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Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal Paperback – February 19, 2010
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The stories and examples are great! I really appreciated all the references in this book too. They sent me off on further research and exploration for more thought leadership in this area.
Most approaches to leading innovation dwell far too long on our preoccupation for safety and control. Companies implement stage-gate strategies and other methodologies to keep a tight handle on a limited number of ideas that ultimately tend to not live up to expectations. Efforts to manage and foster innovation inadvertently stifle the very innovation they sought to support.
Bill Burnett takes a very different approach in his book "Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal." Instead of a tightly controlled, compartmentalized innovation effort, Burnett advocates an approach that engages every employee. His approach works to maximize the number of ideas from as broad a constituency as possible.
Breakthrough ideas always live at the ends of the bell-shaped curve. Great ideas and lousy ideas look the same at the beginning. Traditional innovation systems make decisions too early in the process and prematurely eliminate both groups of ideas. That makes breakthrough innovation almost impossible.
The Burnett approach postpones those decisions and keeps as many of these ideas alive as possible, through engagement of the people who believe in them. The book outlines techniques for and examples where organizations engaged employees and fostered innovation - two terrific outcomes. Each of these situations calls for courage and willingness to try a different approach to make the company a better place.
"Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal" is a book that every senior-level executive should read and keep available to guide their efforts. Bill Burnett provides the road map for making every organization a better place to work.
In that context, Bill Burnett makes a clear and compelling case. Drawing on his own experience, a wide array of corporate examples, and also emerging brain research, Burnett shows that the key to an innovative, problem solving culture is an engaged workforce, a team that shows up every day chomping at the bit to explore new terrain and drive the business forward.
This in itself may not be news - many CEOs understand the importance of employee engagement. But Burnett takes the argument further. He shows that the keys to engagement lie in the CEO's behavior, in his/her ability to create trust and empower others.
This may be slightly uncomfortable territory for some business leaders. It is easier, after all, to blame the workforce for its disengagement rather than take the responsibility on yourself. Readers should not be concerned however. The author does a great job of explaining not just how and why disengagement occurs, but also what you can do about it. He lays out a set of clear, pragmatic actions that business leaders can use to build trust, to give their employees a real voice, and to drive the engagement that leads to breakthrough ideas.
For business leaders, this book will change how you view your job and the world you operate in. It is a book not to be missed.
Bill Burnett is the innovation expert who addresses the CEO barrier. Advantage offers easily executed steps so CEOs can embrace the leadership style that creates the requisite corporate culture. Within this new culture the current workforce can eliminate inhibiting mindsets and define problems accurately. The natural synthesizers, then, can repeatedly create new knowledge that competitors cannot easily copy; that is, real innovation and real competitive advantage. Burnett teaches CEOs how to build trust and to empower and engage employees. He shows first how to remove obstacles; and, then, provides a set of tools which will allow problem solving and innovation to flourish.