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Book Review: Catalyzing Innovation
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Book Review: Catalyzing Innovation by Michelle Greenwald

Catalyzing Innovation

Written by: Michelle Greenwald. Cherry Press, 2014. 195 pages. US$14.99.
Reviewed by: Michelle Greenwald

Catalyzing Innovation

Catalyzing Innovation is a visual, strategic, inspirational, and instructional guide to help students, firms and entrepreneurs learn how to innovate more methodically, completely & creatively. The premise applies to business-to-business, business-to-consumer, non-profits and the arts. The book includes a framework, exercises, an instructional guide, and over 600 visual, categorized, global innovation examples across industries & disciplines. The final chapter provides instruction for faculty and users how to use the book to brainstorm new product and service ideas across many dimensions, and how to test, refine and narrow down multi-attribute products and services. Includes constant updates with the latest innovations, at no extra cost, just like app updates.

Author Q&A

There has been so much written about innovation, how is the book Catalyzing Innovation different and useful?

Most books start with either the front end of innovation, strategy, or the middle portion, ideation. Catalyzing Innovation starts with the end of the process, when products are already on the market. It looks at what makes the most innovative and successful products so unique, and identifies the focused lines of thinking that led to those breakthrough ideas. By categorizing and illustrating the most fruitful lines of thinking, entrepreneurs and firms can apply this checklist to their own innovation processes to make them more thorough and complete.

The book has more than 600 visuals. Most books about innovation lack visual illustrations. Visuals are a cornerstone of the book. They serve to memorably illustrate points being made, and provide inspiration for those tasked with coming up with new product and service ideas for their companies. The innovations sited were selected because they successfully and strategically created and grew brands.

Catalyzing Innovation explains how the innovations strategically benefitted the businesses by leading to increased sales, entry into new markets, greater loyalty, brand awareness, and consumer engagement.

The book's easy to apply checklist, was designed for new product & services idea developers to increase the likelihood that all bases, options, variants are considered. The checklist can be immediately applied. Firms don't need to reorganize the whole company or dramatically change corporate cultures to use it.

Exercises are provided that help users identify meaningful customer touchpoints that are innovative because most competitors overlook them, and ways to evaluate brand equity growth opportunities.

There are lots of stimuli, intended to provoke thinking and inspire ideas. The concepts apply across industries and geographic markets, to provide a global perspective.

The book promotes cross-pollination of thinking & illustrates how to benchmark other industries and companies, to help firms and entrepreneurs learn to do it more routinely and systematically themselves.

Catalyzing Innovation is digestible, relatable, accessible, easy to understand and apply, and a fun read. The book is extremely current, including very recent examples, in addition to some classics.

The book was designed to be broadly appealing; from Senior level execs, to entrepreneurs and graduate students, across industries, disciplines, job functions, and countries.

What led you to write this book?

The book was inspired by the way Ferran Adriá, the great Catalan chef, innovates. He combines great stimuli gathered from other industries around the world, with a methodical checklist of:

  • Ways to vary how ingredients are prepared and combined
  • How and what equipment is used
  • Desired consumer reactions t dishes
  • New dimensions for evaluating dishes (acoustics, mechanics, multi-sensory, emotions)

Having worked in New Product Development for large multinationals for many years, where the process can involve random ideas surfacing in a hit or miss fashion, I thought it would be useful to provide firms with a more comprehensive way to develop or improve their products and services to better meet customer needs and capture their imaginations.

How did your background and research prepare you to write the book?

My background in new product development, working for a range of consumer product and entertainment companies, gave me an appreciation for deficiencies in many new product development processes, and also what types of thought processes, techniques and exercises could really help companies and be easy to apply. To research the book, I travelled all over the world and observed unique characteristics that made products innovative and successful: from the smallest, simplest innovations, to very complex new ideas. Since developing the "60 Lines of Thinking", I’ve found nearly everything I see fits into these categories.

About the Author

Michelle Greenwald worked for 19 years for large multinationals including Pepsi-Cola, Disney, Nestle, General Foods, and J. Walter Thompson (Kraft, Abbott Labs & Northern Trust Bank). She teaches at Columbia, NYU Stern, Cornell, and IESE, and taught at/for Wharton, HEC Paris, The Berlin School for Creative Leadership, The American Marketing Association, The Association of National Advertisers, Seoul National University, the Indian Institute of Planning & Management, and IPADE Mexico. Michelle is Forbes’ innovation blogger, she wrote about innovation for, she guest lectures globally about innovation, and is frequently quoted in the press. Her consulting firm, Marketing Visualized, specializes in Innovation, New Product & Services, and Marketing & Business Plan Development. Michelle was selected by Advertising Age Magazine as "One of the 100 Best & Brightest Women in Advertising & Promotion in the U.S.", and by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School of Business as one of "33 Female Founders Forging Their Own Path". She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Kellogg Graduate School of Management (MBA).

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