Review: The Other Side of Innovation – Solving the Execution Challenge

I don’t fancy myself a book reviewer, but when I was asked to review a new book on innovation execution, I immediately said, “yes.” Before I got into the preface, the following introductory quote connected with me and I knew I had to read on.

“Companies can’t survive without innovating. But most put far more emphasis on generating big ideas than on executing them – turning ideas into actual breakthrough products, services, and process improvements.”

After years of working in high technology companies and startups where ideas flourish, but don’t often see the light of day, The Other Side of Innovation – Solving the Execution Challenge by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble provides the missing ingredients in innovation. 

Ray Strata, founder and chairman of Analog Devices described it best, when he shared, “Most companies have plenty of creativity and plenty of technology. What they lack are the managerial skills to convert ideas into impact.”  

For those in product management, leadership and executive roles who guide, influence or support innovation, this book provides a great foundation for converting ideas into impact and provides the “how to’s and roadmap” for taking the initial steps.  

The Other Side of Innovation is well researched and encompasses 10 years of effort, interviews and information. When you layer in examples of real company’s and how they’ve addressed innovation initiatives, it provides the insight required to tackle the hard questions and debunk the typical myths we often hear. 

The 10 Myths of Innovation

  1. Innovation is All About Ideas
  2. The Great Leader Never Fails
  3. Effective Leaders Are Subversives Fighting the System
  4. Everyone Can be an Innovator
  5. Innovation Happens Organically
  6. Innovation Can be Embedded Inside an Established Organization
  7. Catalyzing Innovation Requires Wholesale Organizational Change
  8. Innovation Can Happen Only in skunk Works
  9. Innovation is Unmanageable Chaos
  10. Only Startups Can Innovate

So what’s missing when company’s try to convert innovation into something real? The following short list from the book provides the basic elements of a plan of action and those things to consider:

  1. Team: What are the team dynamics and considerations that will not interrupt the rest of the organization while researching, refining and validating the idea?
  2. Organization: How do I move an initiative forward and what organizational issues should I consider to not impact the existing “performance engine” and the company’s current success? 
  3. Partnerships: How do I manage internal partnerships, cross-stakeholder planning and gain the executive influence to take the innovation effort forward?
  4. Hypothesis to Experiment: What’s the process and actions required to “seek the truth” and what deliverables are required to validate a good idea and ensure the company, organization and team will support it?
  5. Process and Action: What process and actions do I need to consider once an experiment is proven?
  6. Accountability: How does accountability shape the innovation initiative and who should be engaged to guide the effort.

I would highly recommend this book to product management professionals and those who are involved or chartered with innovation. I would also recommend it to entrepreneurs and executives who question innovations value or how to initiate an effective effort. For me, The Other Side of Innovation has refined my thoughts on how to engage, manage and formulate the action side of innovation.

As always, comments and opinions are welcome. You can contact me at jholland(at) or on Twitter at jim(underscore)holland.

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