning all the companies that provide innovaton consulting services, have you figured out a neme to describe this category different froom Innovation Consulting? Ive searching for one, Business Design Studio, but Im not very convinced about this one, any suggestions?
thanks
alex

Pete Mortensen

September 7, 2007 6:32 PM

Bruce,

You're more than welcome to use hybrid thinking wherever and whenever you like.

As far as a description, how's this?

We know that great new product development takes hybrid teams; bringing together an engineer, a marketer, a designer, and an anthropologist on one team helps create more robust finished products that incorporate the collective wisdom of a wealth of disciplines.

How much more valuable is it, then, to have the same capability inside the head of a single individual? When creating new ways to grow, the problems are too hard for a hybrid team. You need a team made up of hybrid people. These are individuals with depth and experience in at least two fields and tremendous interest in a third: An MBA with a Master's in Product Design who conducts ethnographic field research; an anthropologist and designer who reads Standard & Poor's; a psychology major with a marketing background who blogs about the latest tech gadgets.

These hybrid thinkers are the folks capable of recognizing the larger patterns that provide actionable strategies for new products, services and businesses. They can recognize an interesting phenomenon in the world of design, realize it has a precedent in cultural research and see what to businesses should do about it.

Specialization leads to blind spots. The more perspectives you as an individual can inhabit at once, the fewer things you'll miss. That's the essence of hybrid thinking: Constantly seeking new knowledge and domains that make companies better at what they already do and open up new avenues of growth at the same time.

That's the quick pitch, but there are a lot of proof points to bring in, if necessary.

Steve Jobs is a brilliant CEO not because he thinks like a designer. It's because he simultaneously thinks like a CEO, a designer and a deeply committed lover of pop and world culture. Dean Ornish has changed how we think about medicine because he is equally committed as a scientist and a student of humanity. In addition to his MD, he earned a BA in Humanities as an under-grad.

These are the kinds of folks we get excited about. I actually just met a guy the other week who is an electrical engineer who used to design microprocessors, then took two years off to study sociology and has made a living as a web developer and designer ever since. I encouraged him to apply to Jump, to which he replied, why? I'm not an industrial designer or business strategist. No, but he does possess natural curiosity and a willingness to look beyond his comfort zone, which is what matters the most.

And that's my three cents for the morning. Keeping our eyes to the periphery, the gray lines between disciplines, that's how we will grow. As individuals and as people.

Pete Mortensen

September 7, 2007 6:37 PM

Hi Alex,

We're as unsettled on what to call our industry as anyone else. Innovation Strategy is accurate but sounds like a fairy tale. Design strategy, also accurate, confuses the story and makes people think of pure ID. New Opportunity Development firm clicks with some people and misses the mark completely with others. I like business design studio quite a bit, but it doesn't quite capture some of what falls under innovation strategy work.

We just like to talk about growth -- the proof and the process are in the pudding. I feel that three years from now, we'll all look back at this interesting period and say, "Can you believe we ever had trouble articulating this stuff?"

Until that day, though...

Alex Castellarnau

September 7, 2007 10:47 PM

You are right Pete, I guess our industry hasn't yet reach the main stream. Maybe in the US it has (just arrived from Europe), but in Europe hardly any Marketing, Technical, R&D, even CEO manager would be able to name you five Innovation Strategy firms. Once we'll get to the point where these guys can do it, then they'll probably be able to give us a name.

Crawford

September 9, 2007 1:04 AM

Hybrid thinker? Sorta like that, oh what wuz his name?....old guy, with a beard, they wrote that book about this code...? My mama used to call it Renaissance. But she was old and wrinkly. What did she know?

Seriously, whatever gets it done, I'm all for that. With just a dash of integrity.

Cheers to the lunatics on the fringe!

Post a comment

 

About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!