Tag Archives: Innovation

BOOK REVIEW: The Myths of Innovation Is Far-Reaching, Yet Simple

I was impressed by Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker last year and was excited to get a copy of his 2010 book The Myths of Innovation. Scott has a knack for simplifying the most complex and philosophical topics and writing his findings in a colorful and interesting way, and not necessarily on technology subjects. I wanted to read The Myths of Innovation because I think business and entrepreneurial subjects—which I believe “innovation” is one of them—are some of the hardest to define and resolve, and there’s so many business and self-help books out there on such topics.

The good news is that The Myths of Innovation beats most of them in clarity, originality, writing quality and usefulness. The myths themselves are outlined concisely—”People love new ideas,” “The lone inventor,” “Your boss knows more about innovation than you,” and so on—and Scott makes it seem deceptively easy to see how these myths cloud our vision on what innovation really is and how to achieve it. Everyone seems to think it’s important, and many business leaders talk about it, but very few really understand it and even fewer properly achieve it. Read the book’s epilogue to get a sense of how much “innovation” is spoken about.

As in Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott’s writing style is clear, colorful and full of great detail. I am truly amazed how many anecdotes, stories and citations he can make in his books, on everything from the mouse prototype to Guernica to the Great Potato Famine–and all these things have something to do with a specific point about innovation. The Myths of Innovation is one of the few books where the footnotes provide great reading material—and Scott often makes them funny or otherwise noteworthy.

The last three chapters, consisting of about 20 pages, veer from the scholarly tone of the rest of the book and dives into some real-world techniques for developing an innovative mindset. These include keeping a journal, getting into improv comedy, developing a pitch for your idea or ideas, and even focusing on death (as a reason to fully use the time you have). For me, these chapters fall a little flat and I think it’s because so many other books in your bookstore’s business section provide these same kinds of tips and I’ve heard many of them before. Some of them have been helpful. Some have not. And what works for Scott might not work for you. I believe they are good material to have in a book like this, but the effectiveness of tactical material like this varies with the reader.

The Myths of Innovation, despite my minor complaint with its last section, is a compelling and exceptional book and I highly recommend it for businesspeople—both corporate and creative—who want to look at their approach to innovation with a critical, philosophical eye. I can’t see how anyone would go wrong reading this book.

The Myths of Innovation
Scott Berkun
Published by O’Reilly
US $17.99
Rating: 10/10

REVIEW: Two DVDs By New Riders

I rarely review DVDs, but two came to my attention: Marty Neumeier’s Innovation Workshop, that explores business transformations powered by innovative cultures, and Presentation Zen: The Video, that explores a holistic approach to presentation and communication. Both advocate high-level approaches to business elements too many people don’t think carefully about, and they both make for interesting viewing material.

Innovation Workshop: Beautifully produced

neumeier

I really enjoyed watching Innovation Workshop. I have a fairly keen marketing savvy (as I think most graphic designers do) and it was enlightening to sit down for 45 minutes and learn about the finer points of branding, innovative culture and creating change with design. These are all topics that designers as well as marketing professionals can relate to. The DVD is designed to teach: several hands-on exercises help drive the points home and there’s an iPod version of the DVD on the disk for mobile viewing.

I was also struck by the production quality of Innovation Workshop: it’s slick yet understated like an art-house film, well-rehearsed and cleanly edited. Marty’s delivery is very good and his diagrams (marker on glass) are clear. I appreciate a marketing professional who knows how to use graphics well. The one thing that would make Innovation Workshop even better is to include one of Marty’s well-regarded books—and I hear that New Riders will be doing just that with the upcoming Marty Neumeier’s Innovation Toolkit. The DVD alone is still a good buy at just US$34.99.

Presentation Zen: Meditation needs focus

presentationzen

Presentation Zen is another good DVD that delivers a philosophy of zen applicable to business presentations and much more. His style, influenced by Japanese ideals, is one of simplicity, inquisitiveness, balance and immersing oneself in the moment. This can be a transformative discipline to those searching for change, and it will be familiar to those who know other Eastern philosophies such as tao or zen buddhism.

However, I think Garr Reynolds fails to focus enough of his energy specifically on the improvement of business communications. “Presenation Zen” is a philosophy applicable to many facets of life and business, but too little of the DVD focuses specifically on presentation. For a more focused resource on presentations, Nancy Duarte’s slide:logy is ideal (here’s my review of that book). Perhaps I would be more forgiving of Presentation Zen: The Video if I had read its sister book, Presentation Zen, but the DVD stands alone as a revealing of Garr’s philosophy of life—and presentation, among many other things. This DVD will improve the thought processes behind every great presentation, but it won’t necessarily teach you how to communicate best with PowerPoint or get through a speech without getting nervous. Garr himself says right at the beginning that he is not teaching a “method,” but an “approach.” I would have liked to have seen both, though the approach alone is worth watching.

Conclusion

Both DVDs are good buys and both focus on high-level thinking about business communications and innovation. I prefer Innovation Workshop but Presentation Zen offers a unique perspective on communication and life in general. Thanks to YouTube, you don’t have to take my word for it—watch the previews below!

Marty Neumeier’s Innovation Workshop
Click here for the preview on YouTube
Published by New Riders
US$34.99
Rating: 9/10

Presentation Zen: The Video
Click here for the preview on YouTube
Published by New Riders
US$29.99
Rating: 8/10