Nordic Track Book Club Review: The Myths of Innovation

I’m a bit behind on my Nordic Track Book Club reviews and pulled The Myths of Innovation from my stack of [NordicTrack] books to get back into the groove.  I enjoyed walking through it again.  4.5-out-of-5 Nordic Track Stars.  It didn’t get 5-stars only because it was @160 pages and I’m going through an anti-skinny book phase. Still, lots of insights on the definition of innovation and its execution.  Recommended.


p.8 Big thoughts are fun to romanticize, but it’s many small insights that come together that bring big insights into the world.

p.10 Gordon Gould, the primary inventor of the laser, “The whole thing suddenly popped into my head and I saw how to build the laser.  But that flash of insight required 20 years of work.”

p.13 If we had a list of the most amazing breakthrough insights that would change the world in the next decade, hard work would follow them all.

p.39 The best advice I’ve read on starting creative work comes from John Cage, the most innovative composer of the 20th centruy, who said, “It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start.”

p.45 It’s difficult to scale something.  You might design a better mouse-trap, but can you manufacture 50,000 cheaply enough to profit?

An idea is not an innovation until it reaches people.  Some trivialize this by calling it marketing, but the truth is that many innovations fail because they never reach the people they’re designed for.

p.50 Being aware of the environments or challenges that inspire the best results for your personality helps you make smart path choices.

p.59 Until the innovation is accepted it will be questioned relentlessly.

People are as unlikely to be as interested in your ideas as you are.

p.63 Innovators rarely find support within mainstream organizations, and the same stubbornness that drives them to work on problems others ignore gives them the strength necessary to work alone.  This explains the natural bond between breakthrough thinkers and new companies.

The entrepreneur, whether she’s wealthy or happy living on ramen noodles, must actually convince one group of people—customers—on the merit of her ideas.

p.65 Five factors that define how quickly innovations spread: 1) relative advantage – what value does the new thing have over the old thing. 2) compatibility, 3) complexity 4) trialability 5) observability – how observable are the results of the innovation.

This list clarifies the speed at which the innovation spreads is determined by factors that are often ignored by innovators.

p.84 The future never enters the present as a finished product, but that doesn’t stop people from expecting it to arrive that way.

p.96 Talent is only as good as the environment it’s in.

p.98 High experience and confidence make people the greatest resistors to new ideas, as they have the most to lose.

p.105 To become an innovation an idea has to blossom into whatever form necessary—a demo, a prototype, a product—to be useful to people.

To shephard an idea down the long arduous path from inception to realization is known as execution.

A Macintosh slogan, “Real artists ship.”

p.124 This explains why the first innovators—driven by the complete faith in their ideas—are often beat in the market and by public perception by latecomers willing to compromise.

p.129 The real task for Edison wasn’t “make a working lightbulb.” Instead it was “make an electricity system cities can use to adopt my lights.”



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.