"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Frankly, I find it refreshing & illuminating to read the new book entitled 'The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times' by Scott Anthony, President of the boutique innovation consultancy firm, Innosight.

He is also the lead author of 'The Innovator's Guide to Growth', which I haven't read, & co-author of 'Seeing What's Next' (with world-famous innovation guru Clayton Christensen), which I had read several years ago.

The first thing that has struck me profoundly is his smooth way of capturing the essence of today's tumultuous business environment - 'Great Disruption', as an apt analogy of the 'Great Depression' of the 1930's - where change is ripping through marketspace at unprecedented pace.

On top of that, he follows up with a brilliant analysis, infused with numerous examples (in spite of his humble qualification: "Our sample is heavily biased, but still the directional results are interesting.") of how innovation can still flourish, even in the toughest of economic times.

I like the beginning part when he talks about "Abundance is actually the root cause of many corporate struggles with innovation... On the other hand, constraints are one of the great enablers of innovation."

The observation of Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame probably sums up that sentiment best:

"If you ever find yourself in a box, the best way to get out of the box is to invent your way out of the box. Either/or thinking is very constraining. Sometimes people say it is either A or B and you instead have to invent C."

So, with the foregoing as a prologue, so to speak, I believe that the author has carefully written, with incisive anecdotes, an excellent strategy guide to help us think about how to reinvent ourselves so that we have a right to have a future.

I also love the way the author has laid out his easy-to-follow game-plan for readers, with pragmatic frameworks & useful tools to instil a disruptive innovation mindset:

- 'Chapter 1: The Great Disruption' ("... innovating in uncertain times is actually... innovating in any economic climate. Tough economic times are going to force innovators to do what they should have been doing already... The challenge is reinvention, or transformation... Perpetual transformation is the only way to thrive during the Great Disruption". Well said, Scott.);

- 'Chapter 2: Prune Prudently' (the portfolio checkup is a great tool for determining the health of one's innovation/growth portfolio), describes THINGS WE SHOULD STOP DOING;

- 'Chapter 3: Refeature to Cut Cost' (as reconstituted offerings provide better value), 'Chapter 4: Increase Innovation Productivity' (this is an excellent chapter, as it helps us to identify capabilities, constraints, weaknesses, & structures), 'Chapter 5: Master Smart Strategic Experiments' (a good perspective on technical experimentation vs strategic experimentation) & 'Chapter 6: Share the Innovation Load' ("Entrepreneurs don't take risk; they manage risks."), describe THINGS WE NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY;

- 'Chapter 7: Learn to Love the Low End' (a great lesson on how to turn the disruptive threat into an opportunity) & 'Chapter 8: Drive Personal Reinvention' (my favourite chapter; I like the author's apt use of F Scott Fitzgerald's test of mastering seemingly paradoxical demands, & also his exhortation on associational thinking [with tendencies toward discovery skills, such as questioning, observing, exploring & networking]; & acquisition of 'schools of experience or hard knocks';), describe THINGS WE ARE NOT DOING YET, BUT NEED TO GET STARTED IMMEDIATELY;

The last chapter, 'Chapter 9: What's Next for Innovation', is a good epilogue, which highlights ten specific disruptors, with parting thoughts from the author.

Interestingly, as the author argues, instead of trying to play the innovation game better than existing competitors, the disruptor changes the game. This is the brutal reality of the 'Great Disruption'.

Undoubtedly, the author is really good, as I can sense his mastery of subject & clarity of thought, substantiated with intellectual rigour, deep academic research as well as powerful lessons from successful real-world innovators.

Clayton Christensen's credit of him as one of the world's foremost authorities on innovating for growth is a worthy testimonial.

The fact that the author had been engaged by the Singapore Government about five years ago to lead "a multi-month project to help the govenment understand how to create an environment that fosters entrepreneurialism & innovation" certainly underscored his impeccable reputation as an innovation strategist.

This is because the Singapore Government is well known internationally for always picking the best overseas brains to push strategic thrusts that involve the country's economic survival.

To conclude my review, I must say that I have truly enjoyed reading & digesting the author's playbook as he calls it.

What I also like best is that it reinforces Peter Drucker's long-held philosophy with regard to innovation as a deliberate, repeatable, & sustainable discipline.

Also, one more fascinating thought, or more precisely, a stream of connecting thoughts, from the author, reflecting his keen sense of closure, before I sign off:

At the introduction, the author writes: "(history) suggested that there were clear rays of hopes. Of course, realising that hope required thinking and acting differently... "

At the parting thoughts, the author writes: "... Hope is not lost. Opportunity remains... The choice is yours."

Hi, Scott, a marvellous piece of work, Thank You very much.

[More information about the author, his consultancy work & his book is available at this link. He also writes a weblog on innovation insights at Harvard Business.

In fact, readers can also visit this link to download many free resources inspired by 'The Silver Lining'.]

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