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The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth Hardcover – September, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma) analyzes the strategies that allow corporations to successfully grow new businesses and outpace the other players in the marketplace. Christensen's earlier book examined how focusing on profits can destroy even well-run corporations, while this book focuses on companies expanding by being "disruptors" who are able to outpace their entrenched competition. The authors (Christensen is a professor at Harvard Business School and Raynor, a director at Deloitte Research) examine the nine business decisions integral to growth, including product development, organizational structure, financing and key customer base. They cite such companies as IBM, AT&T, Sony, Microsoft and others to illustrate their points. Generally, the writing is clear and specific. For example, in discussing whether a company has the resources necessary for growth, the authors say, "In order to be confident that managers have developed the skills required to succeed at a new assignment, one should examine the sorts of problems they have wrestled with in the past. It is not as important that managers have succeeded with the problem as it is for them to have wrestled with it and developed the skills and intuition for how to meet the challenge successfully the next time around"; they then provide a real-life example of a software company. Similar important strategies give readers insights that they can use in their own workplaces. People looking for quick fixes may find the charts, diagrams and extensive footnotes daunting, but readers familiar with more technical business management tomes will find this one both stimulating and beneficial.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Innovator's solution" is supposed to be a continuation of this work, and a bridge between thoughtful questions and useful answers that supposedly can benefit the innovators. Unfortunately, it is not up to this task.
The book still has it's own merits, mostly in summarizing the opposing forces of commoditization and integration from other literature. There is also a useful quip about competing against non-consumption. Unfortunately, this is not the major part of the volume.
Most of the content is dedicated to Christensen preaching the deterministic laws of success in innovation - and this is exactly where he (like too many predecessors) miserably fails.
The real disappointment is that in his "Innovator's Dilemma", Christensen was careful enough to treat innovation as an unknown and unknowable, treading lightly on the processes and circumstances that may inhibit it. He also focused on the logical, down-to-earth explanation of what disruptive innovation can and cannot be. As a result, his "Dilemma" treatise had only one market prediction (on electric car), which (albeit clearly wrong) was predicated with a non-prophecy statement.
As time went on, however, apparently Dr. Christensen felt he is famous enough to move towards less fuzzy statements. In "Innovator's Solution" he makes no less than half a dozen recommendations for innovations ranging from fast foods to RIM, IBM and Ivy League universities. Needless to say, whenever his "advice" can be verified against the test of time (the book was first published in 2003) it consistently stays off the mark.
Well, maybe there is a good reason why Business Professors are rarely good innovators.
If anyone at RIM or IBM would be willing to bet on Christensen's business plans of "digital device for every purpose" or "selling head technology to OEM disk drives manufacturers", the poor fella would soon be out of job. This makes "Innovator's Dilemma" a true sophomore volume - half of it is a sound, logical discourse on innovation, while the other half is filled with questionable statements like "never go to markets that look attractive to an established competitor".
This said, it looks like Dr. Christensen has reached the end of his productive journey in the field of business management, so it's a good time to thank him and move on.
It refreshes and give a deeper insight to the concepts of sustaining vs disruptive innovation and adds several elements that you have to keep in mind to set up the strategy for your innovation.
More than an "how to" is a kind of "how not to" make "autopilot" mistakes.
I have been in GE for almost 15 year, and I have seen most of the things here described happen. And they happen because of the inherent business dynamics described in this books. Read it if you want to take the right steps.
I consider the christensen's thrilogy one of the 3 pillars of business strategy, togheter with game theory and classic Porter's.
If you want to add a further step to the hints suggested here may be worth to read also the Blue Ocean Strategy, that is senseless without the concepts here described.
There are two regrets about this book:
the first is that the subject is complex, and depicts evolving scenarios. So crafting out of the book a "check list" to follow, is hard task.
If the author would have added it, would have simplified the life of us - that have to use his theory - quite a lot.
So be ready to sweat a bit in order to use this book for your innovation...
because it absolutelly deserve it!
the second is that much of the examples are depicted as "large companies dealing with innovation" while my point of view is more that of "entrepreuner launching an initiative". so I need to "EXTRAPOLATE" the hints to by used in this situation. Feasible, but again: not easy - neither prompt.
As the title suggests, the book is a follow-up on the Innovator's Dilemma, which has been a classic business book on how large established companies are surprised by disruptive technology that eventually causes the downfall of the company. The Innovator's Dilemma explained these dynamics and how they happen even when managers in companies make the most "logical" decisions. The Innovator's Solution dives further into this dynamic and tries to answer the question "what can you do about it?" and especially, "How could you sustainably cause disruptive technology".
The book is wonderful and insightful about the meta-level dynamics between and inside companies. There are probably few books that describe these dynamics so well. The book is admittedly theoretical in the way that the authors present a theory and describe how, according to their theory, you could build companies that constantly create disruption... yet admit that no company in the world has ever done that. It is traditional in the sense that most of the organizational dynamics they describe are assuming fairly traditional and hierarchical organizations... evidence from the focus on the role of the CEO. I guess this is a fair assumption still in 2012 as most organizations still do work that way... but on the other hand there are signs that this is changing. I felt some examples from the book were wrong at times or at least showed that the authors aren't that technical. Especially examples related to software, computers or related to Apple and phones seemed off. This annoyed me at times leading me to put the book down for a while, only to resume again a bit later.
The book contains ten chapters and an epilogue. Roughly the first six chapters talk about market dynamics and how companies react and the last three chapters talk about what you can do within your companies. The epilogue is a summary and suggested "actions" chapter.
In the first part, the authors explain that decisions need to be based on a theory and that they are going to attempt, in the rest of the book, to present a theory for making decisions. This theory ought to help companies make better decisions related to products. The authors go on to show how existing marketing techniques often segment incorrect and they ought to focus on "job to be done" rather than different characteristics (a theme that will repeat itself throughout the book). It then describes two different disruptive technologies: 1) low-end, and 2) new market. Then explains the type of customers and scope to focus on. Chapter 5 and the talk about modularization vs integration felt a bit old-fashioned, and especially not that relevant with the increase of software development in the world. Chapter 6 talked about a wonderful market dynamic related to commodization.
The second part makes things a bit more concrete and talks about what you can do within your organization. First it covers organizational structure, then two different strategy processes and how good companies switch between them. Then it has an interesting look at the financial support behind product development and distinguishes "good money" from "bad money" and suggests to focus on "good money" that is "patient for growth but impatient for profit". I loved the organizational dynamics that it described of how organizations invest in disruptive technologies but then cannibalize them when there is a downturn on their main business. The last chapter focuses on the role of the CEO in companies that are trying to create disruption.
I did like the Innovator's Solution at times and have no regret reading it. Certain snippets of it were very very insightful which makes the whole book worth reading. Yet at times I felt bored with it and sometimes even strongly that certain examples were simplistic. Also the traditional management and traditional organization assumptions it had made me feel uncomfortable. Due to all of that, I decided on three Amazon stars.