The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun, published by O'Reilly, ISBN 0596527055
This book is a great break from all the tech books I’ve been working through over the last months. Berkun’s book is small, concise, and a very good read on what innovation really is — not the myths and stories we’ve come to associate with major breakthroughs.
Newton’s discoveries about gravity, legends to the contrary, didn’t come from inspration after he got hit on the head by an apple; instead his breakthroughs came about after years and years of work in the field. All of Newton’s prior experiences combined to give him the ability to meld everything together and come up with some unique ideas.
Berkun repeats this idea throughout this short, highly enjoyable book: Innovation is very, very rarely some epiphany moment where an idea is spawned completely out of the blue. Instead, innovation, inspiration, and epiphanies are the product of having laid the groundwork in many different ways.
Berkun talks about this groundwork in several different fashions. He talks about how good managers set up an environment which fosters creativity and innovation (think old Microsoft, current Google, SemTech in Brazil), how innovators are able to build off their prior experiences, and a number of other critical factors.
The book’s well-written, and it’s a physical pleasure to read. The book’s small size, pleasant paper, and great photographs all combine for a, uh, innovative experience.
This book, coupled with things like Semmler’s Maverick or Demarco and Lister’s Peopleware, is a great addition to my bookshelf!