InnovationLit: Traversing the Valley of Death, Mastering Entrepreneurship, Building a Creative Culture, Innovation Blueprint, Global View of Big Data, R&D Productivity, Innovation in 90 Days, Inventing SQUID, U.S. Startup Slowdown

Traversing the Valley of Death: A Practical Guide for Corporate Innovation Leaders; Stephen K. Markham and Paul C. Mugge; Center for Innovation Management Studies, NC State University, Raleigh, NC; 2015; 172 pp.

This book is for managers with responsibility to grow revenue and market share or open new markets and lines of business. The process it lays out provides a complete and proven system to create new value, starting with early needs assessment and continuing through detailed business planning and organizational adoption.

Authors Markham and Mugge draw on their many years of industrial experience as well as research at the Center for innovation Management Studies to explain how to consistently achieve breakthrough innovation by successfully navigating the Valley of Death, the often-fatal disconnect between ideas and products. Their book includes more than 45 worksheets and exercises teams need to actually manage and produce breakthrough innovations. But rather than encouraging users to simply fill them in, they are designed to engender thinking—and discussion—around the critical factors facing the project.

The authors offer “a tested, proven and comprehensive new approach that is sure to become the new hallmark of the Innovation Movement,” writes innovation consultant Robert B. Tucker in his foreword. “What they have given us in this volume is a step-by-step guide not just for avoiding the booby traps and snipers that lurk in the Valley of Death, but an inspiring treatise for delivering breakthrough products and services, stepping up your game, and becoming indispensable to yourself and your organization.”

Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags; Linda Rottenberg; Portfolio/Penguin, 2014, 272pp.

“Although “crazy” is in the title, Rottenberg’s analysis remains sober,” wrote Financial Times reviewer Stefan Stern. “She is convincing on the need for entrepreneurship and offers the best ways to build new business ventures.”

Rottenberg is cofounder and CEO of Endeavor, a mentoring network for “high-impact entrepreneurs.” She describes her book as the story of the entrepreneurial journeys of four groups of people: gazelles (the familiar home-run-seeking entrepreneurs), skunks (successors to the original intrapreneurs), dolphins (her nickname for “smart and social contrarians”), and butterflies (those sole proprietors and other small-scale entrepreneurs who “may be the fastest-growing group of all”).

Her book, she writes, “is my attempt to break down a process that often seems overwhelming into a series of achievable steps. It’s my shot at answering this question: Since everybody has to take risks these days, how do you make sure you’re taking smart risks?”

To answer that question she divided the book into three sections: “Get Going” (a roadmap for becoming an entrepreneur), “Go Big” (scaling your idea and learning to lead) and “Go Home” (how to live like an entrepreneur).

In “Myths About Entrepreneurship,” her Harvard Business Review IdeaCast interview with Sarah Green (Oct. 23, 2014), Rottenberg said she has tried to debunk three myths: that you need a lot of money to start, that you have to bet everything at the outset, and that if you work inside a company you have to tell everyone about your idea, including your boss. “I do believe,” she told Green, “that everyone now can get the skill set and this mindset of an entrepreneur, even if they don’t aspire to start a new company.”

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration; Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace; Random House, 2014; 340pp.

Ed Catmull introduces his book as “my best ideas about how we built the culture that is the bedrock of this place,”namely, Pixar Animation, which he cofounded with Steve Jobs in 1986. Aimed at “anyone who wants to work in an environment that fosters creativity and problem solving,” he discusses many of the steps Pixar takes “to protect the creative process,” especially those mechanisms “that deal with uncertainty, instability, lack of candor, and the things we cannot see.”

Creativity is organized into four sections: Getting Started, Protecting the New, Building and Sustaining, and Testing What We Know. An Afterword about The Steve We Knew is followed by principles developed over the years at Pixar “to enable and protect a healthy creative culture.” Example: Get the team right and chances are they’ll get the ideas right.

Who Says Big Companies Can’t Innovate? Karen Dahut; Booz Allen Hamilton, Dec. 2014;

Booz Allen’s executive vp outlines a series of components and systems the consulting firm says provides a repeatable cultural approach for driving innovation throughout the organization. The Booz Allen Innovation Blueprint™, which forms the basis of the article, outlines eight components big companies can take “to pursue incremental improvements and adjacent applications for initiatives with transformational potential.” The components: Lead through collaboration; Renew your brand value; Build your internal ecosystem; Focus your agenda; Don’t go it alone; Diversify your portfolio; Solve cross-industry challenges; Inspire your people.

“A Global View of Big Data”; special issue of The Bridge; National Academy of Engineering, Washington, DC., Winter 2014

Fourteen authors and coauthors from China, Japan, the European Union, the Commonweath, Latin America, and the United States contribute the perspectives of their country or region on Big Data development. The first article, by Guest Editor Yong Shi from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, identifies three challenges for data scientists and engineers, and calls upon governments to open their data sources so that people can access data needed to change and improve their lives.

“Measuring R&D Productivity”; Peter Gwynne; Research-Technology Management, Jan.-Feb. 2015, pp.19-22.

In 2009, Anne Marie Knott, created a metric for calculating the productivity of a firm’s R&D. Knott, professor of strategy at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, called her metric RQ, for research quotient. “RQ allows you to estimate the effectiveness of your R&D investment relative to the competition and to see how changes in your R&D expenditure affect the bottom line and, most important, your company’s market value,” she wrote in “The Trillion-Dollar R&D Fix” (Harvard Business Review, May 2012).

In this RTM article, contributing editor Peter Gwynne reports on potential benefits and applications of RQ. “Not only can you demonstrate the value of R&D; you can improve it,” Prof. Knott told him.

“How Ford Invented the Squid”; Ann Johnson; IEEE Spectrum Nov. 2014, pp. 40—44,60-61.

This is one more account of surprising invention deep in the bowels of a large corporation. It tells what happened after a member of a small research team studying cryogenics and nuclear magnetic resonance at the Ford Motors Dearborn, Michigan lab “noticed a curious phenomenon” in a supercooled material.

Free to follow their noses even in areas that had nothing to do with cars, the group eventually built a device they dubbed SQUID, for superconducting quantum interference device. Capable of measuring minute magnetic fields (which again had nothing to do with Ford’s business), Squid “is only now coming into its own,” Johnson writes.

An associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina, Johnson concludes by acknowledging SQUID as “a poignant reminder of what’s been lost. As today’s corporations move away from unfettered basic research, we should not forget the crucial role of the 20th century’s industrial labs and the ingenious ideas and inventions that emerged from them.”

“Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days;” Scott Anthony, David Duncan and Pontus M.A. Siren; Harvard Business Review Dec. 2014.

Three innovation consultants with Innosight detail a scheme for building a “minimum viable” innovation function in only three months. Drawing on the experiences of a financial services firm, a water utility, a hospital, and a 100-year-old nonprofit, they explain how to use their approach to build systems that ensure that good ideas are encouraged, identified, shared, prioritized, resourced, and developed. “Creating an MVIS won’t miraculously turn you into Pixar or Amazon,” the authors conclude, “but it will help you make tangible progress in increasing the predictability and productivity of critical investments in future growth.”

“Start-Up Slowdown: How the United States 
Can Regain Its Entrepreneurial Edge”; Robert Litan; Foreign Affairs Jan./Feb. 2015.

Robert Litan, a Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow, writes that U.S. startup formation has been slowing for 30 years. He advocates reforms in immigration and business regulation, health care, education, and other areas in order “to reclaim its status as a hub of innovation.”

Litan’s article is one of the magazine’s group dealing with how governments can improve the impact of entrepreneurialism on the economy and society. It includes interviews with Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), Marcelo Claure (founder of Brightstar and now CEO of Sprint), Helen Greiner (founder of iRobot and CyPhy Works), Mo Ibrahim (founder of Celtel), Niklas Zennstrom (founder of Kazaa, Skype and Atomico), and Michael Moritz (an early backer of Google, PayPal, Yahoo, and other tech giants).

Additionally, James Bessen describes how vested interests block entrepreneurial progress; Mariana Mazzucato explores the crucial role of government in spurring innovation; Bryan Mezue, Clayton Christensen and Derek van Bever show how “market-creating innovation” can help the developing world; and James Surowiecki traces the entrepreneurial origins of the digital era.

Foreign Affairs concludes “Schumpeter was onto something, and we would all do well to listen.”

Business Research and Development and Innovation: 2011 Detailed Statistical Tables; National Science Foundation 15-307; Dec. 30, 2014;

This report presents detailed tabular statistics from the 2011 cycle of the Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey. Tables detail findings by size of company, sources of R&D funds, character of R&D, and industry. Also included are tables covering R&D by business activity and state, R&D performed outside the United States, and R&D paid for by foreign sources; intellectual property, including patenting; innovation activity; and R&D capital expenditures.


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