The one sentence summary

There are plenty of intelligent ways to do better with less – frugal is the future of innovation.

Can’t be bothered to read it? listen to the 5-minute summary.


  • Frugal innovation is all about how to do better with less: faster, cheaper, better. It allows companies to get high quality products to market quickly using limited resources.
  • The authors propose six principles:
  1. Engage and iterate: the R&D function of large companies must focus on the customer.
  2. Flex your assets: companies can save money, resources and time by making better use of what they have: production, distribution, services.
  3. Create sustainable solutions: C2C (cradle to cradle) needs to replace L2L (lab to landfill).
  4. Share customer behaviour: all of this is irrelevant unless companies get people to change their behaviour.
  5. Co-create value with prosumers: proactive customers can help identify new ideas, validate and develop them into products or services.
  6. Make innovative friends: keeping industrial secrets no longer works – look for partnerships to solve tricky problems.


  • Businesses need to open up, moving from ‘not invented here’ to ‘proudly found elsewhere’.
  • Big business can learn from start-ups: keep things simple, work fast, find solutions through multiple partnerships, and don’t be afraid of uncertainty.
  • L. Gore (of Gore-tex fame) is remembered for three novel management ideas: the lattice organisation, ‘unmanagement’, and the human-sized factory.
  • ATMI is a remarkable company that turns waste into gold. A machine the size of a shipping container can recycle an entire city’s e-waste and churn out a gold bar every 2 days.
  • TrashTrack, a Seattle project, sees how far rubbish items travel. In one case, a discarded inkjet printer went 4,000 miles, highlighting that the removal chain can generate as much waste as the original supply chain.
  • DIY should be replaced with DIWO – do it with others.
  • Vertically integrated supply chains controlled by companies should now be replaced with a horizontal economy: the maker movement of tinkerers, and peer-to-peer sharing platforms.
  • Co-opetition is when competitors collaborate, for the betterment of an entire industry.


  • There is a fair amount of jargon here, but the sentiments are right.