Book Review - The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
"Innovation" is a word that gets used so often in marketing hype that it seems to have lost its meaning. Scott Berkun sets out to reclaim the word and offer up a true definition in his book The Myths of Innovation. I found this book so compelling while reading it on my iPad that I ended up figuring out how to do highlighting as there were many points I wanted to remember and ponder.
Table of Contents:
The myth of epiphany; We understand the history of innovation; There is a method for innovation; People love new ideas; The lone inventor; Good ideas are hard to find; Your boss knows more about innovation than you; The best ideas win; Problems and solutions; Innovation is always good; Epilogue - Beyond hype and history; Creating thinking hacks; How to pitch an idea; How to stay motivated; Research and recommendations
One of the reasons this book resonated so deeply with me is due to my view of how people add importance to events that weren't critical at the time. For instance, a particular battle may be touted as the turning point of a war, and a commander's decision a brave and ingenious move. But the battle could have just as well been lost, no one would have written it up, and some other potential outcome would have decided the war. We seem to think that the outcome we received was the only possible course, and that's incorrect. Quoting Berkun: "Yes, when we look at any history timeline, we're encouraged to believe that other outcomes were impossible. Because the events on timelines happened, regardless of how bizarre or unlikely, we view them today as predetermined." I'm glad to see that Myths fights back against this common belief.
Looking more directly at innovation, Berkun reveals another myth that bugs me to no end. "The dilemma is that, at any moment, it's difficult to know whether we're witnessing progress or merely, in a hill-climbing distraction, a short-term gain with negative long-term consequences." We can't know how things are going to turn out, and there are far too many examples of ideas and "innovations" that were found out later to have horrible long-term effects. DDT, anyone?
Just one more example that caused me to do a "yes!" when I was reading... We attach major significance to objects that, at the time, were common. The Rosetta Stone is thought to be one of the most significant discoveries and artifacts ever found. But the text on the stone is nothing but basic, everyday communication to the people of the time. It would be like someone discovering a piece of our junk mail 1000 years from now and declaring it a significant piece of 21st century communication. Yet at the time, we throw it away. Because we look at the Rosetta Stone as enabling us to decipher ancient languages, we tend to revere the stone itself. But it's really just a common thing that happened to survive the centuries, and we've attached significance to the item that wasn't intended when it was first created.
Berkun goes on in the later chapters to help you understand the true nature of innovation, as well has how the process of getting and developing ideas is available to any of us. Coming away from reading Myths, you should understand that innovation is hard work, it's not a single event, and your ideas build upon the ideas of others. In addition, what you think your idea is good for and what actually happens to it could be two entirely different things. When the first HTML page was built and put on a network for sharing, no one could have imagined what the Internet would end up becoming.
The Myths of Innovation is a top-notch read, and one that you should plan on revisiting often...
Obtained From: Publisher