Customer Reviews: Breaking Away: How Great Leaders Create Innovation that Drives Sustainable Growth--and Why Others Fail
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on March 25, 2011
The authors have tackled the trendy, but challenging subject of effective innovation. These days, everyone buys into the need for innovation. Similarly, everyone knows (and celebrates) successful innovation -- but only after its impact and rewards are obvious. Stevenson and Bilal position themselves between these self-evident beginning and end points and focus on the complicated, risky process of actually making innovation happen in your organization.

Using numerous real-world examples, they carefully define innovation itself, describe the leadership characteristics and processes required to drive innovation, and detail the effort required to translate effective innovation into commercial success. Throughout the book, they provide a compelling structure (in 20 or so exhibits) that breaks innovation, leadership and execution into easily grasped concepts that can be applied directly to the reader's own situation. And, they accomplish all of this in a very approachable, easy-to-read fashion.

This book is an essential guide for anyone leading or participating in the innovation process in a business setting. It allows you to assess your own situation versus their well supported framework. The examples underlying the framework provide a strong basis to compare yourself vs. those who have succeeded before you. Whether you are a leader or participant, the book challenges you to ask whether you are truly set to innovate like the most successful companies and leaders. Most critically, it offers highly practical advice on how you can bring your own innovation effort into alignment with those leaders.
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on April 30, 2011
As a GM and Innovator in a Fortune 100 company, I found Breaking Away to be one of the clearest most insightful books on Innovation I have read. Stevenson and Kaafarani do an excellent job defining the different types of innovation and provide real world examples of their principles in action. The interviews with leaders and innovators across multiple industries validate their model for innovation and reinforce the point that innovation requires strong leadership and commitment from the top of the organization to maximize returns. They also make a compelling case as to why everyone from the CEO to the front line associate can be an innovation leaders and that companies can ignite growth by leveraging the different types of innovation across the enterprise. I would highly recommend Breaking Away as required reading for leaders and aspiring leaders who want to unlock the growth potential of their organizations.
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on June 13, 2011
I could have really used this book about 18 months ago leading a "Value Innovation project at my company. At the time, there was a leadership bias toward launching new products when what we needed was operational innovation. Stevenson's clear explanation of the four types of innovation could have gone a long way toward sorting out the early conflicts in the project. Well written and very relevant to the problems that many businesses face.

I also found myself nodding my head through most of Part 2 - Leadership and Innovation. It made so much sense to connect the dots between people's preferences and their ability to successfully innovate in various dimensions.

"Breaking Away" was thought-provoking and a wonderful read.
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on April 8, 2011
I loved the title (although perhaps not the part about failing) since I think a large part of leadership is fostering innovation.

I am, of course, a great believer in innovation. I think one of my strong points is high creativity (not in the artistic sense but in the business innovation sense). I also see success as being tied to those that can innovate and that involves openness to change.

Early in the book, they make the distinction between innovation and discovery and invention which although they are "cousins" are not the same. By their definition, innovation has to be unique, valuable and worthy of exchange.

The authors use a 4 part model for innovation - Transformational, Marketplace, Category and Operational. Each innovation in these quadrants have their own characteristics.

One subsection that really resonated was "don't just listen - hear". Logical and should apply to almost everything in life.

And the book ends with how to create an innovation strategy for a company:

1 - Set Innovation Priorities (I know that setting goals in anything is the best way to accomplish things so this one makes total sense to me)

2 - Establish Success Metrics

3 - Develop Clear Communications

And it ends with GO - Just do it.
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on August 17, 2011
I enjoyed this book and recommend it. The word innovation is overused and teaching someone to be innovative always struck me like teaching someone to be funny. I stand corrected. I found this book a great and insightful read that provided me with new ways of thinking. The book is practically a field guide for those interested in creating new ways to expand markets and revenue, or new approaches to removing costs. These authors use the insights garnered from "the best and the brightest" found around the world to create an essential handbook for any executive or creative person who wants to literally "change the world". They give great stories from real business cases that demonstrate their concepts and make it practical. Most important, innovation is the engine that drives market forces and yet very few books provide such a easy-to-understand guide path for those tasked with this responsibility or struggling to ignite that fire. I recommend it to anyone who wants to knock it out of the park.
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on November 10, 2015
Provides insights on how to innovate by taking into account risk, the 4 levels/models (Transformational, Marketplace, Category, and Operational), the inspiration behind it, the role of leadership, the portrait of an innovation leader, leadership personalities, and activating group through people, the market and yourself.

Cites examples such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company, Pitney Bowes, Fed Ex, Habitat for Humanity, Teva Pharmaceutical, Toyota, Apple, Hasbro, P&G, Skype, the invention of potato chips, along with many others.

With over 75 ideas that I wrote down for this review, I will provide a few here.

On Innovation: "Illumination, automobiles, telephones and the Internet may all have been made possible because of invention, but they were made available through innovation. None of them would have existed without the harnessing of electricity...To be a true innovation, a product, service or company has to have three essential elements: it has to be unique, it has to be valuable, and it has to be worthy of exchange..innovation at its core means being open and willing to accept the unknown."

On Innovation Leadership: " about inspiring a mind-set that opens your organization up to discovery. It about developing the framework that supports an innovation strategy and empowering people to make the right choices on their about convincing people they can do things they don't think they can. When people know their role in innovation and are engaged in the growth of a company, there's nothing they can't accomplish. On the other hand, when confusion, personal competition, politics or ruthlessness rules, it's everyone for themselves, and innovation is the last thing on anyone's mind."

On Risk: "When it comes to risk and the four levels, there's a simple rule of thumb that works every time: the more known factors there are (like market size, technology, and costs) and the more direct control you have over the outcome of these factors, the lower the risk. Conversely, the less you know, the greater the risk. Knowing what your risk level is going in is not only helpful with planning and funding, it also helps you set expectations that are realistic--especially with something as unpredictable as Transformational Innovation."

pp.66-7 gives a list of questions to ask of which customers would be interested in the product/service.
pp.68-9 gives a list of questions to ask of what type of product would be desirable to sell.
p.70 gives a list of questions to ask about the market & its competition.
p.72 gives a story on how potato chips were created.
pp.98-101 is a letter to the CEO to provide him/her perspective on the what the subordinates desire to grow & make the company a success.
pp.105-6 gives a list of key leadership characteristics.
pp.119-20 gives a list of Left/Right Brain innovation characteristics.
pp.128-9 gives a list of characteristics of a transformational leader.
pp.134-5 gives a list of characteristics of a category leader.
pp.138-9 gives a list of characteristics of a marketplace leader.
p.140 gives a list of characteristics of an operational leader.
pp.186-188 tells the story of how JVS won the VCR war vs. Sony.
p. 212 gives a list of innovation-focused qualities that a leader should have.
pp.216-223 gives insights on how to create an innovation strategy.
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Year after year, annual lists of the most highly creative organizations include "the usual suspects": Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Nike, Pixar, Twitter, etc. With all due respect to these exemplars and to various authors who have much of value to say about innovation processes or the environment for them that enlightened and effective leaders have established and sustained, no book (to the best of my knowledge) thoroughly examines both environment and leadership...until now.

According to Jane Stevenson and Bilal Kaafarani, there is a "magic mix" that enables some leaders to create a "sustainable innovation engine" within their organization. "In Breaking Away, we'll look at why this happens and how to achieve different types of innovation success." More specifically, these are among the key questions to which they respond:

o Why do some innovation leaders succeed but most fail?
o Why do some workplace environments nourish and support innovation but most don't?
o What is the innovation risk profile and why is it so important?
o What are the quality parameters within which to create "customer evangelists"?

Note: Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba devised the term, "customer evangelists." Revealingly, the process of creating them involves the same core values as does the process for creating employee (or stakeholder) "evangelists." Hmmmm.....

o Which cultural factors are essential to a workplace environment in which innovation thrives?
o Which cultural factors preclude establishing or sustaining one?
o What are the defining characteristics and unique abilities of the most effective innovation leaders?

To their great credit, Stevenson and Kaafarani identify and explain a multiple of options and considerations (e.g. "an elegantly simple model that reveals four types of innovation that can lead to growth") with regard to the interdependence of innovation environment and leadership. They view "leadership" in two separate but essential dimensions: having the vision and authority to do whatever must be done to establish and sustain (if necessary, to protect) an environment in which the innovation process thrives, and, taking initiative at all levels (i.e. transformational, category, marketplace, and operational) and in all areas of the given enterprise. That is, innovative people "make it happen" because their leaders have ensured that it can "happen."

With regard to this book's title, as Stevenson and Kaafarani demonstrate in Part 3 ("The Payoff: Activating Growth"), it refers to the process by which to activate innovation in ways that (a) reduce or at least distribute risks and consequent costs and meanwhile (b) increase and improve the chances for breakthrough innovation. "At its heart," they explain, "innovation is about how to break away from the pack and master the marketplace, using the best employees, technology, business heritage, and resources - all driven by the needs of the customer."

However different they may be in most respects, all great innovative organizations share this in common: they "create innovation that drives sustainable growth" in marketplaces in which their competitors don't.
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on November 21, 2011
I found "Breaking Away" to deliver very pragmatic insights both for current and aspiring leaders on actions that deliver profound innovations and ones that can lead companies astray.
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on March 23, 2011
Jane and Bilal did a great job providing practical insights and advice on creating an innovation organization. Breaking Away reminded me of the original In Search of Excellence book from McKinsey partners years ago-lots of real stories from senior line executives. Also enjoyed the writing style-solid content and a style that made it hard for me to put the book down. Great job!!
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on April 26, 2011
A must read if you want to successfully foster innovation in your company in a way that your markets will respond to.
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