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Serial Innovators: Firms That Change the World Hardcover – November 8, 2011

5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


With a guide for building the ultimate firm and making it last, Feser's book offers fresh insights into the need for change. (Director, April 2012)

From the Inside Flap

Firms are like living organisms. They're born, they grow, and then they struggle to survive. In today's high-stakes, survival-of-the-fittest economy, keeping up with changing markets marks the difference between businesses that flourish and those that flounder and fold. Serial Innovators: Firms That Change the World examines the aging process of the firm, identifying and explaining the factors that slow down its ability to adapt to an ever-evolving marketplace. Reviewing recent findings from across diverse academic fields—including economics, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and many others—the book presents an exciting new understanding of how growing firms develop rigidities that prevent change. And how to resist them.

Using these findings, author and business administration expert Claudio Feser develops a model of organization that is adaptive, is innovative, and creates value for all stakeholders over long periods of time, forming a practical guide for building the ultimate firm, able to withstand market changes. The book combines the fictive, engaging story of a young and ambitious CEO who struggles to save his company from failure with short, insightful, academically thorough reviews of recent developments in research related to company adaptation, innovation, and growth, to make complex material easily accessible. To be successful, a firm must be able to adapt and thrive in dynamic markets and to continuously reinvent itself, and this book shows how.

The average life expectancy of a firm is roughlyfifteen years, and only one out of twenty firms lasts longer than fifty years. Designed for anyone with an interest in finance, economics, and business administration, Serial Innovators is the must-have book if you're looking to beat those odds.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118149920
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118149928
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,579,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
What we have here is a "hybrid" narrative that develops on two separate but interdependent levels: a fictional account that focuses on Carl Berger (CEO of American Health Devices or AHD) and Claudio Feser's exposition of a core thesis that continuous innovation and adaptation can help an organization "live" longer. Only a few years ago, these were corporate equivalents of thriving organisms: Bethlehem Steel, British Leyland, Commodore, Digital Equipment Corporation, Enron, General Foods, Lehman Brothers, Pan Am, Polaroid, RCA, Texaco, TWA, Union Carbide, Uniroyal, Westinghouse, and WorldCom. Today? All gone. And keep in mind, this is only a partial list of organizational fatalities. Of the Top 50 in 1960, only 13 are among the Top 50 in 2010. As for the other 37, 23 have either filed for bankruptcy or been acquired. The remaining 14 are well-known but endangered.

Frankly, I am much less interested in fictional accounts (however well-told in narrative form with setting, characters, plot, conflicts, etc.) than I am in research-driven revelations based on real-world situations. Feser is a highly-skilled storyteller, to be sure, but I now focus on what he has to say extending corporate longevity. Here are some of the passages that caught my eye in Chapters 1-5:

o Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's pioneering research on three heuristics of judgment (anchoring, availability, and representativeness), Pages 27-29
o Mental biases (framing, optimism, loss aversion, and status quo) and the rigidities of bounded rationality, Pages 29-32
o The Theory of Self-Efficacy Beliefs (i.e.
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Format: Hardcover
Businesses, like people, follow a natural life cycle: They're born, they grow, they live and they die. Only 15% of all firms reach 30 years and only 5% make it to their 50th anniversaries. Yet some organizations defy the odds, continue to produce and contribute many decades beyond an expected life span. These "serial innovators" go through a constant series of changes, perpetually reinventing and adapting themselves to shifting markets and environments. McKinsey executive Claudio Feser delves into economics, sociology, neuroscience and psychology - one chunk at a time using the connective framework of an engaging business novella. He sets out to help you understand what drives long-lived companies to outperform and outlast their competitors. Feser's personable story of Carl Berger, a bright CEO who reshapes his firm, illustrates how leaders can apply the latest findings - explained here - in management, personnel practices, cognitive science and corporate longevity. getAbstract recommends this imaginative, wide-ranging book to executives seeking a strategy for discovering the corporate fountain of youth.
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Format: Hardcover
Attention, reading and immersing with "Serial Innovators" may change the way you deal with people! First I was sceptical about reading just another book about how some managers "did it". But already after a few pages I was fascinated. This book is not about the young ambitious CEO Carl Berger, he is only the messenger. It is a mirror, a reflection about what business (and life) is all about. It is about our psyche, our abilities to cope with other people, and therefore it is about the most important part in our world, our interaction with others. Claudio Feser described accurately the real and important people problems we face in doing business.

But then he probed much deeper, providing a broad and scientifically based understanding, why we behave the way we do. This book may not be able to change how we act, how we deal during difficult management situations. But it will help to understand, why we or another manager did act or behave in a specific situation, an thus provide a valuable self reflection.

In the second part Claudio Feser took these insights to frame the ingredients of a successfull, lasting corporation. Again he stresses that we are all in the people business. Nothing blossoms and lasts without the right values and attitudes.

To make it short, I do warmly recommend this book to all who deal with people. It is easy to read, avoids unnecessary fillers and affects the heart. My managers will get this book as a reading gift and we will discuss it in a workshop.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first saw this book I thought "please no, not another book on innovation...". If you google "book on innovation" you get roughly a billion search results: there is no doubt innovation is a key topic in business and frankly a bit hyped...

Fortunately this book is much more than about innovation: it's about longevity of companies and how their rejuvenation (or lack of) are key for their growth and, ultimately, survival. The book takes a systematic look at personal and organizational rigidities which are deeply anchored in our psyche and/or have been the foundation of past successes, as an individual or as a company. In describing these rigidities and spelling out the implications, the author finds a very nice balance between academia/ research on one side, and down-to-earth management realities on the other. Any reader who is part of a senior management team will find it easy to relate to Carl, the fictitious CEO of a fictitious medical equipment company facing not-so-fictitious challenges and opportunities. Carl's story develops hand-in-hand with the explanation of the mentioned rigidities: this makes the reading easy and entertaining, while making the translation of the implications very tangible.

"Serial Innovators" is an insightful and entertaining book for anyone facing rapid change of the business environment (who isn't?) and wants to get a systematic and practical view on what hinders change and how to overcome such hard-to-move barriers.
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