"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."

Saturday, September 26, 2009


The strategy of exploiting chaos in order to seize opportunities in today's crazy times is obviously the rousing battle cry of innovation expert Jeremy Gutsche's new book, 'Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change'.

I have mentioned about this book briefly in an earlier post.

Backed by excellent credentials - host of TrendHunter TV, founder of, reportedlythe world's largest network of trend-spotting & cool-hunting pros, & now a widely-sought keynote speaker in North America - the author & his book are seemingly getting raving reviews.

In the first place, the book is quite unique in itself: visually engaging, with a fancy mix of large format, bold letters, coloured texts, oversized fonts, long & short sentences, wide spacing, & interspersed with wise quotes, jumpy lists & large portraits or photographs. All these features make reading a breeze!

In fact, I get the impression that the author may have been heavily influenced by the published thoughtwares of corporate skunk Tom Peters.

In reality, the author writes exactly like Tom Peters with his short, staccato bursts of energetic prescriptions, occasionally outrageous & yet written succinctly, with enchanting anecdotes & provocative examples from real-world events, in contrast to the staid academic texts of the time.

So much so that reading his book on my part reminds me of reading Tom Peters' 'Reinventing Work' series of small pocket-sized hard-backs, namely, 'The Brand You 50', 'The Project 50' & 'The Professional Service Firm 50' (combined, they also give a total of 150 ways to spark innovation, many of which are still relevant for today) during the late 90's.

I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on 'Exploiting Chaos', but it is obvious to me that the many ideas in the book are not ground-breaking or revolutionary, but the author certainly has given them a new & refreshing spin with his so-called 'Crowd Sourced Insights'.

The latter is definitely a cool innovation on the part of the author, even though, with the luxury of today's Internet & Web 2.0 technologies, he has apparently extended the content analysis intelligence methodologies of futurist John Naisbitt, whose resultant book, 'Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives', rocked the world during the early 80's.

Instead of running probably a large team of media analysts to scan some 6,000 local & regional newspapers, trade journals, etc., within the United States during the 80's as in the case with John Naisbitt, TrendHunter intelligently uses a small project team of dedicated staff to sift & resift the constant flow of disparate spotted ideas (known as micro-trends) from some 28,000+ global trend hunters.

They are then posted on the TrendHunter website - just imagine they garnered 40 million page views in 2008 - & then, measured & filtered down to 360+ clusters of inspirations, which in turn are reconfigured into their popular Trend Reports, which are sought after by big boys, like The Economist & Financial Times.

In a nut shell, the book's selling point, besides promoting the company's lucrative Trend Reports, is how to ride & leverage on the current recession & emerging trends - through the adept use of some of the 150 ways offered in the book as fuel to spark innovation - to make a quantum leap.

The 'Exploiting Chaos' framework, comprising 'Culture of Revolution', 'Trend Hunting', 'Adaptive Innovation' & 'Infectious Messaging', is interesting too, but one needs to work diligently to get it to work.

The author's principal argument about the giants of business - Disney, CNN, HP, GE, Apple, Sun, to name just a few - having started & prospered during time of crises, certainly makes good reading. Encouraging, too.

There is only one point in the book that sort of annoys me: 'Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast', even though his checklist of parameters, 'Perspective', Experimental Failure', 'Customer Obsession' & 'Intentional Destruction', is reasonably valid.

I hold the view that strategy formulation or thinking strategically must always comes first & be sustained throughout, so that one can really do something about the culture.

On the whole, this book is still worth reading. To paraphrase the marketing maverick Seth Godin, "with the ideas from the book, you might catch an ideavirus!".

Nonetheless, I also like to recommend two books to go as companion reading:

Jim Carroll's 'What I Learned from Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward-Thinking Innovation', & 'Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast', which I had already reviewed in the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.

[Readers can go to the TrendHunter website to download a 25 page preview of the book. Here's the link.

Alternatively, the Business Week online magazine has singled out 24 of the 150 ways to spark innovation in a slide presentation. Here's the link to view it.]

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