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Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (March 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591396859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591396857
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rita Gunther McGrath is Associate Professor of Management at Columbia Business School. Ian C. MacMillan is the Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. They are coauthors of MarketBusters and The Entrepreneurial Mindset.

More About the Author

Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world's top experts on strategy and innovation. Her ideas have been widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those she works with. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013. Rita is in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society "Fellows" in recognition of her impact on the field.

Rita maintains an active social media presence, and has been rated one of the 25 smartest women to follow on Twitter by Fast Company Magazine. She consistently appears in rankings of the top business school professors to follow on that medium: Professors on Twitter. She authors a regular column, "The Entrepreneurial Strategist" for Inc Magazine and blogs regularly at Rita is also one of the Wall Street Journal's "Experts.
Rita's new, best-selling book, is titled The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business, which was recognized by Strategy+Business as the #1 business book of the year. Rita has co-authored three previous books: Discovery Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity (2009); MarketBusters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth (2005); and The Entrepreneurial Mindset (2000), all published by Harvard Business Review Press. MarketBusters has been translated into ten languages and was named one of the best business books of 2005 by Strategy+Business.

Rita is one of the most widely published authors in the Harvard Business Review, including the best-selling "Discovery Driven Planning" (1995), which was recognized as an early articulation of today's "lean" startup philosophy and has been praised by Clayton Christensen as one of the most important ideas in management - ever. She is a highly-respected academic researcher whose work has won awards from the most prestigious management journals.

Rita joined the faculty of Columbia Business School in 1993. Prior to life in academia, she was an IT director, worked in the political arena, and founded two startups. She received her Ph.D. from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and has degrees with honors from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She is married and is proud to be the mother of two delightful grownups.

For more information on Rita visit

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
I can't wait to use these tools myself.
J. Groen
This is a complex subject but via diagrams and clear evaluation methodologies this book enables the reader to position their products and services.
Mark J. Shortwhite
I've not read other books by the author so can't comment on the other review which suggests there's not much new in here.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Groen VINE VOICE on June 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very enlightening book that builds on the authors' HBR article of July-August, 1995 called Discovery-driven planning. Instead of the typical approach for evaluating innovative projects of complex, risk adjusted financials, that results in analysis paralysis, and reduces judgement, the authors suggest an innovative approach that focuses more on the assumptions and generates the results by backing into the financial justification with reverse financials. The assumptions based planning approach is very rich and powerful, and having used it myself a number of times with teams, I can tell you that it results in a very motivated team developed plan and business case. Then, instead of using the potentially bureaucratic "stage-gate" processes for governing execution that are in place today in most companies (but often don't work well with highly uncertain projects, by the way, due more to the mechanics than the process), they recommend an assumptions driven conversation based upon the completion of deliverables (of course, this could work with stage-gates but not the way that these are typically used today). The whole approach, I think, can be highly liberating for organizations today that are trying to get more collaborative and enabling. At the end of the book, through their experiences, they recommend approaches to getting the discovery driven approaches implemented. Consequently, I highly recommend this book for any innovation champion who wants to work on eliminating the burden that they feel in trying to get things done. I can't wait to use these tools myself.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Pierantozzi on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In my former role as Air Products and Chemicals Director of New Business Development, I was responsible for finding and implementing the very best tools for innovation that we could find to grow the company. Discovery Driven Planning has since been at the core of our successful efforts to incubate new businesses and innovate, while containing risks. Our Chief Financial Officer at Air Products is a huge fan of the technique, because for the first time he's found a solution to either constraining innovation projects with planning methodologies that aren't appropriate for high-uncertainty ventures, or letting projects go forward without discipline. The approach has been used in our company to test ideas for new technologies, to plan our entry into new markets and to decide when a project needs to be redirected, or even shut down. It has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars by helping detect issues early and take corrective action before the big, expensive investments have been made.

The book, Discovery Driven Growth, distills the lessons McGrath and MacMillan have learned working with dozens of companies like ours into a practical, useful and easy to follow bible for organizations intent on driving growth and renewal, but reluctant to take on big risks in doing so. Our experiences are described in the book, as are applications of the book in companies as diverse as Nokia, Microsoft, IBM and small entrepreneurial ventures. One of the things I like best about the book is that it operates at both the strategic level and the level of individual initiatives. As a CEO or senior team member, you can use its concepts to think through the broader questions of strategic direction and portfolio resource allocation that must be determined at the top of the organization.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth F. Carter on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Initially, Discovery-Driven Growth was a little disappointing. The underlying premise was not new ground, but basically a reverse-engineering process for developing new growth products and services. However, once you get over the fact that you know how the story is going to end, you begin to appreciate the way the process is laid out. It's what I call the answer to: OK, it's a great idea, but what do we do Monday morning? DDG provides that answer by laying out the 1-2-3 process for reverse engineering an idea from target revenue/profit backwards to the individual steps and costs that will be encountered. You can follow the process on a back-of-napkin analysis to quickly determine whether the project is worth the time and resources to pursue. OK, sure, you already knew how to do this. But, have you formalized the process? Worth the read. Ken Carter
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Format: Hardcover
In the first chapter, Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan explain that their core thesis is that companies that use conventional methodologies to pursue exceptional growth will simply not be able to accomplish growth that allows them to break out of the pack and deliver exceptional results." If so, what do they recommend? What they call "discovery-driven planning" that will guide and inform the introduction of new growth initiatives (e.g. businesses, products, services, franchises, strategic alliances, and even potential mergers and acquisitions). "Through discovery-driven planning (DDP)," McGrath and MacMillan point out, "organizations set up bold plans to pursue futures they frame, to learn where their futures lie, and to test their assumptions about those futures at the lowest possible cost."

Readers will especially appreciate McGrath and MacMillan's brilliant use of reader-friendly devices, including self-diagnostics, check-lists, figures, and tables, to identify key points. For example, a "Simple quiz to find your openness to discovery-driven growth " (Table 1-1,Page 9), several processes that can help executives to plan their firms' growth during the first steps of DDP (Pages 11-13), and "Conventional versus discovery-driven growth" (Table 1-2, Page 13) in Chapter One. McGrath and MacMillan make equally effective use of BioBarrier, a disguised version of a corporate growth project at a major corporation that illustrates both the perils and the possibilities of DDP.
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