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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2010
The latest business buzz word is "innovation." However it tends to be over-used and misused, especially when it is confused with "invention." Invention is about creating "stuff;" innovation is about creating "value." Adding to the confusion is the pressure for companies to innovate faster, which is misinterpreted to mean how fast an organization gets product out the door. The velocity of innovation does not mean time-to-market. In "The Innovation Zone: How Great Companies Re-Innovate for Amazing Success," Tom Koulopoulos clarifies what innovation is and is not. He defines innovation as "a process of change with measurable value." This is a seemingly simply notion on the surface, but not so simple to grasp or implement.

Koulopoulos illustrates the concepts of innovation through well-documented case studies of those organizations, such as Amazon, NASA, and Sony, who have been successful innovators. Based on the experiences of these organizations, he provides a meta-process for implementing an innovation zone. This meta-process is derived from seven lessons of innovation: (1) Build for the unknown. (2) Fail fast. (3) Abandon the success of the past. (4) Separate the seeds from the weeds. (5) Focus on process over product. (6) Create an innovation experience. (7) Challenge conventional wisdom.

It is so easy in business, especially when things are going well, to become complacent. We resist innovation because it ALWAYS threatens the status quo. Therefore, as with all enterprise initiatives that have come before it (e.g., business process re-engineering, knowledge management, etc.), there MUST be support at the CEO level to ensure success. But even if there is resistance within the higher levels of the organization, the "now" generation of workers, who work for the sheer joy of the journey, will serve as the drivers of innovation. Companies who choose not to adopt a process of innovation will find it is very hard to sustain a command and control environment with people who are impervious to rejection and change.

This is one of the most important business books of our time. It is rich with content, which is very different from most business books on the market today. I find I can scan the first and last chapters of other business books and have a good understanding of what the book is about, and, quite frankly, be annoyed at the lack of substantive information. This is not so with "The Innovation Zone." You will want to read, study, and absorb every word, every concept. This book is extraordinarily well-written, and, best of all, it rings true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2009
Tom K has done it again. He has taken what will be one of the most important strategic topics for us all today and created a road map so an organization can do it.

All too often innovation is considered something ethereal or hard to get your hands around, but Tom has shown that a deliberate and well laid out strategy can turn laggards into leaders.

The well-researched examples show Tom's approach to innovation. He has listened, absorbed and dissected the successful strategies of many and created a super blueprint for any company suffering from complacency.

The more I read this book, the more jazzed I was about Tom's call to action. He is obviously passionate about the topic and the Innovation Workshops he now delivers to "walk the walk" are just dynamite.

The ability to reinvent, survive tough times and scale a business all have innovation at the core. However, a good idea on its own will not become successful you have to act on it. The Innovation Zone is the cure for businesses with the blues.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 10, 2009
What is the difference between Innovation and Invention? How do I make innovation attainable by everyone? What am I missing when I think that innovation is for someone else? The answers to these and other questions are found in The Innovation Zone by Tom Koulopoulos. This book is a welcome addition to the literature on innovation, particularly for those who are trying to think about how to innovate in a downturn.

Koulopoulos's book covers the principles, behaviors and actions required to create innovation in the enterprise. A real strength of the book is the diversity of case studies from both manufacturing as well as service industries. Koulopoulos looks beyond the product examples to get at the process, organizational and cultural factors that drive new ideas.

He is able to do this because he has a very pragmatic definition of innovation: "A process of change with measurable value." He separates this from invention with is about creating new things. This will have the innovation zealots up in arms as its not a pure definition--they are right - but it's a practical definition and one that opens the doors for us all to be innovative.

How can we be innovative, well Koulopoulos provides seven lessons that can help drive innovation across the company. Notice that these are lessons based on experience rather than principles that we aspire to.

Build for the unknown - recognize that you are breaking new ground and that learning requires spending. Example: the Space Suit

Fail Fast - innovation requires tolerance for the right kind of failure. Example: Sony pocket radio

Abandon the success of the past - the error most of use makes is that we move forward as if the ideas and experiments of the past are limited to the variables of the past. Example: iPod

Separate the seeds from the weeds - The job of an innovative organization is as much to keep a careful eye out for new growth as to tend to the seeds originally planted. Example: Onstar

Focus on process over product - sustained innovation without a well-grounded process is simply not possible in large organizations. You need a way to provide visibility to new ideas. Example: 3M

Create an innovation experience - you can accelerate innovation and the value it delivers by shifting focus from product innovation to experience innovation. Example: Zipcars

Challenge conventional wisdom - start with asking if you need to do this at all, then figure out how to make things better. Example: iRobot's Roomba vacuum

The Innovation zone is one of the more complete, accessible and tool based books I have read on the subject. There are many people who write about innovation as creativity. Kouloupolos writes about innovation as value, something we all need every day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tom Koulopoulos new book is an excellent reflection on what can make or break innovation inside a company. I have read many books by a variety of authors and Tom is the best at putting the details in perspective.

This book clearly shows how innovation as process can be accomplished and measured. His five laws of innovation are right on the mark. My own experience in helping to drive innovation within a large corporate IT group has driven home rule number one: Innovation is Dangerous.

Companies that have been successful in the past are reluctant to change. However, the economic realities of the present day are going to come home hard if you're not willing to innovate. In Tom's list of innovation killers, the one that jumps out at me is the laying success on the technologists. A small group of innovators can do great things. The "but" comes from the resistance of everyone else to adopt new ideas, processes, or simply ways of thinking.

There are too many good things about this book to list them all It is one book that all "C suite" executives should read and reread to ensure that they are prepared to capitalize on the future through innovation.
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The Innovation Zone "rocked my worldview" when I read the pre-release version of it. I encourage you to get it and read it through and through. It contains a wealth of insights that will make you better, and any business you are involved in...even better. Anyone who thinks innovation is dead, or even wounded, needs to read this book. Innovation is the key to success, but that means you need to understand all the ways that innovation leads to success--or misses out on it. Tom's book explains it far better than I can in a brief review. Get it, devour it, and you'll see for yourself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2009
Finally a book that puts innovation within reach for just about anyone.

Written in a way that inspires the reader with memorable anecdotes and practical advice, The Innovation Zone should be standard reading for everyone who has ever thought to themselves, "How can I and my company become better at innovation."

The book focuses mostly on the simple premise that we have become too wrapped up in the notion of inventing things just because we can. Koulopoulos points out that this is both an economic and an ecological disaster. What we need to do, instead, is focus on innovation that adds value to our companies, markets and lives. He goes on to show how many companies (but not enough) are putting in place a process (what he calls an Innovation Zone) to refocus themselves on innovation.

The book delves into the behind the scenes methods and attitudes of innovation, which Koulopoulos calls the Seven Lessons and the Five Laws of Innovation, each with ample detail from a company which illustrates the lesson and behavior.

By the time you're done reading the book you are both motivated and equipped with the tools to make a difference. All-in-all a great and timely read!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2009
Thomas Koulopoulos builds a case that innovation can be fostered and developed in the corporation. He differentiates between invention and innovation, providing a new way to look at adding value in the marketplace. He opens our minds to how we could work with partners, suppliers and even competitors to recombine existing components, changing the nature of a product or service by embracing new technology, or introducing a product or service that creates new unprecedented behaviors.
The Innovation Zone provides a structured method to those leaders in organizations who wish to foster and sustain innvoation. It provides a new way to look at business models and timing of when innovation needs to be triggered and how to measure its success.
The book ends with an Innovation Self-Assessment. This is a tool to evaluate your organization's innovation capability. You may find, as we did, that you have more potential than you thought.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2009
During the Fusion 2008 conference in Madison, Wisconsin,[..]Innovation was the prevalent theme. Tom Koulouopolus delivered the greatest insight and presentation on this topic I had ever heard. A question that continues to come up when I interview people as a journalist is "How can I drive innovation efforts to deliver better and quicker results in my organization?" And ...we are often asked. " Can innovation skills be taught?" The answer is YES!

Ask yourself a simple question; where did you learn to be innovative? If you're like most people, you never took a formal course on innovation. Few of us have learned to do it in any scientific way.

Following last years Fusion Symposium I attended an Innovation Master Class workshop produced by Tom. It was undoubtedly the best one and one-half days I spent fully participating in hands-on workshop in my career. I brought back to skills to the office that could be applied immediately and the results were more effective meetings, creativity as well as increased productivity.

This new book by Tom Koulouplos offer a rare insight into the skills needed to learn and drive innovation in your organization. The case studies of global companies provide proof positive that innovation is the driving force that can help get us out of this economic crisis. I highly recommend this book and it has been rated a top 10 "must read book" by Baseline Magazine for 2009.

Tom will be speaking March 5 at Fusion 2009. [..]. I can wait to hear him speak again and you can see his presentations online at those web sites.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2009
Innovation Zone provides a definitive process for innovation development - distinguishing between innovation and invention. This book also describes the necessity of defining a zone or place - a dedicated avenue and culture - that nurtures the process. Tom helps readers understand the importance of a champion that fosters new ideas and consistently encourages entrepreneurs. The Innovation Zone process is easily understood and can be accomplished using the tools and methods outlined in the book. Creating the culture is the more difficult aspect. Without a champion and protected space, it becomes extremely difficult to commercialize ideas. The Innovation Zone charts the importance for both process and culture. It is a well-defined, usable book with practical application, case studies, and realistic information. Highly recommend for business professionals.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2009
This is not another one of those innovation theory books that try to convince you of some new innovation process or scheme. This contains a real-world discussion, starting from a very high level view of innovation trends today, through case studies and examples from real organizations that unabashedly address the good, the bad, and the ugly of putting innovation in place. I particularly liked the author's real-world takeaways such as, The Five Laws of Innovation, The Five Elements of a Culture of Innovation, and The Seven Lessons of Innovation (to name just a few). These accurately address the issues that you're likely to encounter if you are looking to achieve continuous innovation--the ultimate goal of any successful innovation management program.
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