Review (Guest): Innovation–The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want

2 Star, Change & Innovation
Amazon Page

Curtis R. Carlson (Author), William W. Wilmot (Author)

2.0 out of 5 stars This is a BAD book on innovation

September 30, 2006

By ARMAN KIRIM, PhD (Istanbul, Turkey) – See all my reviews

This is a BAD book on innovation

As a matter of fact it is a bad book in the most general meaning of the word. First of all, it does not deliver what it promises to deliver and thus misleads the buyer. It claims that it is going to provide a `framework’ for an innovative organization, but instead turns out to be a most general blah blah on every subject in the area of `management’. Apart from an abundant use of the word `innovation’, there is hardly anything related to the core of innovation process in this book.

If you like, let me summarise what they say:

1. The book starts with an expose of the CHANGES in the world economy, globalization etc. The usual stuff you would expect to find in any `wake-up call’ book these days. But is there anyone left who is not aware of the big changes going on around us? Do we need another book warning us that business is no longer usual?

2. The book then goes on outlining their `framework’ for innovation. This is called the `five disciplines’. Disciplines indeed! And such `novel’ ones. Let’s look at them, if you like.

3. The first and second disciplines are about `creating customer value based on an important need’. It says that if your innovative idea does not address an unmet customer need and hence create a customer value, it will not be successful! Eureka and Wow. We all needed a thick new book to arrive at this very important finding. The many pages (106 in all) then go on `teaching’ us how to write a value proposition (yes, business value proposition). Believe me, it mentions things like elevator speech, how many powerpoint sheets you must use, in how many minutes you must present your idea etc. And, we do not get anything regarding the HOW TO of innovation. But we hear a good deal about the wonderful people who work at authors’ company (SRI). The many pages are simultaneously used for praising their own company staff by citing their names. The guys need some motivation, don’t they. So, in those 106 pages we get illuminated on the nitty gritty details of writing business propositions (yes, business propositions!). The whole idea for them seems to be coming up with an innovative idea and selling it to some potential investor? But how can we come up with an innovative idea which will satisfy an unmet and important need? There is absolutely nothing on that subject apart from introducing you with a totally new concept: Brainstroming.

4. Then we move on to the third discipline which says that you need an innovastion `champion’ in the company who will lead the projects (10 pages on this subject). The role models for champions? Easy: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak etc. Just be like Steve Jobs!

5. Our amazing fourth discipline is about innovation `teams’. As the subject of teams is an area where a lot has already been written, the authors are expectedly also prolific on this issue: 66 pages on the importance of teams. Yes, importance of teams, and teams in general! A general cut-and-paste from the existing team literature, decorated with a few anectodes and some SRI company-staff names. Then you have another earth-shaking DISCIPLINE. What the guys in effect say is `teamwork is important’ and move on to show that it is indeed important. Pathetic.

6. The final and fifth discipline is about organizational alignment, and wer are already at page 235. And I am exhausted for trying to find any beef in this thick piece of nonsense and do not care about whether there is another dicscipline or not. By looking at the heading of the chapter though, I guess taht they will again chit-chat about `continuous innovation’ as in kaizen. What else do you expect.

7. I hence decide to skip those two little chapters (together, 19 pages long) and move to the final piece: Chapter 17, A Foundation for National Competitiveness in a World of Abundance. However, it doesn’t take too many pages to immediately realize that the authros’ have been particularly impressed by Thomas Friedman’s `The World Is Flat’. Still, I decide to finish reaing it and complete the ordeal. I decide I much prefer Friedman.

All in all, this was really an ordeal. No exagerration. This is a patchwork of things, and not even ideas. What is more distressing is that even though it promises to provide a framework for an innovative organization, it does not even come near the subject. It grossly misleads the reader. I hence feel that I not only wasted my valuable time, but more importantly was cheated. I believe the authors should stick with their business of inventing computer mouses, HDTVs, robotic surgery etc. and refrain from writing such shallow and misleading stuff on a critical subject like `innovation’.

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Comment at Amazon by Robert D. Steele:

I like your review. Some of the value on both sides may have been lost in translation, but my decision not to buy the book was aided by your review. Anyone talking about innovation today who is not also talking about “true cost” economics and biomimicry and intangible value is simple not there. This appears to be another of the industrial era innovation books that is totally divorced from the reality that changes to the Earth that used to take 10,000 years now take three. The time for real-time innovation, including a retrograde to the native indigenous practices that were right in the first place before 1491, is now.

By the by, am cross posting your review with links back to this page at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

And while I am at it, SRI gave Doug Englebart $10,000 for the mouse, they sold the patent to Logitch for $80,000, and of course Logitech rather than Englebart has been getting all the money. We need to innovate the patent system back to some semblance of residual justice. If Logitech had an ounce of good sense, they would find a way to give Doug Englebart a $5M grant.