Friday, May 22, 2015

Reading :: The Wide Lens

The Wide Lens: What Successful Innovators See That Others Miss
By Ron Adner

Let's take a short break from all of the Soviet-era readings I've been doing lately and instead look at a contemporary book on innovation ecosystems.

This short book, frankly, could have been even shorter. The author has a worthwhile idea—helping people to understand and map the innovation ecosystems that can make their innovations a success. But, in the style of many business books, it overexplains the concept and provides so many examples that the book feels less substantial than it really is.

In short, the author argues the following. In an interdependent world, "the success of a value proposition depends on creating an alignment of partners who must work together in order to transform an idea to a market success" (p.4). That means making sure that those partners can also innovate so that your own innovation can matter, and that others have to adopt the innovation before the customer can assess the value proposition (p.7). An easy example is the success of the iPod, which depended on iTunes, which had to strike partnerships with music labels to sell singles online; without the partnerships, the iPod's value proposition was much diminished (Ch.6).

So far, so familiar. But the author articulates the challenges involved by producing a set of terms, concepts, and heuristics to help innovators achieve aligned innovation ecosystems. For instance, the author advocates going beyond value propositions to "value blueprints," maps of the actors (suppliers, intermediaries, complementors, end customers) and links that make up the innovation ecosystems, as well as the risks involved. Colors indicate each actor's level of adoption within the system: green=in place, yellow=a plan to be in place, red=not in place, no clear plan (pp.85-87). For ecosystems that aren't well configured, the author suggests five levers for reconfiguring them: relocate, separate, add, subtract, and combine (p.178). And, borrowing the term "minimum viable product," the author argues that we should think in terms of "minimum viable ecosystems" (p.198) that allow you to "build collaboration and achieve scaled deployment" (p.202, footnote).

In all, it's an engaging and clearly written book with helpful heuristics. If you have an innovation that requires an ecosystem, take a look.

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