Using Books as Tools

Using Books as Tools

We are celebrating and shining a spotlight on how innovators use Books as Tools™, tools for driving the shifts that innovation requires, with a series of the same name, and founded in on our belief that books aren’t really books. They’re incendiary tools for personal revolution and organizational change.  They can and often do serve as inspiration or impetus at the right time.  They don’t have to be consumed all at once like a cold beer.  But they can be. And when consumed by the sip or the drink they are windows into the different worlds that form Innovation.

Innovation is such emergent field that no one map can or will suffice because everyone comes from their own entry point.  That’s why we created this series. The books we’ll highlight, some new and some old, have a particular magic for innovators, or those who simply want to own the vision, skills and confidence to move to new ways of doing, being and living.  We’ll also be taking your suggestions, and look forward to being a big fat channel and discussion forum for the most inspiring works by, about and for people who want to innovate. Whether you’re trying to:

  • break through some intellectual concrete,
  • find just-in-time expertise or new ways of working,
  • compare and contrast architectural approaches to enterprise innovation in other industries,
  • develop your own interpretation about what is needed now,
  • or simply find some solace, a pick me up, when the world or your own resistance is just too much, there is nothing quite like a book.

To quote the philosopher and inventor Dr. Fernando Flores, “reading is a conversation with the author, to which we bring our concerns.” And it seems we have no shortage of concerns when it comes to how to innovate.  Which is where Books as Tools™ began.

We’re Aiming for a Non-Exhaustive Lexicon of Innovation

Did We Say We Plan to Go Deeper

Each of these categories is drawn from, and against the challenges of meeting organizations where they are – across the spectrum of challenges they’re facing and the relative sophistication of their experience and going in knowledge. Conversations with the Authors is the Start. As you know, we started with How Stella Saved the Farm by Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan.

St. Martins’ Press and the International Thought Leaders Network, sponsored a series of Web Chats with Chris that many of you have participated in…we started with a great spirit of discovery, and here’s what we’ve learned…there is an appetite on the part of both the authors and our audience to talk about how to use a book to drive change, where the ideas came from, what it was like to write a different kind of book (a fable!) and so much more.  This led to a now ongoing series of terrific small group discussions via Abobe Connect (no firewall issues or software to download.) We will be doing more author Web Chats, sponsored or not…this has been our practice field and we’ll do our final one for the summer this Thursday, June 13 at noon edt,  on How Stella Can Engage Your Students.  You can join us by registering here.

And of Course, the Back Stories – How to Use these Books as Tools of Innovation

In which we highlight one book from just three of the six categories and how it can be used it to lessen innovation anxiety and stoke your courage to act. Sometimes you need to know where to start.  For each of us, the innovation journey starts in a different place.  When an organization is taking a first step, and many are, the validation of the past is useful, and quite comforting.  My friend the author and meta-communicator Judith Glaser is currently deconstructing the US Constitution through the lens of Conversational Intelligence™,  and neuroscience – to understand how this collective conversation even occurred much less transformed history.  It’s part of her life’s work – and she, like many of us, likes to ‘look back to look forward.’[2]

Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal

I’ve used Arie De Geuss’s book, The Living Company.  As head of planning for Royal Dutch Shell he found himself wondering “what keeps companies ALIVE?”  This book summarizes the research he commissioned at Royal Dutch Shell to answer the questions: how many companies have lived to be over hundred years old? If organizations were species, how many really thrive and persist (it’s a very small number) and why? What he learned has profound implications for leaders making decisions about where and now to invest.  It’s sober.  One of the four characteristics was a strong balance sheet or “cash in hand,” while still allowing “tolerance at the margins.”  That this came from Royal Dutch Shell, which has been a successful performance engine company with a rep for imbedding innovation makes the book all the more powerful a reference: it can be done.

Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal

When we intend to embrace innovation,  where do we begin?  The five books in this category each provide sweeping, diverse interpretations of the innovation landscape – the state of the discipline today. They each come from thinkers and doers who’ve honed their perspectives on the anvil of the world’s most complex companies.   One timeless example, Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, operationalized Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation research and “made the historic and elegantly obvious argument that there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists).

Moore explored those differences and suggested attitudes and techniques to successfully cross the “chasm.”  Those distinctions are still extremely useful, still very much with us as short-hand, today, explaining why innovation must be approached systematically.

Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal

While the five books in this category could each be used a primer for architecting and implementing innovation inside of large organizations, The Lean Startup is extremely important right now as a tool of change, because it’s focused on capabilities that are most often missing or atrophied in enterprises – specifically the way of working that agile software developers use: the disciplined learning, customer testing and iteration of new products and services. Author Eric Ries says:

“Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want. They then spend months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing the product, even in a very rudimentary form, to the prospective customer. When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it is often because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting.”

This is not just true of startups, this is true of very large corporations and explains in part the large failure rate of new product and service introductions. Stay tuned…and let us know if you’d like information about our discussions with these and many more authors by signing up here.

Time to tool up and hit the books!

[1] [2] Judith Glaser;  image credit:

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Julie Anixter is a principle at Think Remarkable and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence.  She also serves as Chief Innovation Officer of Maga Design, a leading visual information mapping firm.The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.

Julie Anixter




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No Comments

  1. Joan Holman on June 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Julie, congratulations on this fantastic new initiative for INNOVATION EXCELLENCE! Your selection of books, opportunities to engage with the authors of these books, web chats, and discussion forums all offer excellent opportunities for immersion in innovative thinking and practices. Kudos to you and the Innovation Excellence team for providing for us to gather, learn, grow and connect with the best innovation thought leaders and practitioners on the planet!!

  2. Joan Holman on June 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I meant to say “Kudos to you and the Innovation Excellence team for providing us A PLACE to gather, learn, grow and connect with the best innovation thought leaders and practitioners on the planet!!”

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