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I begin this review with an unorthodox suggestion: Read the last chapter first, Chapter Ten, in which Govindarajan and Trimble explain the "Ten Rules," before reading the Introduction and then the nine chapters which follow. Normally I would not presume to offer this suggestion because, in most business books, the presentation of a given "rule," "lesson," etc. is best understood within a specific context. Indeed, Govindarajan and Trimble provide one for each of their ten "Rules." However, one man's opinion, I think it will be helpful to have at least a sense of the conceptual framework before examining the substance of a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program within which to formulate appropriate strategies.

Govindarajan and Trimble affirm the value of strategic experiments because they can have high revenue growth potential, focus on emerging or poorly defined industries, test an unproven business model, involve radical departure from existing business, require allocation of at least some existing assets and competencies, develop new knowledge and capabilities, create discontinuous rather than incremental value creation, have greater uncertainty across multiple functions, tend to be unprofitable for several quarters (or more), and offer little (if any) indication of performance, at least initially. In other words, strategic experiments can be messy and unpredictable. Why bother?

Govindarajan and Trimble suggest that strategic innovation is a process by which to test new, unproven, and significantly different answers to at least one of three fundamental questions: Who is the customer? What is the value offered to that customer? How is that value delivered? Presumably Govindarajan and Trimble agree that it is difficult (if not impossible) to manage what cannot be measured. Therefore, to their three questions I now presume to add two others: How to measure the value of what is offered? and then, How to measure the effectiveness of the delivery system? To obtain appropriate answers to each of these and other questions, experiments of various kinds are necessary. In my opinion, messiness and unpredictability seem a small price to pay, given the value of what can be learned from the experiments and then applied effectively within the given competitive marketplace.

Of special interest to me is the material which Govindarajan and Trimble provide with regard to three different challenges: "Forgetting" assumptions, mind-sets, and biases which may no longer be valid or even relevant; "Borrowing" assets and resources with concrete value; and "Learning" how to improve predictions of business performance. I appreciate Govindarajan and Trimble's skillful use of two hypothetical companies, CoreCo and NewCo, which facilitate all manner of comparisons and contrasts which help to illustrate the various strategies and tactics which Govindarajan and Trimble recommend. For example, in Chapter One when explaining why strategic innovators need a different approach to execution, they examine the four elements of organizational DNA, cross-referencing CoreCo and NewCo to make their key points. Well-done!

With all due respect to the substance as well as eloquence of Govindarajan and Trimble's narrative, I especially appreciate their use of various reader-friendly devices. For example, Figure 1-1 which lists "Ten characteristics of strategic experiments" (page xx in the Introduction); Table 2-4 which identifies the elements, choices, and results re "Outcomes of CMT's initial organizational DNA (page 39); Table 5-1 which, when used in conjunction with Figure 5-5 which precedes it, enables the reader to assess the intensity of the borrowing challenge (page 87); and Table 9-4 which, when used with Figure 9-14 which precedes it, enables the reader to assess the intensity of the learning challenge (page 182).

For most decision-makers in most organizations (regardless of size or nature), Govindarajan and Trimble do indeed provide -- as indicated earlier -- a conceptual framework for a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program within which to formulate appropriate strategies. Organizational DNA may have to be re-wired in terms of staffing, structure, systems, and cultural values when facing the three challenges of forgetting, borrowing, and learning. Expect messiness, confusion, frustration, and -- yes -- setbacks while completing that immensely difficult process. Eventually, however, with total commitment of everyone involved, supported by sufficient resources (which include patience), the best of CoreCo can be combined with the best of NewCo.
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on July 13, 2006
Many thanks to Vijay Govindarajan (VG) and Chris Trimble for this grand exposition of ideas first shared in the Spring 2005 California Management Review and the May 2005 Harvard Business Review. VG and Trimble's "Forget, Borrow, Learn" framework is the most powerful recipe for corporate reinvention that I have encountered.

As other Amazon reviewers have skillfully described the contents of this excellent book, I would like to add just two things.

First, as a graduate of the Tuck School of Business, I had the good fortune of encountering VG in the classroom. VG is a dynamic presence who commands attention. If you get a chance to experience VG in person, take it. To get a (very) small taste of what I am talking about, check out VG's video link at Tuck's website.

Second, to learn further from VG, I highly recommend VG's blog. Several of VG's posts are pure gold. For example, in VG's March 10, 2006 post, he puts forth his "three box thinking model," with box 1 being "Manage the present," box 2 being "Selectively abandon the past," and box 3 being "Create the future." The leaders of most companies spend most of their time in box 1, believing that they are working on strategy. As VG contends, though, strategy is really about boxes 2 and (especially) 3, that is, figuring out how to allocate scarce resources today to assure market leadership in 2010, 2020, and beyond. Yes, indeed.

In sum, I not only recommend this book wholeheartedly, but also urge those concerned with the long-term health of their firms to continue reckoning with the thoughts and writings of both VG and Chris Trimble.
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on November 2, 2005
Think about it - with the heightened global competition, you feel that you and your firm have to be constantly running fast and hard in order to stay in place! You have tried "kaizen" or continuous process improvement (a la Toyota or GE), and/or implemented process revolution (not unlike Wal-Mart's supply-chain revolution) and/or revolutionized your product line (not unlike Intel or Gillette) - but, you still see only incremental revenue growth and global competitors are knocking on your door. You worry that you have reached a plateau. How do you super-charge your business for breakthrough growth? Strategic Innovation! Professor Govindarajan (VG) and Chris Trimble systematically dissect the anatomy of Strategic Innovation Process by asking three basic questions: Who is the customer that we are serving? What is the value that we bring to the table? How do we deliver this value? VG and Trimble deconstruct the Strategic Innovation Process into a set of ten rules which trace the process from idea to execution - hence, the book is named aptly, "10 Rules of Strategic Innovators - From Idea to Execution". Since the idea or conception phase is new and exciting, most companies place extraordinary focus and attention on this phase. However, the vital execution phase is often shortchanged since it is usually protracted, difficult and painstaking. VG and Trimble place an enormous emphasis on the execution phase as they lay out a lucid road map for the Strategic Innovation Process that is insightfully punctuated by cases from a variety of industries ranging from consumer products to media to genomics. What is compelling about these cases is that they cover success stories as well as failures and the lessons to be learnt from both. This book is a "Must Read" for any executive/manager who is interested not only in staying ahead of the inexorable changes dictated by globalization but also determined to catalyze the change - i.e. any executive who wants to define the rules of the game.
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on May 9, 2006
In Nature it is rare for one species to successfully rear the young of another species. The difficulties, for example, of a tiger cub being raised by a herd of elephants are easy to imagine. If the tiger isn't accidentally trampled underfoot while it is still too immature to look after itself, it is only a matter of time before some astute members of the elephant herd recognize they are raising a natural enemy, and trample it underfoot on purpose.

So it is in Business. We all too often witness the apathy, turf battles, or occasional outright sabotage that cause fledgling products to be trampled underfoot well before they reach fruition. It seems that to survive, new and radical innovations must be nurtured by wholly independent start-ups - away from the threatening feet of the elephant herd at Headquarters, but consequently of little benefit to them either.

"Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators" by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble offers a refreshing and hopeful new viewpoint on this topic. Both authors are recognized consultants to businesses throughout the world, as well as being academics, and their approach is analytical, with a surprising amount of common sense and a good portion of useable "how-to" ideas. A lot of it is theory, of course, backed by the 20/20 vision of hindsight brought to bear on some very interesting case studies. But it is plausible theory, and will give consultants and management several new viewpoints to explore.

In the first four chapters the authors describe the inevitable three-way dynamic struggle involved with major innovations. On the one hand, the new venture (NewCo in the vernacular of the book) must Borrow from CoreCo (the established parent company) to have competitive advantage over independent start-ups. CoreCo's intellectual property, production capacity, R&D resources, and so on will be extremely valuable to NewCo during its early days. On the other hand, NewCo must Forget many of CoreCo's ways of doing things. NewCo is just like a start-up in many ways and must have different methods for planning, for rewarding employees, for satisfying customers. They need a different culture. An inability to manage the natural tension involved in trying to balance the Borrowing and the Forgetting is a major reason that many strategic innovations fail.

The third dynamic is Learning. The authors characterize successful strategic innovations as being successful learning experiences. They are experiments, and indeed for the rest of the book they are referred to as "Strategic Experiments". Running an experiment is a lot different from running an established business. There has to be planning and accountability, but of a very different kind. Govindarajan and Trimble describe their innovative Theory-Focused Planning (TFP) process for use in an environment where there are several critical unknowns. This is a complex topic worthy of its own book and in the space of one chapter amounts to just a brief introduction - though it certainly serves to remind us that for strategic innovations the traditional Business Plan is less than useless. TFP forms a theory that links the causes-and-effects of the components of the strategic experiment, and combines that with trend analyses for their corresponding metrics. It provides a powerful and flexible method for moving forward with an increased level of confidence in the face of many unknowns. TFP clearly can be used in any situation where you are faced with high levels of uncertainty, and could be an important part of a business' tool kit in the future. It would be wise to watch for further developments of this methodology.

It isn't until the last chapter that the "Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators" are assembled. While telling the story of a successful strategic experiment at Analog Devices, Inc. the Ten Rules are condensed from the earlier chapters of the book. This gives them context and meaning in a very practical sense.

Keeping companies healthy is what we (consultants) do, and Strategic Innovation is one area where we can help them renew their growth curves. It is still a relatively new area and to quote from the book, "..rarely do managers of strategic experiments return for an encore." and hence, "few people, if any, within your organization can guide you from their direct experience." [Introduction, page xxvii] If that isn't an opportunity for a forward-looking manager (or a seasoned consultant), I don't know what is.

"The Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators" isn't the first book on the subject and it certainly won't be the last. It is however one of the few that contains useful tools we can apply to real-world situations to analyze the dynamics involved, and respond with common-sense fixes. If your field of practice includes Strategic Innovations this is a must-have book for your library. In fact anyone that spends time implementing brave new ideas at growing companies, and effecting the changes that go along with them, would benefit from thinking through the concept of balancing the Borrowing, Forgetting and Learning components. Before you know it, you'll be raising tigers too!
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on August 8, 2012
The authors use relevant and engaging examples to conduct comparison against their rules as laid out in the text which easily draws you in. It is a very easy read and breaks away from the norm by exposing the reader to the Their Focused Planning (TFP) model for Strategic Planners/Strategic innovators vice the standard business models (DDP) which many business leaders find too difficult to apply to strategic experiments. The notes in the back of the book provide some great insight into the minds of both authors and place each chapter in context to what they were thinking or going for within each. Excellent way to gather more resources or references for further self-study on the topic of strategic innovation and experiments. I would recommend this book for anyone considering careers in project management, organizational development, human performance, human resources, learning and development or management. Great book.
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on March 30, 2006
I read books to be inspired and to change. I was very happy to have this book recommended to me. For every ten business books I read (and I read a lot), I finish one. Mostly because there is little new thought and little on implementation. I had no problem turning every page and learned something new from almost every chapter. A few points that I will put right into my practice (I run a consulting firm):

- The role of the strategic experiment. Basically, the corporation must accept an entirely new risk profile with strategic experiments in the new business to mimic the speed of a start-up

- New planning process. Planning processes kill innovation. Budgets rule. Put a certain percentage of the budget at risk through new planning process. Fundamentally, this also reflects a new business model.

- Learning. The outcome of the new business is the creation of tremendous insights into how to move faster in the marketplace, but not necessarily a great return. This is the role of the CEO to manage.

I recommend the book for the pragmatic business leader.
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on April 2, 2006
As a manager building a new business within an existing company, I am running into many challenges. VG and Chris utilize real world situations to highlight these challenges, and offer practical ideas and frameworks to address them. I first read the book to get a perspective on other, similar situations, then re-read it to find ideas to apply, and now turn back to it as a continual reference.

From Forget, Borrow, Learn to the Theory Focused Planning to the 10 Lessons themselves, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience they share. Many books talk about finding the innovative idea. 10 Rules for Strategic Innovators actually helps outline how to turn the idea into a new, viable commercial business. This book is unique and a truly great read.
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on December 30, 2005
I enjoyed the war stories, but did not find any significant or new contribution to the management literature. The title says the book is about "strategy innovation." However, the stories seem like just regular old product innivation to me. And the framework developed looks like old fashioned organizational learning. It would be better to go back to the classics by Chris Agyris on forgeting, Peter Senge's 5th Discipline on learning, Tom Peters on excellence, innovation and chaos on "Not invented here syndrome" to understand borrowing. These authors originated the ideas in this book in the 1980s and 1990s, but did a more indepth job developing them. You don't need this book. It is old hat.
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on January 8, 2006
This book squarely addresses the confounding pitfalls that lie between conceiving of a strategic innovation and executing it successfully. With perceptive insight into the organizational realities that thwart innovation, the book provides a practical guide to overcoming those challenges. It should be required reading in every board room, corner office and management retreat.

Combining the art of effective teaching and executive coaching with the science of disciplined scholarship, the authors bring their lessons to life with well-selected case studies from such diverse industries as biotechnology, media, information technology and consumer products. Although the book is directed at strategic innovation in the context of established companies, I found that the book's lessons are also remarkably instructive for emerging ventures.

This is the rare business book that delivers value at multiple levels. The core principles are so straightforward that a time-pressed executive can read the book quickly to gain fresh perspective on the innovation imperative that drives business today. But if you are actively engaged in or about to commence a new strategic undertaking, the book also offers detailed recommendations on how to structure and manage the initiative successfully; abundant graphics drive home the points and make it easy to use this material as the basis for a group discussion. Finally, if you want to explore the material in more depth, the authors have provided extensive endnotes with a wealth of thoughtful references to additional scholarly articles and business examples. Put simply, this book is full of guru guidance - if you're at all like me, your copy will soon be full of dog-eared pages and highlighted passages.
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VINE VOICEon June 27, 2006
This is an excellent book that provides some excellent new ideas for pursuing organic growth. These ideas are built around three challenges: forgetting, borrowing and learning. The ideas are developed as 10 rules which are supported by numerous examples. To read this book, I would focus on the introduction and chapter one and then go to the conclusions in chapter 10. Chapter one provides the context for the rules and chapter 10 summarizes them. From there, you can focus on the rules that are most interesting to you and your organization. The chapter that I found to be most interesting was chapter 9, Theory Focused Planning an approach to understanding the business, how it will work and to discover the business model that the organization needs to focus on to be successful. I found this to be the best chapter in the book, because the traditional concepts of annual budgeting really don't work well in the world of innovation. And, this appears to me to be fundamentally better approach.
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