Główna Journal of Product Innovation Management The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen,...

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011. 296 + vi pages. US$29.95.

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J PROD INNOV MANAG 2012;29(4):681–683
© 2012 Product Development & Management Association
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2012.00933.x

Book Reviews
Book Review Editor: Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, NPDP
Books reviewed in this issue:


Key Concepts in Innovation
The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of
Disruptive Innovators
The Power of Co-Creation

Key Concepts in Innovation
Hamsa Thota, Zunaira Munir. Los Altos, CA: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2011. 328 + viii pages. US$25.00.
The subject of innovation is so multifaceted and diverse
that the new product development (NPD) professional is
challenged to become familiar with the various bodies of
knowledge that have their own unique concepts and
terminology. I have witnessed the challenges when
product development teams try to communicate crossfunctionally. The same word can mean different things to
each team member. Many organizations have standardized terminology. Rare is the individual who has depth
and experience in all facets of product development and
innovation. Even more difficult is the time commitment
needed to create such a vast body of knowledge. Having
been involved in past attempts by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) to create a
body of knowledge (BoK) around product development, I
can appreciate the value of Thota and Munir creating a
resource for product development professionals.
Key Concepts in Innovation is an ambitious effort to
aggregate the various terminology and concepts related to
the practice of innovation. More than just a glossary of
terms, Thota and Munir have provided relevant background information, cross-references, and examples
appropriate for product development. While not exhaustive in depth, the authors have attempted to be comprehensive in breadth.
A good example is the term “Concurrent Engineering”
(pp. 55–56). Popularized in the mid-1990s, it is considered by many to be similar to new product development
though it has a stronger focus on simultaneous development. Someone new to the NPD profession may;  not be
familiar with the concept of concurrent engineering but

would be able to get a general understanding of the
concept and pursue additional research to develop a
deeper level of knowledge.
Another example is the term “persona” (p. 61). Personas (defined as archetypal users, or customers, that represent real user or customer types) originated in the software
industry but were embraced by others who could appreciate how personas could be applied to new product development regardless of industry. As a matter of fact, the
reader may soon observe how many innovation concepts
experience their own “diffusion of innovation” (pp.
91–92) and become adopted into the broader body of
Some may take issue with how various concepts are
defined and how articles are selected for further reading.
I experienced this with the term “Quality” (pp. 230–31).
The authors do not provide a broad definition but focus
mainly on design and delivery quality with some discussion on innovation and total quality management (TQM).
Nevertheless, Key Concepts in Innovation is a great first
attempt, and I look forward to future revisions by the
authors to keep the book relevant.
Key Concepts in Innovation is a valuable reference for
the new professional who is on a steep learning curve to
grasp innovation concepts. For the more experienced professional, this book should be part of their collection of
important reference library. Thota and Munir should be
commended for their efforts to compile a much-needed
reference book for the product development professional.
Donovan Ray Hardenbrook NPDP
Leap Innovation LLC

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five
Skills of Disruptive Innovators
Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen.
Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.
296 + vi pages. US$29.95.
This final entry in coauthor Christensen’s innovation
trilogy complements his influential The Innovator’s



Dilemma (1997) and coauthored The Innovator’s Solution (2003) with a notably accessible style. Still resonating today, the dilemma is that businesses focusing on
expertly serving current customer demand often bypass
ideas that can open new markets, only to see competitors
ride the next wave of innovation; the solution is for organizations to strategically seek and fund disruptive concepts, thereby embracing future growth avenues.
The Innovator’s DNA holds that large public companies, which the marketplace expects to continue
innovating, receive premium valuations, and that institutionalizing selected practices within a holistically inventive environment can be a pathway to similar success.
Reflecting strategic demands to tap valuable human
assets, the authors’ learnable skills-based program comprises peopling businesses with individuals talented in
five specific innovation tactics. The organization-level
adoption process entails assessing existing innovation
capabilities, hiring innovative people, and training
current employees, enculturating frequent use of the five
behaviors toward organization-wide inventiveness.
The book provides readers with a readily understood
model and guidelines for helping organizations become
more innovative. The authors’ raison d’être—disruptive
innovation—is threaded throughout the well-paced volume’s two parts. Part One is comprised of an introduction
and six numbered chapters that contextualize and
describe behaviors to be acquired. Part Two’s four numbered chapters, conclusion, and appendices inform the
text’s People-Process-Philosophy (3P) framework for
organizational use.
The introduction sets the stage by citing a recent
survey of 1500 chief executive officers or CEOs wherein
creativity was named the top leadership capability of the
future. The first numbered chapter introduces the authors’
business idea generation concept (p. 27), whereby people
associate or link various personal knowledge and environmental data to innovate. Individuals are described as
deliverers of task-driven results when using four “delivery skills” and as innovators when implementing five
“discovery skills” (p. 33). A short delivery/discovery selfassessment exercise caps Chapter 1 and helps traject the
book’s focus to the discovery behaviors that are more
fully explained in the five successive chapters.
Chapter 2 asserts that how one associates or connects knowledge, and new data are the chief of five
behaviors fundamental to an innovator’s makeup, with
several random-centered think-outside-the-box exercises
included. Chapter 3 illustrates how questioning the status
quo across fields has led to innovation, and that dogged
question sets essentially following journalistic practice


(who, what, where, when, why, how) can lead to disruptive ideas. Direct observation that intersperses alert questioning is the subject of the next chapter. Chapter 5 covers
effective networking to access more data for ideation, and
Chapter 6 elaborates on idea testing through mental and
physical experimentation. The overall thrust of Part One,
with attendant exercises and appendices, is to enlarge
one’s knowledge base and data access for associational
thinking and innovation.
Part Two offers practical guidance on integrating the
five discovery areas within organizations. Chapter 7
explains the innovation premium concept regarding how
a company’s future innovativeness can be monetized in
its valuation. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 examine the three
components of the 3P framework, respectively. First, the
people piece underscores the need for expertise diversity
achieved in part by intermingling innovator types with a
company’s technical and business experts. Second,
readers are led to how organizational processes should
include and combine the five discovery areas, and finally
that philosophically inculcating innovativeness can yield
optimal results. Notable through this second part—and
the book in toto—are innovation success anecdotes from
Amazon, Apple, Dell, eBay, Google, Intuit, JetBlue,
Microsoft, traditional new product development (NPD)
powerhouse P&G, Salesforce.com, Starbucks, and many
others. The brief concluding chapter wraps up the case
for innovativeness using the authors’ model.
NPD thought leaders may reflect on the book’s linchpin behavior, associating, in light of think-inside-the-box
constrained-resource innovation methods (Johnson,
2010). Also, fully formed versus iteratively developed
innovative products—think Mozart versus Beethoven—
may indicate dramatic creative style differences (Finke,
Ward, and Smith, 1992); useful could be further consideration of differently creative individuals’ generative,
exploratory, and interpretive innovating styles’ potentially disparate strategies and processes.
Taken as a whole, The Innovators’ DNA serves
several valuable purposes. Its executive audience can
benefit from an engaging, exercise-framed window on
innovative organizations’ practice. NPD researchers,
strategists, and practitioners can ponder a product of substantive innovation research, teaching, and experience.
Yet the book’s lead value could be in highlighting a
question: Have advancing technology and globalization
brought competitive strategy to a tipping point where
organizational leaders must identify and engage all possible innovation actors and resources through assessment,
hiring, training, and artful management . . . or risk
Schumpeterian decline? If so, the book may serve as a



thought-provoking call to entertain emergent NPD 3.0
challenges. In any case, this last Innovator’s series
release lucidly exhorts leaders and managers to consider
carefully adopting, where appropriate, behaviors and
thinking that champion innovativeness.
Erik A. J. Johnson
Columbia University

Christensen, C. M. 1997. The innovator’s dilemma: When new technologies
cause great firms to fail. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Christensen, C. M., and M. E. Raynor. 2003. The innovator’s solution:
Creating and sustaining successful growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Finke, R. A., T. B. Ward, and S. M. Smith. 1992. Creative cognition:
Theory, research, and applications. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Johnson, E. A. J. 2010. Review of the book Cracking the Ad Code, by J.
Goldenberg, A. Levav, D. Mazursky, & S. Solomon. Journal of Product
Innovation Management 27 (4): 618–20.

The Power of Co-Creation
Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart. New York:
Free Press, 2010. 276 + ix pages. US$28.
If you like learning case studies, then you will love this
book! The Power of Co-Creation offers real-life stories
across a breadth of industries where firms have demonstrated success by opening up product and service delivery to new players.
Defined as “the practice of development systems,
products, or services through collaboration with customers, managers, employees, and other company stakeholders” (p. 4), the authors present a theme of ideas to
encourage customer-centric value creation. As product
development practitioners are generally aware, engaging
customers leads to many innovation benefits, such as
learning and the ability to generate new ideas rapidly.
Co-creation can be applied to nearly any innovation or
business growth effort.
In the introductory chapter, Ramaswamy and Gouillart present a compelling example of Nike expanding
their footprint to the running community through a multitude of customer interface platforms. These platforms
included Web-based tools for runners to log favorite
music playlists and routes that can be downloaded to the
users’ GPS. Chapters Two through Six continue the
stories of firms who demonstrated successful new platforms to add value.
The platforms of co-creation tend to be highly linked
with the explosion of technology and anytime/anywhere


connectivity. For example, three of the four core principles of co-creation (p. 36) involve higher connection
with customers and other stakeholders: engagement platforms, network relationships, and context of interactions.
Many products and services even deploy significant technology via the fourth co-principle of experience mindset.
Many of the case studies in the text show that Web-based
platforms tactically facilitate these core principles.
In Chapter Three, the authors make a case that innovation within a co-creative environment must engage
employee experiences as much as tapping on networks of
customers and situations outside of the firm. Chapter
Four, “Engaging People Among Business Networks,”
describes the two key elements for co-creation as learning
and choice.
Part Two of The Power of Co-Creation, called the
Management of Co-Creation, presents even more detailed
case studies in Chapter Seven through Eleven. In particular, Chapter Nine, “Going Beyond Processes to
Co-Creative Engagement” makes a striking analogy
between innovation and an everyday activity. Companies
that fail to engage and interact with stakeholders are like
a person dancing with a rag doll, while firms that carefully
engage with and involve customer employees in new
product and service delivery are like a tango—two fabulous dancers incorporating the dance floor, the music, and
the shared moves to create something more wonderful.
A question that many business leaders have—”if
we open up, how can we protect ourselves from
competitors?”—is addressed through yet another case
study in Chapter Ten, “Opening Up Strategy.” The
authors offer the conclusion that co-creation is a competitive advantage in and of itself.
Finally, after an exploration of case studies in
the banking industry and governmental institutions, the
epilogue presents a 25-point co-creation manifesto. This
co-creation manifesto summarizes the learnings from
the multitude of case studies investigated in the earlier
While The Power of Co-Creation will leave the reader
feeling inspired about the general philosophy of stakeholder engagement and the successes documented in the
many case studies, those that seek “how-to” cocreate will
also be looking for a sequel with additional guidance,
offering tips and tricks beyond Web-based community
interaction for product and service differentiation. After
all, “co-creation relies on learning from actual people”
(p. 199).
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal
Global NP Solutions, LLC