The Myths of Innovation

Book description

How do you know whether a hot technology will succeed or fail? Or where the next big idea will come from? The best answers come not from the popular myths we tell about innovation, but instead from time-tested truths that explain how we've made it this far. This book shows the way. In The Myths of Innovation, bestselling author Scott Berkun takes a careful look at innovation history, including the software and Internet Age, to reveal how ideas truly become successful innovations-truths that people can apply to today's challenges. Using dozens of examples from the history of technology, business, and the arts, you'll learn how to convert the knowledge you have into ideas that can change the world.

  • Why all innovation is a collaborative process

  • How innovation depends on persuasion

  • Why problems are more important than solutions

  • How the good innovation is the enemy of the great

  • Why the biggest challenge is knowing when it's good enough

"For centuries before Google, MIT, and IDEO, modern hotbeds of innovation, we struggled to explain any kind of creation, from the universe itself to the multitudes of ideas around us. While we can make atomic bombs, and dry-clean silk ties, we still don't have satisfying answers for simple questions like: Where do songs come from? Are there an infinite variety of possible kinds of cheese? How did Shakespeare and Stephen King invent so much, while we're satisfied watching sitcom reruns? Our popular answers have been unconvincing, enabling misleading, fantasy-laden myths to grow strong." -- Scott Berkun, from the text.

"Insightful, inspiring, evocative, and just plain fun to read it's totally great."

-- John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox, and Director, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC); current Chief of Confusion

"Small, simple, powerful: an innovative book about innovation."

-- Don Norman, Nielsen Norman Group, Northwestern University; author of Emotional Design and Design of Everyday Things

"The naked truth about innovation is ugly, funny, and eye-opening, but it sure isn't what most of us have come to believe. With this book, Berkun sets us free to try to change the world unencumbered with misconceptions about how innovation happens."

-- Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start

"Brimming with insights and historical examples, Berkun's book not only debunks widely held myths about innovation but also points the ways toward making your new ideas stick. Even in today's ultra-busy commercial world, reading this book will be time well spent."

-- Tom Kelley, GM, IDEO; author of The Ten Faces of Innovation

"This book cuts through the hype, analyzes what is essential, and more importantly, what is not. You will leave with a thorough understanding of what really drives innovation."

-- Werner Vogels, CTO,

"I loved this book. It's an easy-to-read playbook for anyone wanting to lead and manage positive change in their business."

-- Frank McDermott, Marketing Manager, EMI Music

Scott Berkun knows innovation. A member of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft from 1994-1999, he is a full-time author at and wrote the 2005 bestseller, The Art of Project Management (O'Reilly). He also teaches creative thinking at the University of Washington.

Table of contents

  1. The Myths of Innovation
    1. Photo credits
      1. Chapter openers
      2. Figures
    2. Preface
      1. The aims of this book
      2. Assumptions I've made about you
      3. The research accuracy commitment
      4. How to use this book
    3. 1. The myth of epiphany
      1. 1. Ideas never stand alone
        1. 1.1. Beyond epiphany
    4. 2. We understand the history of innovation
      1. 1. Why does history seem perfect?
      2. 2. Evolution and innovation
        1. 2.1. Innovation and evolution demystified
        2. 2.2. Dominant designs dominate history
    5. 3. There is a method for innovation
      1. 1. How innovations start
        1. 1.1. The seeds of innovation
        2. 1.2. Hard work in a specific direction
        3. 1.3. Hard work with direction change
        4. 1.4. Curiosity
        5. 1.5. Wealth and money
        6. 1.6. Necessity
        7. 1.7. Combination
      2. 2. The challenges of innovation
      3. 3. The infinite paths of innovation
      4. 4. Finding paths of innovation
    6. 4. People love new ideas
      1. 1. Managing the fears of innovation
      2. 2. The list of negative things innovators hear
      3. 3. The innovator's dilemma explained
      4. 4. Frustration + innovation = entrepreneurship?
      5. 5. How innovations gain adoption (the truth about ideas before their time)
    7. 5. The lone inventor
      1. 1. The convenience of lone inventors
      2. 2. The challenge of simultaneous invention
      3. 3. The myth of the lone inventor
      4. 4. Stepping stones: the origins of spreadsheets and E=mc2
    8. 6. Good ideas are hard to find
      1. 1. The dangerous life of ideas
      2. 2. How to find good ideas
      3. 3. Ideas and filters
        1. 3.1. The history and misuse of brainstorming
        2. 3.2. Finding ideas and turning off filters
    9. 7. Your boss knows more about innovation than you
      1. 1. The myth that managers know what to do
        1. 1.1. Why managers fail
        2. 1.2. The conflicts of management and innovators
      2. 2. Five challenges of managing innovation
        1. 2.1. The life of ideas
        2. 2.2. The environment
        3. 2.3. The protection
        4. 2.4. The execution
        5. 2.5. Persuasion
    10. 8. The best ideas win
      1. 1. Why people believe the best wins
      2. 2. The secondary factors of innovation
      3. 3. Space, metrics, and Thomas Jefferson
      4. 4. The goodness/adoption paradox
    11. 9. Problems and solutions
      1. 1. Problems as invitations
      2. 2. Framing problems to help solve them
        1. 2.1. Exploring problems with prototypes
      3. 3. The truth about serendipity
    12. 10. Innovation is always good
      1. 1. Measuring innovation: the goodness scale
      2. 2. Innovations are unpredictable (DDT, automobiles, and the Internet)
      3. 3. Technology accelerates without discrimination
      4. 4. The good and bad, the future and the past
    13. A. Research and recommendations
      1. A.1. Annotated bibliography
        1. A.1.1. Myths and mythology
        2. A.1.2. Businness innovation
        3. A.1.3. Creative thinking and problem solving
        4. A.1.4. History and culture
      2. A.2. Ranked bibliography
      3. A.3. Other research sources
    14. Index
    15. About the Author
    16. Colophon

Product information

  • Title: The Myths of Innovation
  • Author(s): Scott Berkun
  • Release date: May 2007
  • Publisher(s): O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  • ISBN: 9780596527051