The one-sentence summary
Good innovators make their own luck by forcing connections, trying things out, and never giving up.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
• This is all about how to unlock the promise of innovation in large companies.
• A lot of innovation in big business appears to be a happy accident (luck rather than planning), but good innovators make their own luck by forcing connections, trying things out, and never giving up.
• This is the ‘science of serendipity’, and it takes determination, provocation, experimentation, and political savvy.
• Crucial components are:
1. The Protagonist: ‘Captain one minute, pirate the next.’ Someone has to be the catalyst if you want to get anything done, and they need to have a bizarre blend of unreasonable ambition, humility, confidence, and flexibility, as well as being collaborative and a finisher.
2. The Quest for Provocation: deliberately managing inspiration by getting out of the office and finding proper insights.
3. Making ideas real: translating ideas into a form that we can react to immediately and emotionally – usually a working prototype of some kind. (This phraseology seems acceptable – the use of the word ‘realness’ less so.)
4. Collision Course: using the physical environment to create space for serendipity. Conventional offices don’t foster innovation – you need messy areas where people can collide.
5. Battling the Corporate Machine: navigating naysayers and inevitable roadblocks is arguably the hardest bit.
• Pizza teams work best. Innovation needs a small number of the right people – no more than a pizza will feed – and then they must stick to the project.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
• He makes the distinction between teamwork and collaboration. Collaboration is more robust – instead of polite people making minimal progress, it’s an admission that you haven’t got all the answers, and you need to open up a bit.
• A good provocative question is to ask: “What if what is true about ourselves is false?” For example, why can’t shampoo be solid?
• As Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favours the prepared mind.” We need to do our homework, prepare ourselves, and have our antennae tuned for new stimuli. Only then can we have a chance of innovating successfully.
• Related Worlds involves drawing inspiration from a different sphere and applying it to the issue at hand – a regular staple of innovation.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
• There is a fair bit of corporate cliché here – innovation is variously described as a combat sport, a high-pressure sport, and even a rolling fireball.