Book Review: The Innovation Master Plan
I was interested to review The Innovation Master Plan (hereafter TIMP) because much of what Langdon and his team write about falls very much in line with our thinking at OVO. InnovationLabs have identified the importance of innovation methodologies and processes, which we believe creates a repeatable, sustainable innovation capability. In The Innovation Master Plan, Morris provides an excellent overview of the entire innovation process.
TIMP is written for senior executives. After all, the subtitle is "the CEO's guide to innovation". Much of the book is written with a strategic viewpoint, and a "top down" approach. What the book occasionally lacks in specific tasks and actions it makes up for in its focus on leadership, commitment and investment from senior executives.
In the first chapter, Morris tackles one of my pet peeves about innovation - asking readers to examine the purpose, reasons and strategies for innovation. Far too often innovation is simply a reaction to a new entrant or a shift in the market. That is, innovation is reactionary not planned or strategic. Morris asks the reader to consider "why" he or she is innovating. In our (OVO's) approach we work hard to link strategy, strategic goals and innovation purpose or outcome. Without this focus, it is easy for innovation to produce interesting but irrelevant ideas. Morris points out another important concept - the differences between "goals" and "strategies". When CEOs state that they want 50% of their sales from new ideas, that's a GOAL, not a strategy. A strategy may require thinking about what capabilities or competencies allow a firm to lead in an industry, or whether a firm should be a pioneer or a "fast follower". Readers of my new book Relentless Innovation will know what I think about the concept of "fast followers". As the pace of change increases and product lifecycles decrease, fast followers have less time to respond to market opportunities and less lifecycle in which to make a return. Morris suggests there is a niche for fast followers but doesn't seem to offer them much hope either.
In subsequent chapters Morris talks extensively about innovation portfolios, which should help indicate what to innovate and the appropriate risk/reward matrix. Again, this is focused on strategy which should be set by executives and used as directional information and constraints by innovators. Far too often this thinking is missing, and causes innovation to go awry.
It's not until the middle of the book that Morris deals with "how" to innovate, and builds a case for an innovation process. Aristotle said that we are what we do repeatedly, and only through the definition of a process can we repeat the same tasks and process steps to acquire more learning and knowledge. Otherwise every innovation is ad-hoc, and no learning can be accomplished. Morris' prescriptions for innovation process definition is right on the money.
Toward the end of the book Morris turns his attention to "who" should innovate, considering people and the culture within which they work. InnovationLabs has always produced good insights on innovation culture and the book recaps much of that information.
On the whole this is an excellent book that covers much of the end to end process that good innovators should strive to achieve. It is written with senior executives in mind, therefore it is occasionally a bit more abstract than I'd prefer, with less information on tactics and deployment than I'd like to see, but that is what the intended audience will want to read and absorb. While we wrote our books in parallel and without collaborating, it is interesting to see at the end of TIMP Morris arrived at the same conclusion that I suggested was possible in Relentless Innovation: innovation becomes a virtuous circle when implemented correctly. Morris suggests that as innovators get better at innovation, they enjoy more success in the marketplace, which frees up more resources and attunes the culture toward innovation, making more innovation possible. I developed the same theme in Relentless Innovation. Good innovators know this, overcoming the inertia to invest in innovation and waiting for the returns is often far too difficult for most firms, so they never overcome the inertia and initial difficulties to realize the returns innovation can provide.
The Innovation Master Plan is a book I'd like to think I could have written, not necessarily because I'm a good writer or that I have great ideas about innovation, but because it makes so much sense and encapsulates so much good insight and information about what's needed to succeed at innovation as a business discipline. This is an excellent primer for executives who are starting an innovation effort, or who need to understand the breadth and depth of a successful innovation undertaking.