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Book Review: Key Concepts in Innovation
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Book Review: Key Concepts in Innovation by Hamsa Thota and Zunaira Munir

Key Concepts in Innovation

Written by: Hamsa Thota and Zunaira Munir. Los Altos, CA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 328+viii pages.
Reviewed by: Donovan Ray Hardenbrook

Key Concepts in Innovation

The subject of innovation is so multifaceted and diverse that the new product development (NPD) professional is challenged to become familiar with the various bodies of knowledge that have their own unique concepts and terminology. I have witnessed the challenges when product development teams try to communicate cross-functionally. The same word can mean different things to each team member. Many organizations have standardized terminology. Rare is the individual who has depth and experience in all facets of product development and innovation. Even more difficult is the time commitment needed to create such a vast body of knowledge. Having been involved in past attempts by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) to create a body of knowledge (BoK) around product development, I can appreciate the value of Thota and Munir creating a resource for product development professionals.

Key Concepts in Innovation is an ambitious effort to aggregate the various terminology and concepts related to the practice of innovation. More than just a glossary of terms, Thota and Munir have provided relevant background information, cross-references, and examples appropriate for product development. While not exhaustive in depth, the authors have attempted to be comprehensive in breadth.

A good example is the term “Concurrent Engineering” (pp. 55–56). Popularized in the mid-1990s, it is considered by many to be similar to new product development though it has a stronger focus on simultaneous development. Someone new to the NPD profession may not be familiar with the concept of concurrent engineering but would be able to get a general understanding of the concept and pursue additional research to develop a deeper level of knowledge.

Another example is the term “persona” (p. 61). Personas (defined as archetypal users, or customers, that represent real user or customer types) originated in the software industry but were embraced by others who could appreciate how personas could be applied to new product development regardless of industry. As a matter of fact, the reader may soon observe how many innovation concepts experience their own “diffusion of innovation” (pp. 91–92) and become adopted into the broader body of knowledge.

Some may take issue with how various concepts are defined and how articles are selected for further reading. I experienced this with the term “Quality” (pp. 230–31). The authors do not provide a broad definition but focus mainly on design and delivery quality with some discussion on innovation and total quality management (TQM). Nevertheless, Key Concepts in Innovation is a great first attempt, and I look forward to future revisions by the authors to keep the book relevant.

Key Concepts in Innovation is a valuable reference for the new professional who is on a steep learning curve to grasp innovation concepts. For the more experienced professional, this book should be part of their collection of important reference library. Thota and Munir should be commended for their efforts to compile a much-needed reference book for the product development professional.

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