Author: Robert Tucker
Publisher: Berrett Koehler
Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi
The target of business people or corporate organisations is to achieve substantial growth and by implication profitability. Yet, it is very challenging to achieve appreciable growth (which signifies productivity) and profitability in the midst of competition. The solution is innovation, that is, conversion of new knowledge into new products and services.
That is why I want us to X-ray this book tagged Driving Growth through Innovation. It is written by Robert Tucker, president of The Innovation Resource, a consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, California. Tucker is a keynote speaker that is in high demand. A former adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, he advises a lot international organisations on innovation strategy.
According Tucker, only companies that can consistently bring imaginative, value-added new products, services and value propositions to the market will survive and grow in a rapidly-changing economy. He says this is why in this text, he is taking you behind the scenes inside 23 Innovation Vanguard Companies to benchmark how they have revamped their innovation approach for growth, profit and competitive advantage.
Structurally, this text contains ten chapters. Chapter one is entitled 21st century innovation. Tucker educates that there is an unmistakable feeling of excitement in the air in companies that are growing as people move about with a palpable sense of purpose. He says growth in revenue and net earnings begets many wonderful, positive things to companies and their people. Tucker adds that growth brings higher salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits for employees and managers, dividends, rising value to investors, etc.
He says many firms today are growing, but they are not growing fast enough to keep up with today’s shareholder values and tomorrow’s shareholder expectations.
Chapter two is based on the subject matter of leading innovation. In the author’s words, “Today’s leaders face a quandary. They must innovate, lest tomorrow the cupboard of new growth opportunities be found bare. But they also know that time is short, especially for the CEO.” To corroborate his assertion, Tucker quotes Business Week thus: “What is striking is not just the number of CEOs getting the boot but how little time they were allowed to prove themselves.”
Tucker says unless the CEO is able to raise the company’s stock price in the near term, he well realises that he may not be around to see the pay-off from projects that are in the development stages right now. According to him, “This preoccupation with short-term results has led to rampant cost-cutting, asset manipulation, and ill-advised acquisitions. Nevertheless, there is a growing realisation among boards of directors, Wall Street analysts, and senior management teams that innovation must be a continuing priority regardless of who sits in the CEO’s chair.”
Chapter three is entitled Creating the culture. Here the author says changing a company’s culture is never easy. Tucker stresses that the good news, based on his study of Innovation Vanguard companies, is that with the right leadership, cultures can be reshaped and amazing results can accrue. He says culture refers to an organisation’s values, beliefs and behaviour transmitted through subtle cues, employees sharing their interpretations of events and largely through the behaviour and attitudes of leaders that signal what is expected.
Tucker stresses that if an organisation values ‘playing it safe’, risk-taking is inherently discouraged. He adds that if it values cohesion, loyalty to the company way, conformity and blind obedience to authority, then it devalues their opposites. If it hires people that comfortably ‘go along to get along’ then it devalues those who are inclined to challenge rules and boundaries, educates Tucker.
This author says a company’s culture may or may not be conducive to promoting innovation. He adds that its reward system may be at odds with encouraging people to want to try something that may not work. According to Tucker, “It is easy for leaders to say to employees, ‘We want you to take risks, we want creative ideas bubbling forth, we want you to think outside that box, oh, and we also want you to make your numbers, and we don’t want failure.’ The message that gets translated to the farther reaches of the organisation: Make your numbers and we don’t want failure.”
In chapters four to six, this author discusses concepts such as empowering the idea management process; mining the future; and fortifying the idea factory.
Chapter seven is based on the subject matter of producing powerful products. Here, Tucker says in a recent year, consumer-products makers churned out more than 31,000 new products in the United States alone, including multiple varieties of everything from tomato to garbage bags. This author adds that only few of these products will survive, and fewer yet will succeed.
“The most optimistic estimate is that only one in five launches will succeed; the most pessimistic, one out of 671. Many failures result from miscalculations about what customers need. The product is developed for all the wrong reasons. It was the CEO’s pet project. The engineers fell in love with the ‘really neat’ technology and assumed buyers would too….,” adds this author.
In chapters eight to ten, Tucker analytically X-rays concepts such as generating growth strategies; selling new ideas; and taking action in your firm.
It is impressive that the ideas articulated in this book are rich, logical, didactic, creative and innovative. On style, one thing that works for this text is effective communication, which is achieved through brilliant employment of language and accurate graphology (punctuation). Tucker makes generous use of quotes, at the beginning of every chapter, to achieve conceptual reinforcement. He also uses quoted expressions (e.g. pages 72 to 75) to lend authenticity to his discourse. Tucker includes graphics to achieve visual amplification of understanding on readers’ part.
However, the grammatical error “… of watching credit ratings be downgraded…” (page 14) instead of “… of watching credit ratings being downgraded…” is noticed.
Finally, this compendium of innovation tips is a must-read, and the tips, must-apply for all firms that want to succeed by staying ahead of competition through innovation.
GOKE ILESANMI, Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaking/Business Communication Trainer, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425