Book Review

The Myths of Innovation
Scott Berkun

Publisher: O’ Reilly Media, Inc., Sebastopol, CA 95472, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-449-38962-8

Branca Terra, Elaine Borin, Marina Oliveira, and Victor Marques
Rio de Janeiro State University


This is a review of the book “The Myths of Innovation”, published in 2010, by Scott Berkun.  The author is a very successful American speaker, well versed in the areas of creativity, philosophy, culture, business, innovation, and in many other subjects.  His work appeared and is mentioned in the academic and mainstream media environments in the United States.  He was born and raised in the city of New York.  He studied philosophy, computer science and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  He was a manager at Microsoft and, and he has taught a course on creative thinking at the University of Washington.  Currently, Professor Berkun serves as a lecturer at events and teaching seminars around the world.  His topics are related to project management and creative thinking.  In 2008, he received the “Jolt Productivity Award” for this book.  His writings are aimed at the academic environment, investors, managers and the general public.

His book is a compilation of observations and comments by several specialists, editors of magazines, and websites, on Berkun’s approach to innovation.  These experts are: a)Tom Kelley – GM IDEO and author of “The Ten Faces of Innovation”; b)Richard Saul Wurman – author of “Information Anxiety” and creator of the TED conference series; Websites and; London Book Review; c) Steven Johnson – author of “The Ghost Map and Everything Bad Is Good For You”; d)John Seely Brown – Former Director of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC); e) Scott Rosenberg – author of the “Dreaming in Code” and co-founder of; f) Richard Farson – President of Western Behavioral Sciences Institute and author of the “Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership”; g) William Poundstone – author of “How Would You Move Mount Fuji?”; h)Alan Cooper – father of Visual Basic and author of “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum”; i) Richard Stoakley – CEO of Overcast Media, Inc.; j) Don Norman of Nielsen Norman Group – author of “Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things”; k) Werner Vogels – CTO of Website; Jim Fruchterman – CEO of Benetech and 2006 MacArthur Fellow; l) Gary William Flake – PhD, Founding Director and Microsoft Live Labs; m) Tara Hunt – Founder and Citizen Agency; n) Janet Rae-Dupree of The New York Times; o) Erin McKean – Editor of Oxford American Dictionary; p) John H. – Director of the New York Times. q) Lienhard – author of “How Invention Begins” and voice of National Public Radio’s The Engines of Our Ingenuity; r) Cory Ondrejka – CTO of Linden Lab and creators of Second Life; s) Bo Begole – Manager of Ubiquitous Computing Lab and PARC Research; Frank McDermott – Marketing Manager of EMI Music; t) Douglas K. Smith – co-author of “Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer”; u) Michael N. Nitabach – Assistant Professor of the Department of Cellular Physiology at Yale University’s  School of Medicine;  and v) Guy Kawasaki – author of “The Art of the Start and Rules for Revolutionaries.”

In the first section “Commitment to research accuracy”, Scott Berkun reveals that the original printing of the book had some referencing errors that were fixed in the paperback reprint.  These corrections were over forty errors, from typos, to false references, and to clarifications of facts in history.  Overall, these changes did not impact the overall book’s idea and concepts; which was to identify the myths about innovation.  He uses direct language, with the citation of examples and references.  The author talks about creativity and innovation, but says that there is no magic formula to achieve them.

In the “Preface”, the author argues that the word innovation fell into difficult times because it is being overused in marketing and advertising.  The word innovation is thrown around so frequently, that it no longer means anything.  Scott Berkun, attests that the word innovation has lost some meaning, but that the most useful definition for this expression is that it represents significant positive changes.  Thus, it discourages the use of the term and encourages organizations to deal with the rich and positive changes.

In Chapter 1: “The Myth of Epiphany”, Scott Berkun deals with the sudden revelation of understanding the essence of something, its meaning or the solution to a complex problem.  The myth suggests that great ideas arise because people are in the right place at the right time, despite hard work, personal risk, and sacrifice.  Berkun cites Newton’s example and the discovery of the Law of Gravity.  The author emphasizes the importance of Newton’s work, but mentions that the mathematician only proved the Theory of Gravity with concepts, but did not discover it.  He also mentions that the pyramids of Egypt and the coliseum of Rome are proof that people understood the concept of gravity before Newton.  The author cites an interview with Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, saying that there was no “Eureka” moment with Newton.  Berners-Lee says it was a gradual growth process.  Berkun reinforces that many people, influenced by the romanticized versions of the myths, act as if the “Eureka” moment was enough for the success of an innovation, ignoring all the hard work in investment in studying the subject matter of innovation.  To understand the myth of epiphany, just think of a puzzle.  What is the importance of the last piece in the assembly of the puzzle?  Of course, it is a small one, since it is much more difficult to assemble all the other pieces together.  Linked to the innovation process, it is not a well-known process since it is not a predictable one.  Berkun also explains that the emergence and perpetuation of myths is due to the interest of the public and the media.  As an example, the author cites the difficulties that the founders of Ebay had in disseminating their idea.  Faced with this problem, one of the founders elaborated a story that his fiancée needed to negotiate the distribution of PEZ dispensers.  He gained visibility and this became one of the most talked about business stories of business creation in the late 1990s.

In the subsection “Ideas never stand alone”, the author mentions that inventions are a combination of several factors that pre-existed, even if the combination is a new one or it is made in an original way and fashion.  They will always be related to existing items.  Examples: computer keyboard, GPS in mobile phones, etc.  In addition, he points out that the big ideas are always the junction of several smaller ideas as well as the forty years of innovation in electronics, so that Tim Berners-Lee could create the World Wide Web.

The author ends the chapter with the subsection “Beyond Epiphany”, reinforcing the idea that there is no innovation without hard work, without investments and without science.  Discoveries alone are not enough; it is necessary that scientific research serves as a supporter for studies.  Besides having an idea and developing it, it is important that it is commercialized and accessible to all.  Berkun says that most innovations occur without epiphanies.  According to the author, one should not concentrate on these moments of “Eureka”.  What really matters is the ability to see a problem clearly, combined with the talent to solve it.  Bekun quotes Ted Hoff, the inventor of the first microprocessor “Intel’s 4004”, who says: “If you’re always waiting for that wonderful breakthrough, it’s probably never going to happen.  Instead, what you have to do is keep working on things.  If you find something that looks good, follow through with it”.

In Chapter 2: “We understand the history of innovation” the author begins by describing the history of innovation through the Rosetta Stone.  The Rosetta Stone, with writings from the ancient Egyptian era, assists in the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics.  He mentions that the way Egyptians’ stone workers saw their work in is quite different from what we see currently.  Although the Stone is more of a discovery than an invention, this gap between how the stone makers saw their work and how we see it today is meaningful to innovators.  To understand innovations as they happen, we need to see how history changes perceptions and re-examine events like the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.  In the first subsection of the chapter named “Why does history seems perfect?”, for the author, much is lost over time, therefore, how to explain that history seem so perfect?  According to Berkun, our faith in these versions of history is difficult to change, even in the face of the most convincing alternatives.  Berkun mentions that we like to read and write stories that make us feel better about the present.

Maintaining this idea of history makes innovation special and separates us from our daily experiences.  The author reinforces that the story can be well written, but it will always be based on interpretations and different points of view.  Berkun cites Christopher Columbus as an example, saying that he is considered a hero in history books for navigating dangerous seas to discover America.  However, the author mentions that there are records that the navigator was greatly incompetent, very greedy, and involved in genocide.  Moreover, there is still the myth that Columbus fought for the theory that the Earth was round, but in fact the sailors since antiquity already knew it.

According to the author, in the next subsection named “Evolution and innovation”, associating technological evolution to the evolution of life is an illusion.  A tacit myth of the theory of evolution is that it defines modern civilization as the best possible result of history, which is not supported by the evolutionary science.  Evolution only means that what is at the top is suitable for today’s environment, not that it is “better”.  Berkun cites that the reason we use smartphones is not because they are necessarily better than smoke signals or are at the top of a technology pyramid.  The adoption of these devices was done gradually and intuitively as part of the experiment that is life.  Simply put, because one thing has replaced another doesn’t mean it is better in every way, and as conditions change, the notion of improvement follows.

In the subsection entitled “Innovation and Evolution Demystified”, the author states that the mistake of technological evolution reflects a fallacy of the evolution of life and of the universe.  The pre-Copernican solar system, which puts us above all else, certainly seems reasonable, but it is absurd.  Natural selection does not mean that what is at the top is important and special, it just means that the current environment is favorable for this thing to survive.  For Berkun, technologies are invented, lost, found, ignored and then are found again all the time.  In the last subsection of this chapter, named “Dominant Designs Dominate History”, Berkun attests that the emergence of a dominant design is not necessarily predetermined, but is the result of the interaction between technical and market choices at any particular time.  The author mentions that in these projects, the winners of any innovative products and processes are those who get most of the positive attention in history.  As an example, Berkun cites the emergence of Personal Computer (PC) in a context where mainframes were the dominant design, only a minority of people believed that computers would be used in people’s offices and homes.

In Chapter 3 entitled “There is a Method for Innovation”, another myth is explained by Berkun: the existence of a methodology for innovation.  The author cites that this myth consists in believing that there is a textbook for innovation.  The existence of an innovation methodology is totally incompatible with the possibility of finding new ideas.  And like other myths, this fantasy sells faster than the truth.  All the greatest innovators in history have experienced more failures than successes.  It is important to emphasize that, although there is learning to be had in light of these methods and stories, it is very far from having an innovation methodology.

The author mentions that every innovation has a “price” and cites the story of Marie Curie, who discovered radiation and died for it.  Believing in the myth of methodology, or anything else, can inspire people to overcome their fears.  Despite criticizing the methodology, the author admits that patterns and structures can be useful.  However, Berkun thinks of them more as scaffolding, rather than the foundation.  In the first subsection: “How innovations start”, Berkun mentions that innovators do not assume that innovations have emerged from years and years of hard work.  They just say: “it’s a secret.”  Moreover, there is still the question of time.

The author cites some patterns of how innovations begin.  First of all, he talks about hard work with a specified goal.  Even “accidents” are possible thanks to hard work and persistence.  In the next subsections, called “The seeds of innovation”, “Hard work in a specific direction”, “Hard work with direction change”, “Curiosity”, “Wealth and money”, “Necessity” and “Combination”, Berkun cites the fact that innovation begins by following personal ambitions and interests, and financial means.  The author cites that Thomas Edison (inventor of the incandescent light bulb) wanted to be a business builder and became a business tycoon.  Berkun explains that many try to sell an idea, an innovation driven by greed.  As an example, the author mentions the internet boom.  Innovations that are disruptive in nature, that change the world usually begin with humble aspirations.  Berkun clarifies that innovation has multifactorial motives and that the challenges encountered throughout the process say as much or more than the beginning of innovation.  He reports that the process is not an easy one and that great innovators have more failures than successes.

Besides these comments, in the next subsection: “The challenges of Innovation”, Berkun comments on an interview with Steve Jobs in which the innovator replied that he did not systematize the innovation process.  One should start from the challenges that occurred during the innovation process.  Although the possibility of success is immeasurable, innovations can be managed when one has something in mind.  As challenges, he cited: 1) Finding an idea – the idea can be a problem that you want to solve or simply an experience that you want to exercise; 2) Develop a solution – many smaller ideas need to be found to allow larger ones to happen; 3) Sponsorship and Financing – attracting investors or having your own resources is essential for project financing; 4) Reproduction – the production in scale, aiming at the desired profit, should be assessed and tested; 5) Reaching potential customers – a number of  innovations fail because they never reach the people for whom they were designed; 6) Beating competitors – the opportunity seen by each innovator is visible to others, and those who succeed always leave competitors around them; 7) Timing – it must be verified that the innovation is not too advanced for the culture it is intended to absorb; 8) Keeping the lights on – you should not focus exclusively on innovation and forget your overall strategy.

Berkun ends this chapter elaborating on how to find ways to innovate by studying how to gain self-knowledge; how to recognize failures; and how to be intensive in ideas.  But retreating when necessary.  In addition, he addresses “The infinite paths of innovation,” reporting that innovation has many paths and that innovation that has failed in the past may be the right one now.  In the next subsections named “Flickr”, 3M, and Craigslist as examples, the author cites the cases of three firms, revealing success stories.  In the last subsection of this chapter the author presents “Finding paths of innovation” where he shows ways of thinking about paths that can shift the odds: • gain self-knowledge; • reward interesting failures; • be intense, but step back; • grow to size and • honor luck and the past.

In Chapter 4: “People Love New Ideas” deals with another myth, i.e., that only new ideas and innovations grabs peoples´ attention.  Historically, every excellent idea has had the seal of rejection.  In the subsections, “Managing the fears of innovation” and “Negative things innovators hear” the author gives many examples of myths of innovation that give fear to innovators and critics the new ideas critics the new ideas.  He talks about how to manage fears arising from innovation and how to face the feedback feared the most by innovators such as: “Nobody will want this” and that “It may not work in practice”.  The author states that innovations will be questioned, before they are accepted.

In the next subsections named: “The innovator’s Dilemma Explained” and “Frustration + innovation = entrepreneurship?”, the author cites the examples of many innovators such as the founders of Google, Graham Bell and his employer Western Union, George Lucas (scriptwriter of the Star Wars series), and Einstein, who met resistance in their new ideas and theories.  He explains the “myth” by saying that people tend to accept new products and new ideas only after they are bought by other consumers.  He says that it is smart to use recycled ideas.

Another point raised by the author is the phrase “ahead of its time”, in the subsection: “How Innovations Gain Adoption: the truth about ideas before their time” the author identifies five factors that define how quickly innovations spread; they belong in every innovator’s playbook: 1. Relative advantage, 2. Compatibility, 3. Complexity, 4. Trial ability, and 5. Observability.   He also cites that the diffusion of innovation is, in general, very slow and that samples, gifts, and demonstrations are very effective forms of dissemination.  As he mentions, the faster an innovation is tested, the faster it will get disseminated.

The author begins Chapter 5: “The lone inventor” questioning whether the credit to inventors is as important as it was to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  He explains that there are complexities that guide most innovations.  Addressing Thomas Edison’s experience, the author reports that he was the “liberator” of the idea of the electric light and lamps, and not the real inventor though.

Berkun reports that Thomas Edison paid for marketing campaigns to make his products known, gaining media exposure and attracting public attention, earning all the credit.  In relation to Apple, the writer points out that the company earned credits for having improved on existing ideas.  Still in Chapter 5, in the subsection: “The Convenience of Lone Inventors”, Berkun states that it is important to have lone innovators.  His main example was Neil Armstrong, who got all the credit for being the first man to step on the moon.  However, little it is mentioned about the more than 500,000 people who worked to make this possible.

Another subsection of this chapter: “The challenge of simultaneous invention” deals with cases of simultaneous invention.  Berkun uses as an example the fashion industry.  In the next subsection “The myth of the lone inventor” the author cites the example of Neil Armstrong that was the first person on the moon, Leonardo da Vinci, or Frank Lloyd Wright are innovators on their own.  In the next one “Stepping-stones: the origins of spreadsheets and E=mc2”, the author cites that: “despite the myths, innovations rarely involve someone working alone, and never in history has an invention been made without reusing ideas from the past.”

In Chapter 6: “Good Ideas Are Hard to Find”, Berkun begins to talk about the creative process, making an analogy between a child playing in the park and with a company’s meeting.  He concludes that it is a myth that creative ideas diminish over time.  Psychologists and creative researchers refute this myth, stating that human beings are designed for creative thinking.  Berkun points out that Mozart’s or Picasso’s creative process was created by common, simple and similar means to solutions that we all use on a daily basis.

The author even cites for us that the human species have survived for hundreds and thousands of years, because our brains adapt and use what we have available in our environment.  In the subsection: “The dangerous life of ideas”, Berkun criticizes phrases like “that never works,” “we don’t do that here,” or “we tried that already” that are great enemies of creativity.  For the author, “The future never comes into the present as a finished product, but that doesn’t stop people from waiting for it to come here.”  In the subsection: “How to Find Good Ideas”, Berkun talks about Linus Pauling and how we can find and identify good ideas.  It is important to understand that the creative process cannot fit perfectly into plans, budgets and schedules.  The author cites creative thinkers like Beethoven, Hoff, and Picasso, as examples, mentioning that they have explored their ideas completely.  The author also explores the myths of innovation in the next subsections: “Ideas and filters”, “The history and misuse of brainstorming” and “Finding ideas and turning off filters”.

In Chapter 7: “Your Boss Knows More About Innovation than You,” the author begins by criticizing managers who manage creative teams with assembly-line techniques, which trap good ideas.  In the subsection: “The myth that managers know what to do”, Berkun attributes the myth that bosses know what they are doing when assigning knowledge to power, making it easy to ignore people’s lack of talent because of their power.

In the subsections “Why managers Fail” and “The conflicts of management and innovators”, Berkun indicates that some managers do not give creative authority to their employees, because they want to have control over the flow of information.  He relates why experience and trust make people more resistant to new ideas.  The author cites in the subsection “Five challenges of managing innovation” that all heroes of innovation survived the closing of doors to their ideas such as: Carlson (Xerox), Jobs (Apple II), Page and Brin (Google), and Smith (FedEx).  In addition, Berkun mentions the five challenges for innovation management such as Life of Ideas, Environment, Protection, Execution and Persuasion.

In Chapter 8: “The Best Ideas Win” discusses that the best ideas do not always win or are not always selected.  The author demonstrates the disappointment of innovators who were frustrated by superior ideas losing to inferior ones.  In addition, he argues that there is a myth, among idealistic innovators, that the best ideas will always be winners.  But the notion of good or bad, better or worse is variable, so classifying ideas by their characteristics is a point of complexity in innovation.  In the subsection: “Why people believe the best wins”, the author makes his point by quoting superheroes, like Superman, talking about the “American Dream” and meritocracy, where the best will always be the winner.  Thus, the expectation is created that there will be victory for the good and innovative, but this is not always what happens, generating frustrations.  In the subsection “The secondary factors of innovations” the author presents seven factors that play major roles in innovation: culture; dominant design; inheritance and tradition; politics: who benefits?; economics; goodness is subjective and short-term vs. long-term thinking.  In the subsection “Space, metrics, and Thomas Jefferson” the author presents some examples related to governments, society and individuals actions.  At the end of the chapter, in the section: “The goodness/adoption paradox”, the author states that successful ideas are those that are the meeting point between what is good in the expert’s vision and what can be easily adopted, given the uncertainty of all the factors involved in that innovation.

The Chapter 9: “Problems and Solutions” he quotes Newton, a great scientist that became known in history as a major discoverer.  He failed before making his most important discoveries.  Berkun says that this is often the case with innovations, because their innovators don’t spend enough time on problems before solving them.  The chapter indicates that successful innovation always involves more attention to problems than solutions.  The author also emphasizes that when people face a problem, it creates the drive to bring people together to solve it.  The creation of the Palm Pilot is a good example.

This section of the book also covers Thomas Edison’s experience who persisted with his invention until he could illuminate an entire city and claimed that his theory was “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.  In the subsection “Problems as invitations”, the author says that “discovering problems actually requires just as much creativity as discovering solutions” and “there are many ways to look at any problem, and realizing a problem is often the first step toward a creative solution.”  In the next subsection: “Framing Problems to Help Solve Them” the author makes a brief historical review of the technologies that emerged during the 80s and 90s.  Berkun states that a large number of successful innovations have chosen the right problem to solve with smart constraints and that it was worth the time invested.

In the subsection “Exploring problems with prototypes” the author deals with pilot projects, citing its application to foresee problems in innovation.  When dealing with complex problems, it is smarter to test projects.  As an example, he cites Picasso who spent hours on his sketches before painting his masterpiece: Les Demoiselles.  Innovation can be totally random as well, because sometimes people are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.  Finally, in the subsection “The truth about serendipity” the author says that: “we forget that the common sense we hold dear today was, years or centuries ago, discovered by an innovative mind willing to ignore the common sense of her own time.”

In the Chapter 10: Innovation is Always Good” the author presents the case of the Wright Brothers who developed the first made in the US airplane.  Their idea and product innovation revolutionized civilization because for instance, the airplane is so very essential nowadays for business trips, commerce, and civilization.  In the subsection named “Measuring innovation: the goodness scale” he shows that “there’s no easy answer to this examination of innovation goodness”, but we can always pay attention on innovation that can be: • good for you; • good for others; • good for an industry or the economy; • good for a society; • good for the world; • good for all time.  He treats throughout the next subsection: “Innovations are Unpredictable (DDT, automobiles, and the Internet)” that there are innovations that bring negative externalities like the use of the airplanes in the September 11, 2001, attack on the Twin Towers in New York. He also points out that technologies, such as computers, release harmful toxins to the environment, but they are essential today.  Thus, the classification of the impact of innovations becomes more complex than creating them.  At the same time that innovation is good, it can also create negative externalities.  He cites the beneficiaries of innovations: society, industry or the economy and the world in general.  The chapter also talks about the unpredictability that innovation brings like the creation of Dichloro-Diphenyl Trichloroethane (DDT) for elimination of Malaria in 1955, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO).  It was later discovered that the product had several side effects and caused many health problems.

The automobile is another example of an invention that, although fundamental, brings several negative externalities such as the number of auto accidents (almost forty thousand a year in the US).  Innovation as the author treats it is a problem in search of a solution.  Faced with this, success or failure becomes unpredictable, because this innovation can be used for good or bad, bringing many benefits or damages to society.  In the subsection “Technology accelerates without Discrimination” the author emphasizes that a great innovation can accelerate many good things, but some bad ones as well.  In the subsection “The good and bad, the future and the past” the author says that “the best philosophy of innovation is to accept both change and tradition and to avoid the traps of absolutes, and also emphasizes that “as ridiculous as it is to accept all new ideas simply because they’re new, it’s equally silly to accept all traditions simply because they’re traditions.  Ideas new and old have their place in the future, and it’s our job to put them there.”

In Chapter 11: “Epilogue: Beyond Hype and History” begins by presenting the idea that the great innovators in history like Van Gogh, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs had no knowledge of innovation and worked hard on problems, they were passionate about solving without any immediate reward.  These innovators began their work from the concept that they could profit from solving these important problems, and were learning throughout the process.  They had little or no theoretical or technical knowledge, so the methods they used were simple and accessible to anyone.  The author also points out that the fact that there is so much information easily accessible generates a false impression that solutions will be found by magic, without hard work.  It is exactly the opposite, because to innovate it is necessary to work hard.  It portrays that people fail because they think they lack some specific knowledge.

However, the mistake is in the self-destructive behavior of not employing hours of work for the realization of their dreams.  Berkun differentiates between knowing how to do something, being able, and willing to do it.  Innovators like Edison, Ford, Tesla, Gates, and Jobs, had little knowledge of business theory and innovation through study, but they had such knowledge through experience.  In the subsection: “The Simple Plan” the author states that to innovate it is necessary to have confidence in others, to expose oneself to risk and to open up to ideas in order to put innovations into practice.  He also adds that the most innovative ideas are the simplest, even if one has all the support and budget in their favor.  The author states that the word innovation is not exactly innovation, this term is closely linked to entrepreneurship, as expressed in Peter Drucker’s book, which focuses on collaboration as an essential factor in the entrepreneurial process.  Berkun explains that talented people can’t work as a team and organizations due to the potential of getting little return on their investment.


In Chapter 12: “Creative Thinking Hacks” and in the subsections “Kill creative romance”, “Combinations”, “Inhibition”, “Environment” and “Persistence”, the theme is about creative thinking and that anyone, through effort and work, can become creative in any task they want.  The author reports that several popular stories about creativity are created to distract the masses and not really provide accurate information.  He states that innovative ideas encourage other ideas, serving as fuel for innovation.  It is emphasized that, in order to increase innovation, nothing more is necessary than to increase the degree of observation and that the great creative masters find, evaluate and explore more combinations of ideas than other people normally do.

A good example is a chef that mixes a variety of ingredients to find innovative dishes or musicians who use different melodies and chords to compose new music.  Disney’s film “The Lion King” is inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, so it’s notable that the innovations in many cases emerge from things that already exist.  The author directs us to patent creations to avoid theft of ideas and encourages us to investigate whether our ideas are really interesting or useful.  Berkun also states that creativity depends on the environment in which you live and on your state of mind.  Creativity depends on habits and persistence to be generated.  The book treats as examples Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Mozart, who worked daily developing their creative thinking with practice.  At the end of this chapter, the author also offers a series of tips for the development of creative thinking such as: start an idea journal; give your subconscious a chance; use your body to help your mind; inversion; switch modes; take an improvisational comedy class; find a partner and stop reading and start doing.

Chapter 13: “How to Pitch an Idea” discusses how an idea can be commercialized.  The author points out that a common problem you have among people with good ideas is the lack of an ability to persuade others about the merits of their ideas.  As an example, he cites that Galileo was trying to explain to the Church that the Sun was not at the center of the solar system, and his theory was frustrated by the lack of belief in the church.  He states that people do not like changes and ideas that suggests changing a established paradigm.  When an innovator exposes his idea and bumps into people’s resistance to change, he inevitably hears a “no”.  Berkun advises the reader to study past innovators and look for people interested in change.  The author states that wise leaders often depend on change and, in addition to encouraging it, expect it to happen in an organizational environment.  For this to happen, maturity is needed to make this kind of collaborative environment successful.

In the subsection: “All Ideas Demand Change” the author outlines nine steps to present good ideas effectively: Step 1: Refine your idea; Step 2: Shape your pitch; Step 3: Follow the power; Step 4: Start with their perspective; Step 5: Make three pitches; Step 6: Test the pitch; Step 7: Deliver (a pitch is a performance); Step 8: Learn from failure; and Step 9: Go your own way

Chapter 14: “How to Stay Motivated”, the last chapter of the book, deals with motivation and how to stay aware of the uncertainty that is innovation.  In the subsection “The big motivations” he presents: Anger; Necessity/suck it up; Crazy necessity; Pride; Death; Fun; The crazy friend and The discipline.  According to the author, doing interesting things in this world requires effort and we often abandon our passions. And to prevent that from happening, Berkun teaches us to use our frustrations as fuel to do something.  He exemplifies that Van Gogh mixed his own paints for his works, and Michelangelo cut his own marble.  Therefore, in order to be successful, repetition and learning are necessary.   Until you get an incredibly good result, the path can be boring, but necessary.

The author ends by suggesting that you put yourself in situations where there is no way out but to face challenges and to take risks.  Also, be proud and believe in your own ideas, even if others say you will not be able to do it.  He advises not to concentrate on criticism and to think as if you were going to die soon, so that you can remain motivated and risk great things like: doing what you enjoy and having fun with your work; learning to listen to an inner voice and observing what you love to do; and cultivating friends who say more “yes” than “no”.  Moreover, he exemplifies that no professional athlete likes to train every day, or professional writer likes to write every day, but they do so with discipline to succeed.

The Appendix, named “Research and Recommendations” presents all sources of research used in the work.

The final consideration about this book review works on the concept of innovation in a simple way and without focusing on an applied theory that can result in innovation.  For the author there is no methodology, in fact, innovation results from: an idea, a will, a challenge, a frustration, a persuasion that must be designed, fought, learned with much discipline from the inventor.

According to the author, one should not give up on ideas, because they encourage other ideas, serving as fuel for further innovation.  The message that remains is: explore your creativity and your entrepreneurial spirit, so that new innovations can flourish.




Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515


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