Book Review of The Myths of Innovation: Clearing the Air on What is Innovation

A few years ago, I was asked about innovation and what is innovation. Specifically, this group of people were asked to be innovative. That's hard when you don't know what innovation is. They were in a difficult situation. Everybody was talking about innovation and they may tried to describe it. But after so many different views and descriptions, they just can't seem to understand what it is. And trying to do something you know little about is very hard. It's even hard to fake.
The real problem was that the word innovation and the concept 'innovation' had been so misused and maligned that it would be really hard to tell them what it was they were looking for even if I could.
Then I focused them on why they were asked to be innovative. They told they they needed innovation and I found out why innovation was thought as the missing ingredient from their organization. Actually, their organization was actually quite successful. People went about work, things got done and money was made. However, it was all pretty boring stuff. People knew what their jobs were and how to do them. Senior management was worried that since everything was mundane, the staff would fall into sense of predictability or repeat a fixed set of patterns. They were worried that the staff would limit themselves to these patterns, to what they knew and stymie the growth of the company. In short, they believed or  were told that their organization lacked excitement.And they thought (or a consultant convinced them that) being innovative was the solution.
In reality, the senior management had mistaken excitement for passion. People didn't seemed to be passionate about what they were doing. They were also afraid that since things were 'boring', complacency had set in. People were ok doing their work, they were just not trying to find ways of doing better, faster and cheaper. In my opinion, they had not done Step2 correctly, they hadn't properly defined their problem.
In that process, I found this book and thought it might provide them with some insight. At first, I thought this book was about myths of innovation or rather mythical innovations. If the book gave some example of innovations and their inner workings, I could recommend it to them.
I was disappointed. The book kept telling me things I already know about innovation or the real innovative process. Instead of building up to innovation, it was deconstructing it. Then I realized my mistake. The book was about the myths of innovation, the things people thought were innovation or the things that people thought happened around innovations of our modern world. The book was suitable for them after all but for a different reason altogether, addressing the heart of their concern.
Essentially, it was about 'making sausages'. It revealed what really happened around modern innovations and the process that lead to them. It is not pretty. A lot of people assume that an innovative process creates innovation. It doesn't. Worse, our society tends to create heroes of inventors / innovators and simplify their stories so that it can be retold easily and inspire others.
This book uncovers the reality of innovation and innovators and provides a real look into what innovation really is and more importantly what it means.

For example, (this is not in the book) did you know Morse code didn't really invent Morse code? This is a really big deal because the telegraph and Morse code represented a huge leap in communication. It is a true innovation. Before that, the furthest communication between two points is the distance two people can see each other waving flags. But Samuel Morse wanted numbers to represent words and that only numbers would be sent on the telegraph. It was one of his staff that came up with the concept of the dot and dash to represent letters. But since he was working for Samuel Morse, credit goes to Morse. It is facts like these that reveal the realities of innovation and it's process.
If you are dealing with people who are too gung-ho about innovation and would like a reality check, look no further than this book. If you are about to embark on a new project that is largely uncharted territory for the company, this book prepares you for what is to come and what to expect along that journey. Recommended.

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This excellent talk to Google the given by the author. It gives a preview of the book itself and some of it's key points.  It is about an hour long.