The one sentence summary

Many companies think they can innovate through jargon but they just don’t get it.

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  • The founding editor of Wired UK is exasperated by the amount of bullshit in the innovation industry: talk of change agents, co-creation gurus, ideas portals, make-a-thons and hackfests, paradigm shifts and pilgrimages to Silicon Valley. This is mostly innovation theatre and corporate nonsense that has very little to do with delivering real change.
  • He scours the globe looking for inspiring stories from those creating genuine innovation and real change – radical ideas from the world’s smartest minds. Some of their approaches and suggestions include:
  • Embrace unmet needs: live with the customer to find out what’s needed.
  • Empower your team: hire great people, then get out of their way.
  • Hire pirates: give these rule breakers autonomy and air cover, allowing them to challenge the conventions in your company.
  • Turn products into services: strip back your core purpose to work out how to serve customers, not just churn out products.
  • Enable moonshots: set up a unit that has autonomy from HQ to look at brand new approaches that could make a really big difference.
  • Incubate tomorrow’s business: don’t muzzle the talent, however threatening their activities are to today’s business revenue.
  • Prototype and measure: the power of a tangible prototype can be profound – make that a priority.
  • Find your blind spots: prepare to see your current assumptions cast away.
  • Engineer serendipity: provide the space and circumstances to encourage unexpected meetings of minds.
  • Exploit a crisis: faced with an existential crisis, pursue rapid decision-making to ensure fast change.


  • Jargon that exasperates the author includes transactionalization, abstractification and self-healing swarm behaviour.
  • Tunking is giving harsh feedback with love (IDEO lab slang).
  • Tequila moments celebrate failures and use them as learning opportunities.
  • “You can’t learn if you’re talking.” Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, Intercorp CEO
  • The shit umbrella is a metaphor for senior people protecting the technical specialists so they can get on with their work uninterrupted.
  • Contradictory goals include being passionately dispassionate and responsibly irresponsible.
  • In the story of having a monkey recite Shakespeare while standing on a pedestal, most companies start with the pedestal, but that’s the wrong choice and creates a false sense of progress. Start with the hardest part: training the monkey. It’s a monkey first approach.
  • Kill metrics are numbers set up right at the beginning of an innovation project. If you don’t hit them or can’t, kill the project.
  • The scientific equation for change is: V x D x C x S > R = Change, where V = vision of the future, D = dissatisfaction with current situation, C = capacity for change, S = steps known to take first, and R = resistance to change and the cost of it.
  • R&D should be redefined to stand for risk and determinism.


  • This is a long book, with 16 case histories, many drawn from the world of technology. The author is so enthusiastic about these that some readers will feel the points could have been made with less detail.