I’ve a stack of books sitting on my coffee table waiting for me to write a review. I am reading less and less lately, from a historically high of 4 books a month to now 15 books a year. But I am buying more art books. And I review 2 dozen of books a year. My magazine subscriptions have been cut down from 40+ magazines to less than 10. Many including Wired and Forbes have dropped off from my list and I stopped many of the journals, many are just repeating old things. It is like digging out bones from one graveyard and put them in another one. I’ve picked three books to review and share with you this week:

First one is Innovate the Future: A Radical New Approach to IT Innovation by David Croslin (Pearson-Prentice Hall Professional 281 pages). The author is the president of a consultancy specializing in customer, product, and market innovation and previously served as Chief Technologist at Hewlett-Packard's $12 billion Communications, Media, and Entertainment division.

The book is organized into four parts:

  • Understanding Innovation--the difference between innovation and invention; 
  • Business and Technical Life Cycles-- product lifestyle, market life cycle, and stagnation challenges;
  • Targeted Innovation-- innovating to dominate, conquer, or disrupt;
  • Innovation Deployment-- valuing innovations and bringing them to market.

The book is organized in a very practical manner. The author brings out an important distinction between invention and innovation, which I think many are still confused. Patents are granted for inventions, not innovations. And customer buys innovative products, not inventive products. If you use this lens, more than 50% of products out there should not have made it into the shelves. I particular like the term used frequently in the book “Transformative Value”, it talks about how the three planes of idea, invention and innovation and how transformative value is needed to move to the next plane.

The author also identifies three innovation inflection points from a product sales perspective:

  • Market Dominance Growth Flattens: As the acceleration of market dominance drop to a steady state when incremental inventions no longer act as disruptive innovation aftershocks.
  • Customer Acceptance Falters: When incremental invention no longer drives an increase in the transformative value, customer begins to react negatively about paying for further incremental improvements. Similar to the idea of the S-curve.
  • Customer Acceptance Ends: When negative incremental inventions become destructive inventions, the transformative value drops precipitously and customer no longer accepts cost increases.

This is a good book for beginners and provides a good coverage of innovation and product development for undergrad; I am not sure what they subtitled it as “A radical new approach to IT innovation?” It is really not about IT, it is a somewhat misleading title.

Seizing The White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal (Harvard Business School Press 288 pages) by Mark W. Johnson. Mark is chairman of Innosight, a strategic innovation consulting and investing company, which he cofounded with Prof. Clayton M. Christensen.

This is a very popular subject and there is a lack of books on this subject. The cover is nicely designed. The author starts with a simple framework for analyzing and creating business models. The framework is composed of four boxes: the customer value proposition, the profit model, the processes, and resources of the business.

  • The customer value proposition delineates why the customer values the product or what the customer hires the product to do (the Christensen’s jobs-to-be-done metaphor which is getting a bit old to be honest and they had a good run with the idea).
  • The profit model encompasses all the crucial financial dimensions that determine viability, including the revenue model, cost structure, target margins, and velocity (there is an over simplification on this one).
  • The resources and processes boxes consist of what the business needs (people, technology, information, partnerships, etc.) and how the business delivers the customer value proposition within the bounds of financial viability.

The author uses a four-box definition of business models throughout the book to analyze different case examples and to illustrate a hopefully repeatable process of building new business models. The book is a good general read and is well written, but does not really contain any new ideas. I have a high expectation from this book but frankly a little disappointed. The business model thing is pulled too far away from other pieces of the innovation puzzle which are not addressed Johnson’s idea is to explore of white space and business models with a view of how that can fill their growth strategy gaps.

The author's approach to business models is overly and deceptively simple. It is like skipping three books and jump straight to business model consideration. My other disappointment is also in the case example used, Amazon, Apple iPod/iTunes, Dell, Zara, Tata, Southwest Airlines are very overused.

The last few chapters talks about how business model can be a repeatable process. I am not sure I agree with the approach, I wrote on the subject of Business Model and Business Strategy extensively hoping to bring some clarity to the topic. A recent survey found that more than 50% of executives believe that in the future, business model innovation will be even more important for competitive success than product or service innovation, so this book is clearly addressing the demand, but not providing enough rigor to deal with the subject.

The author addresses in the last chapters the inevitable challenges that always accompany changes especially when it is as radical as in many of the case studies. In particular, the author shows how it is all too easy for new strategy to be severely undermined when the incumbent management try to force it to live within existing business models. Again not a newly discovered insight, I was really hoping for something more. There need to be a follow up book to explain the "hows".

The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy (Harper Business 240 pages) by Adrian Ott. The author, founder of a consulting boutique Exponential Edge, is a consultant based out in SF with a prior 15 years of experience with HP. The central thesis of the book ultimately comes down to: Consumers aren’t only pressed for cash; they’re also pressed for time. As such, helping customer to save time can help companies have built profitable businesses.

She proposes a 4x4 consultantish quadrant to help looking at the these opportunities. Her framework relates a customer’s propensity to spend time with the propensity to pay attention. The significance of the stratification Adrian uses is that in order to play in one quadrant, one needs to develop specialized strategies and tactics in order to win in that quadrant.

As an example, to play in the “Habit” quadrant, one often has to understand the everyday routines of the customers. Ott cites the example of P&G’s Febreeze, which was a great product but initially failed in the market because people forgot to use it. Once P&G helped to tie the image of Febreeze with the notion of the daily task of tidying up a room, Febreeze turned the situation around into one of the fastest growing brands. Not sure this is the best example, this is more of another "job-to-be -done" type of approach. I think there could be better examples to illustrate her framework.

The idea of time-value economics is not new, the author did a fantastic job in providing a fresh lens to help innovators to look for new opportunities in a systemic way simply by asking the questions "What is competing for the customers' time?" and "How to provide value to this context that is greater than what the customer realizes today?" 

At a time when most businesses are struggling to find new source of customer value, Adrian’s fresh approach to time is value is a breath of fresh air. This book is worth adding to your summer reading list. Even advanced marketers can still benefit from this book. I think the publisher can use a better title than the current one. Honestly the content is more attractive than the title.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2010/08/three-book-reviews-for-your-summer-reading-innovate-the-future-seizing-the-white-space-and-the-24hou.html

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