Book Review: Innovation and Growth: What Do We Know?

    By: Adam Gardner, NPDP on Jan 14, 2015

    Written by Faculty Members of the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Ed., Anjan Thakor

    World Scientific, 2013. 196+v pages. US $62.00

    Review by Adam Gardner

    innovation and growth cover resize.jpgInnovation and Growth is a collection of papers authored by faculty members of the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and edited by Anjan Thakor.  Each of the papers or chapters included in this book is a self-contained piece of work and there is no need to read the book in any particular order.  Having said that, Chapter 1 is a good overview of the book and would provide a nice guideline for the time-pressed reader who is intent on picking and choosing their chapters.

    This book is divided into two very different parts.  The first part, which is labelled Part A, focuses on summarizing the academic research on innovation from a few different functional perspectives.  The authors provide high level summaries of where the research is currently in their respective fields, cite other relevant works, and generally cover a lot of ground in a short number of pages.  Readers looking to dig deep into the current body of knowledge will find this portion of the book relevant and potentially end up with several additions to their reading list.  The second part, labelled Part B, offers guidance and perspective for the innovation manager.  This part of the book is less academic and more actionable in nature.

    Part A

    Chapter 2 opens the book with an examination of organizational behavior and group dynamics.  This chapter spends some time examining the link between diversity and team performance, and it also devotes several pages to the effects that can make your brainstorming sessions sub-optimal.  Chapter 3 takes a look at the innovation process from an operations management and marketing research perspective.  Readers familiar with the works of Clayton Christensen and Robert Cooper will find much of Chapter 3 to be a refresher.  Those that are less familiar may find it to be a good introduction.  Chapter 4, which is the last chapter in the Part A section of the book, provides a financial perspective on innovation.

    Part B

    As mentioned earlier, this portion of the book is clearly targeted at innovation leaders and managers.  Chapter 5 offers advice on how a leader can help foster an innovation friendly environment.  This chapter is organized around six organizational climate dimensions:  clarity, flexibility, responsibility, team commitment, standards, and rewards.  Each dimension is discussed and a short, self-diagnostic set of questions is offered to help the reader determine the status of their organization.  Chapter 6 provides guidance on how to innovate by identifying and questioning the basic assumptions underlying a business.  It illustrates this principle through a historic look at the development of manned flight.  Chapter 7 advocates for more engineering and management involvement when it comes to contract negotiation with outside firms, and Chapter 8 uses logic and observation to refute a few R&D myths.

    Overall, the multi-functional perspectives provided in “Innovation and Growth” make it somewhat unique among the literature.  This book is also broad rather than deep when it comes to the exploration of the innovation process.  It covers a number of topics quite succinctly, and I think it would be an excellent book to introduce a newcomer to the field. 

    Adam Gardner, NPDP


    Released: January 14, 2015, 8:57 am
    Keywords: PDMA Blog


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