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Customer Review

142 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pursuing The Innovator's Solution to The Innovator's Dilemma, November 4, 2004
This review is from: Seeing What's Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change (Hardcover)
Seldom do I remember a book that totally replaces the old and popular business literature quite as effectively as Seeing What's Next does in superceding The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution. If you have not read either of those books, you can skip them now and read Seeing What's Next instead. If you have already read those books, you will be delighted to see how much more practical the advice is in Seeing What's Next than in the earlier two efforts.

Before going into the details of what the book covers, I want to especially compliment Professor Christensen for overcoming in Seeing What's Next two of the three most serious weaknesses of The Innovator's Solution -- the lack of discussing business model innovation and the omission of leading technology business model innovation examples.

In Seeing What's Next, the authors take on the challenge of helping executives and managers consider the likelihood of disruptive technology changes occurring and how they should evaluate their potential responses in light of current information. The analysis looks at both the perspective of the companies that will be disrupted and displaced as well as those who are leading the disruptions.

The book is a remarkable combination of theory, process suggestions and detailed case histories to explain the suggested process. As a result, this book will be the most practical guide available for technology executives until Professor Christensen brings out the next installment of his thinking in a future book.

In Part I, the authors use existing theories about disruptive innovations to suggest which signals to pay attention to as suggesting that opportunities exist, how to determine if competitors will be a factor in disruption, choosing an appropriate response and considering how government and other nonmarket influences can affect the result.

In Part II, the process of applying the Part I theories are exemplified in higher education, commercial aviation, semiconductor customer benefits, health care productivity, non-U.S.-based innovations and strategies, and the telecommunications industry.

The book also contains a stimulating conclusion and helpful summary of key concepts in the appendix.

As usual, Professor Christensen and his colleagues have provided many interesting and valuable footnotes. I usually found them to be as interesting as or more interesting than the text.

Having said so many nice things, you are probably wondering what the book's weaknesses are. I found a few that are worth considering before you start reading the book . . . which everyone should do.

1. The proposed analysis of signals and competitors is extremely elementary. It reminded me of the state-of-the-art in strategic thinking in 1971 when I first started as a strategy consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. Today, much better sources of information and means of analysis are available. I was surprised to see such primitive suggestions to such important questions.

2. In the competitive analysis, the book assumes rational competitors who understand where they are. In my experience, innovative situations have everyone confused and they mill about aimlessly . . . often acting against their own rational best interest.

3. The authors take the rationalist view that the future can be predicted well enough in one direction that you can plan and act based on that. Most experienced business people would not agree with that assessment. The opposing view is that you should develop scenarios of what might happen along a number of different extreme lines, and then look for directions that leave you better off regardless of which scenario occurs.

4. While the authors do a wonderful job of describing many disruptive innovations, they do a relatively poor job of discussing how to develop, nurture and accelerate the impact of such innovations. Hopefully, the next book will be much more of a "how to" effort in this direction.

5. Finally, while business model innovations are described in abundance, there's little connection in the book to a process for pursuing business model innovation along with technical innovation. As a result, the table is set . . . but no meal is served in this area.

How good is this book? Many people tell me that Good to Great is the most helpful business book they have ever read. I found Seeing What's Next to be a vastly better and more useful book. Try it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 6, 2008 8:07:06 AM PDT
I appreciate the balance of strengths ans weaknesses in your analysis. That's all too rare in these sorts of reviews.
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Donald Mitchell
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