Fond as I am of Einstein's observation, I think it refers to ideas that require massive disruption of a status quo, if not a complete replacement of it. Innovation can also be incremental, each idea involving a relatively minor -- albeit significant -- refinement or improvement.
This is one in a series of anthologies of individual articles that the editors of Harvard Business Review consider to be the "must reads" in a given business subject area, in this instance innovation. I have no quarrel with any of their ten selections, each of which is eminently deserving of inclusion. Were all of these article purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be $60 and the value of any one of them exceeds that. Given the fact that Amazon now sells this one for only $14.70, that's quite a bargain. The same is true of volumes in other series such as "Harvard Business Review on...." and "Harvard Business Essentials." I also think there is great benefit derived from the convenience of having a variety of perspectives and insights gathered in a single volume
In all of the volumes in the "10 Must Read" series that I have read thus far, the authors and HBR editors make skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include "Idea in Brief" and "Idea in Action" sections, checklists with and without bullet points, boxed mini-commentaries (some of which are "guest" contributions from other sources, and graphic charts and diagrams that consolidate especially valuable information. These and other devices facilitate, indeed accelerate frequent review later of key points.
Those who read this volume will gain valuable information, insights, and counsel that will help them to decide which ideas are worth pursuing, innovate through the front lines -- not just from the top, adapt innovations from the developing world to wealthier markets, tweak new ventures along the way using discovery-driven planning, tailor their efforts to meet their customers' most pressing needs, and avoid classic pitfalls such as stifling innovation with rigid policies and processes.
Here are three brief passages that are representative of the quality of the articles from which they are excerpted as well as of the quality of the other seven articles in this volume.
From "The Customer-Driven Innovation Map," co-authored by Lance A. Bettencourt and Anthony W. Ulwick: "The goal of creating a job map is not to find out how the customer is executing a job -- that only generates maps of existing activities and solutions. Instead the aim is to discover what the customer is trying to get done at different pints in executing a job and what must happen at each juncture in order for the job to be carried out successfully." Bettencourt and Ulwick then introduce and explain an eight-step process by which to do that, adding an ancillary step: troubleshooting.
From "Innovation: The Classic Traps," written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter: "To innovate successfully, replace common mistakes with potent remedies." For example, process mistakes:
o Strangling innovation with the same tight planning, budgeting, and reviews applied to existing businesses
o Rewarding managers for doing only what they committed to do -- and discouraging them from making changes as circumstances warrant.
"Add flexibility to planning and control systems. For instance, reserve special funds for unexpected opportunities."
From "The Discipline of Innovation," written by Peter Drucker: "Most innovations result from a conscious, purposeful search for opportunities -- within the company and the industry as well as the larger social and intellectual environment. A successful innovation may come from pulling together different strands of knowledge, recognizing an underlying theme in public perception, or extracting new insights from failure.
"The key is to know where to look."
If you read nothing else on inspiring and executing innovation, read these ten classic articles from Harvard Business Review.