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I received a copy of the book Inside Project Red Stripe recently and I've really struggled with it, for a couple of reasons. First, it's a book about an innovation project, so of course that attracted my attention. Second, the innovation project was run by individuals within The Economist, my favorite magazine (or newspaper as they like to say). So, when someone writes a book about one of your favorite subjects (innovation) that's based on a real world example of innovation in one of your favorite news sources, that's compelling stuff.
What made this even more interesting/frustrating was the approach the author took to documenting the project. Right from the start you need to know that Inside Project Red Stripe is less a book than a blog, and certainly not a how to book but more a philosophical dissection of the innovation team, their plans and their efforts. The author is as interested in the coming together and falling apart of the team, and the definition of the expectations of the team, and the methods under which they work, as he is actual innovation.
The team is asked to create a big new innovation for The Economist, and throughout the book you can identify "Things they did well" and "Things they didn't do so well". Ultimately the team fell into a trap that meant their work was not strategically aligned to the mission and goals of The Economist. Toward the end of the book two of the team members are seen asking the steering team what they must present so the ideas they have aren't killed by the steering team. At that point, asking that question is simply a signal that you know you've failed.Read more ›
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I've been reading the innovation tome "Inside Project Red Stripe" off and on for some time now and I must say that it is unlike any other book on innovation that I have read to date. Instead of espousing a single innovation theory and taking 300 pages to do so, the book attempts to provide a neutral, anthropological look behind-the-scenes into the journey of Project Red Stripe.
Project Red Stripe was the code name for a discreet innovation effort at The Economist that brought together six team members for six months to research, select, and develop an internet-related innovation project for The Economist on a budget of £100,000. The project's aspiration was to deliver the organization's next big thing.
I found the book to be very well-written, interesting, and definitely worth the read if you are an innovation practioner or are fascinated by important project deconstructions. There are a couple of things you should be aware of before you begin:
* The book is written in an engaging research observation style, not your typical narrative or essay styles.
* The book is organized unlike most books and often feels more like a web site as you select a topic to follow and then jump around to read the installments relevant to that topic.
It was fascinating for me to see the human behavior challenges the group went through in gathering, selecting, and developing their ideas, and the downsides of conducting their project in such a public way.
If you are currently planning an innovation project or culture change at your organization, this book is an essential read to help remind you of the potential pitfalls that await you in such an undertaking.Read more ›
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