Harvard Business Essentials: Guide to Managing Creativity and Innovation Paperback – 19 Jul 2011
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Harvard Business Essentials The Reliable Source for Busy Managers The Harvard Business Essentials series is designed to provide comprehensive advice, personal coaching, background information, and guidance on the most relevant topics in business. Drawing on rich content from Harvard Business School Publishing and other sources, these concise guides are carefully crafted to provide a highly practical resource for readers with all levels of experience. To assure quality and accuracy, each volume is closely reviewed by a specialized content adviser from a world class business school. Whether you are a new manager interested in expanding your skills or an experienced executive looking for a personal resource, these solution-oriented books offer reliable answers at your fingertips.
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I am trying to present my review in a different format this time (bullet points); hopefully it makes the review easier to read.
* Nice book for beginners because it gives an overview of several topics
* Lacks the details need to manage idea generation or creativity
* Because it was published in 2003 it is lacking the most up-to-date knowledge
* There are inconsistencies with experts knowledge
* Aimed at amateurs first learning this subject
* Especially students doing their MBA
* Will be highly redundant for experts in this subject, or knowledgeable product development managers
* Easy to read, and can be completed in a week or two
* At a high level covers idea generation
* Covers some methods of managing and enhancing creativity
* Tends to leave out the details, I.E. you cannot use it as a direct guide, interpretation and filling in the blanks is needed
* Does not cover idea management (capturing, storing, & diffusing ideas)
* If you are learning product development for the first time
* If you are a student in a MBA program learning product development
* Professors who wish to supplement product development their case studies with a simple book
Do not buy this if
* You are a product development consultant
* A expert in product development, it is too simplistic to be of any uses
* You will be very upset
Dr. Brian Glassman
Ph.D in Innovation Management from Purdue University
Originally the firm did not concern itself with day-to-day operations, as long as each individual firm produce and meet profit margins. But each company belonged to the same niche industry.
Today, the smaller companies are working together, and forming R&D departments. Using this book as a means of understanding; I have managed to turn these unique entities into a cohesive team. We have book reading assignments to augment our understanding, and I require this book as one of the baseline required readings. It deals simply and straightforward with innovation. It talks specifically about incremental change and radical change that is possible, and the risks and rewards for each.
It details analytical tools to evaluate each opportunity and determine which make sense to go foward with. It gives the neophyte the proper skill set to deal with managers who are interested in Return on Investment and Time Value of Money. I have a PhD in Thermodynamics, 2 masters degrees (Chemistry and Mathmatics)but I had a hard time talking Money with bean counters and really; a multi-billion dollar equity firm is all about the bean counters. I can talk to the bean counters now, and so can my team -we can see and work within the trends and anayltical tools that these guys use. This has given us focus on those items that we can get funded. All in all a great primer.
I suppose if your prior business experience was fishing in a tiny land-locked lake somewhere, this would be a real eye-opener for you, but if you lived in any of the top 2000 cities of any of the top 20 industrial nations of the 21st century, you would find this book part of a giant "boring trite-isms about innovation" recycling system. Apparently every 20 years you can re-publish this stuff to a new generation.
Let me get real specific and real real about this for those of you doubting my review thus far--what SHOULD this sort of book be dealing with that it does not deal with? To wit:
1) most of business does not need creativity at all--a lot of business needs great execution, fast response, careful positioning, speedy admission of error, seeking help rather than re-investing in failing lines of action, and the like. Creativity is so popular and talked about in business not because it is so needed but it is in large part a cover for other, ulterior purposes--primarily doing something personal that is jazzy enough to get attention of higher ups, whether it helps the firm or not is irrelevant as long as it gets you visibility to help your career! This book takes a naive, pro-more-creativity tone and bias, that belittles the hard trade-offs between creativity and things more essential, one wants to say more "creative" for business survival.
2) Americans share a national neurosis of trying to cure all their ills of whatever sort by applying more: creativity, freedom, capitalism, you get the picture. So you find business people bandying about the word "creativity" as a solution to problems caused by too much creativity, among other causes. This book nowhere acknowledges the difference between "cute" creativity for show and life and death creativity for continued business survival. It takes a decorative sort of tone that I find highly irritating, like a whining employee who thinks he had got it but who clearly has not got it.
3) People can sell systems, it is a fact, by telling customers these systems "are creative" and "help you become creative"--so the creativity of products and services is grossly exaggerated nearly everywhere in modern businesses. In addition the difficulty of getting tiny amounts of novelty through modern business bureaucracies causes tired frustrated people to celebrate tiny innovations as if biggo paradigm shaking creations. This book never acknowledges the gross exaggeration of the role, import, amount, and destiny of creativity actually out there in real businesses today. It just recycles business magazine enthusiasms.
4) the career system generates simultaneous excesses and deficits of creativity--the famous inventory simultaneous overshoot and undershoot problem--it generates too much creativity because career forces drive people to exaggerate their "creativity" and the "creativity" of their "team" and "product"--it generates too little creativity because the fundamentals really needed like having a planet left for capitalism to profit from, decency of treatment of population lowest income levels so rich people do not die early(see the research on this), relevance to customers, value for price, solid execution of total quality principles, all of which would be creative accomplishments since US firms largely fail at them, are left undone (instead more "creative" things get done)
4) good longitudinal studies of innovations--mostly out of Van de Ven et al at Minnesota--showed that nearly all creative products/efforts have to be disguised and hidden, repeatedly, to protect them from careerist and other distortions and obstacles--the ordinary culture of business, for good reasons, is hostile to creativity and will always be so; to pretend, as this Harvard book does, that creativity will be welcomed and popular, seen as an asset to the business, embedded in the culture--is to be incredibly dishonest and naive--innovation hurts higher ups, makes their past innovations no longer innovative--always, so it is never popular with such higher ups--if you believe otherwise, just keep pluggin another few years and you will wise up eventually (besides the research on this was done in the 1960s, and well done statistically, apparently unread by the authors of this book).
5) being creative is largely the moral work of not exaggerating it and the cultural work of defining it in historic and self change terms not in groovy and advertising terms--this book views creativity as a kind of technical technique thing, produced by work as usual.
This book addresses none of the above, none, not one. Instead we get a recycling of trite commonsense--uh, let's get creativity by talking to, uh, our customers--yea, that's a good idea! Let's go for "incremental" creativity--it is easier to get tiny ideas through the small brains of our executives--the Doonebury door to creativity in modern business! You get the picture. To be honest, the first client I handed this book to read it as a comedy, sending me lines by email for me to laugh at with him.
This book, ironically, is a demonstration of the kind of dumb management ideas that go for thinking among people condemned to decades of reading what New York Publishers push out the door for "the businessman market"--
keep it simple so the poor mentally deficit businessmen will be able to read it, better still, make an executive summary reducing the book's main points to 5 lines of utterly trite tripe--executives love tripe!
In my opinion, this sort of book and the publishers of this stuff, patronize businessmen with this sort of dumbed down book. They insult me and all the businessmen I have worked with for years. I have never worked with anyone in business as mentally limited as the audience for this book is assumed to be. No one in any business I was in was mentally slow enough to fit this book. I feel sorry for the publishers of this stuff--they must have had really bad experiences in their first firms to reduce their view of businessman intelligence to the level this book targets and represents. Get real please.
Now for a bigger and much more devastating flaw in this book--every article in this book bandies about the word "creativity" as if it was one thing. What if creativity is not one thing but, say, 60 things, different in process to each other. Then you get this, very very interesting, powerful, and real conundrum--missing entirely from this book--(IMPORTANT STUFF FOLLOWS) the tactical actions that I take to enhance the one model, of what creativity is, that my paid-for consultant is foisting now onto me, interact so as to hinder a dozen other models of what creativity is, that that consultant is unaware of, and not selling to me, so overall the tactics I do shut down more creativity than they grow--but my consultant and I are unaware of this because we see and measure only one model of what creativity is. Not one word of this book acknowledges that creativity might just be not one simple obvious thing but many pluriform things in trade-off relations to each other. This is a devastating flaw.
The authors of this book do not have clue--I get the feel they have never managed a popsicle stand much less a real business. I get the feel they have read books about meeting payroll every month and have never actually felt responsiblity for 500 families eating next month. I get the idea they come from some sort of wimpy pale MBA rendition of what business is. Wimpy creativity does not get very far in this world.
Now for an even bigger flaw, a more devastating flaw. This book assumes that you, as you now are, can create much more than you ever have. This is a sucker's promise and if you fall for it you are a, well, to put it politely, suboptimal person. I was suspicious of it right off! The you that you now are, can never create. You are going to have to change you in order to change how creative you are. If you think that you can create a lot more while keeping the same you, you are guilty of the commonest form of mental illness--the belief that things can be made to be entirely different while keeping yourself the same person. Never happens. Childish illusion.
This book ignores decades of creativity research that show two things--one, that creative people first establish creative lives for themselves and it is those creative lives that do the creating, not the raw people by themselves. Second, creative people before their main famous creations, work up to it with hundreds of small inventions and discoveries and creations of work style and lifestyle tools that prepare the way for their biggo final creations--subcreations I call these though the research literature uses lots of terms. So, in this book, you get the sucker's illusion that you, without changing you, just by reading a few techniques, can become vastly more creative than all your life thus far made you. If you are dumb enough to believe that you should not be reading books at all! No, to greatly change creativity from you, YOU YOURSELF very intimately, will have to change a lot about YOU!!!! No input change, no output change. This book promotes a sucker line that you can get creativity "for free" by buying a clever system, installing a new "retiree research posting network". Also, this book never acknowledges that all those little preparatory subcreations are forbidden in modern businesses. We get a Laing-like double-bind message: be creative but wear a standard business suit, be creative but keep one desk per employee, be creative but work for one company at a time, be creative but work the same job five days in a row each week--creative workstyle and lifestyle inventions are forbidden in most businesses. So? They want creativity? Not really. They want "good boy" conformist creativity--a contradiction in terms never dealt with in this book but well dealt with in Van de Ven's wonderful Minnesota studies of following actual innovations through years of budget changes, manager changes, market changes.
More devastating--this book fosters the illusion in technology industries that-------more connectivity means more creativity!!!!! Are you stupid enough to go for that? No one I have been in business with was that foolish. What more connectivity does, and we all have experienced this a hundred times in the 1990s, is it initially gives you a burst of new creativity as formerly isolated units and persons get to know each other and interact--so far so good--but more connectivity inevitably within months turns into familiarity--we know what he is going to respond before we contact him--so that about 18 to 24 months after some new system is installed, we find participation dropping off quantitatively and qualitatively. The research on this was first published, as far as I could dig up, by Gallegher's wonderful book Intellectual Teamwork LEA 1990 or so. She found product development creativity was reduced by better "communication" and "connection"!! Using real data not amateur ideas. This book has not read her research, and, as far as I can tell, has not read most relevant creativity research as well--I think these professors read only their own papers!
Anyway save time and money and buy some good high quality dog food, you will learn more about creativity in business from that.