The Myths of Innovation
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: May 2007
Pages: 192

How do we know if a hot new technology will succeed or fail? Most of us, even experts, get it wrong all the time. We depend more than we realize on wishful thinking and romanticized ideas of history. In the new paperback edition of this fascinating book, a book that has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, Slashdot.org, Lifehacker.com and in The New York Times, bestselling author Scott Berkun pulls the best lessons from the history of innovation, including the recent software and web age, to reveal powerful and suprising truths about how ideas become successful innovations -- truths people can easily apply to the challenges of today. Through his entertaining and insightful explanations of the inherent patterns in how Einstein’s discovered E=mc2 or Tim Berner Lee’s developed the idea of the world wide web, you will see how to develop existing knowledge into new innovations.

Each entertaining chapter centers on breaking apart a powerful myth, popular in the business world despite it's lack of substance. Through Berkun's extensive research into the truth about innovations in technology, business and science, you’ll learn lessons from the expensive failures and dramatic successes of innovations past, and understand how innovators achieved what they did -- and what you need to do to be an innovator yourself. You'll discover:

  • Why problems are more important than solutions
  • How the good innovation is the enemy of the great
  • Why children are more creative than your co-workers
  • Why epiphanies and breakthroughs always take time
  • How all stories of innovations are distorted by the history effect
  • How to overcome people’s resistance to new ideas
  • Why the best idea doesn’t often win

The paperback edition includes four new chapters, focused on appling the lessons from the original book, and helping you develop your skills in creative thinking, pitching ideas, and staying motivated.

"For centuries before Google, MIT, and IDEO, modern hotbeds of innovation, we struggled to explain any kind of creation, from the universe itself to the multitudes of ideas around us. While we can make atomic bombs, and dry-clean silk ties, we still don’t have satisfying answers for simple questions like: Where do songs come from? Are there an infinite variety of possible kinds of cheese? How did Shakespeare and Stephen King invent so much, while we’re satisfied watching sitcom reruns? Our popular answers have been unconvincing, enabling misleading, fantasy-laden myths to grow strong."

-- Scott Berkun, from the text

"Berkun sets us free to change the world."

-- Guy Kawasaki, author of Art of the Start

Scott was a manager at Microsoft from 1994-2003, on projects including v1-5 (not 6) of Internet Explorer. He is the author of three bestselling books, Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation and Confessions of a Public Speaker. He works full time as a writer and speaker, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes magazine, The Economist, The Washington Post, Wired magazine, National Public Radio and other media. He regularly contributes to Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Businessweek, has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington, and has appeared as an innovation and management expert on MSNBC and on CNBC. He writes frequently on innovation and creative thinking at his blog: scottberkun.com and tweets at @berkun.

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oreillyThe Myths of Innovation
 
4.7

(based on 9 reviews)

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100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

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  • Helpful examples (4)
  • Well-written (4)

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      (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      4.0

      Innovation is More Than Newton's Apple

      By tekchic

      from Phoenix, AZ

      About Me Designer, Developer

      Verified Reviewer

      Pros

      • Entertaining
      • Helpful examples
      • Well-written

      Cons

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          Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

          If you're tired of hearing the overused buzzword, "Innovation" bandied about the office too often, this book is worth the read. Scott Berkun discusses the different myths attributed to innovation through history, and why innovation itself is not the magical solution.

          One of the great myths about innovation is that it should take the form of some brilliant idea hitting you on the head much like Isaac Newton's Apple. Nope. Innovation comes from hard work, and there's no magic bullet. I like what Scott Berkun has to say on page 13: "No grand innovation in history has escaped the long hours required to take an insight and work it into a form useful to the world." 

          If you enjoy history, this is also a fun book to read, as Berkun talks about innovations such as Archimedes slipping and falling in the tub (Eureka!), Picasso turning an old bicycle into a sculpture of a bull, and Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. We have a tendency to glamorize these innovators and put them on a pedestal of genius when in fact, it was years of labor, research, mistakes, and elbow grease that got them to that point of "epiphany."

          This book was interesting to me because I love the process of programming as well as what it takes when designing an interface. I might spend hours tweaking a web layout to be pixel perfect, and then at the end find a flourish that brings the mockup together. Sometimes I don't find that flourish at all. Linus Pauling says, "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." It's a concept that is reiterated in this book that making lots of mistakes, continuing to persevere, and challenging your own ideas will help you in the execution of your goal.

          I enjoyed this book mainly because of Scott's sense of humor injected into the book, bringing both historical achievements and current business ventures into a relevant, interesting read. This book demonstrates the importance of moving past the hype of "innovation" and discusses a plan of action in the epilogue that states, "Forget innovation: focus on being good." I recommend it for anyone who wants to better themselves or get motivated about a new project.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Full of facts and easy to read

          By Jane

          from Brighton, UK

          About Me Developer, Leader

          Verified Reviewer

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          • Well-written

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              Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

              Innovation is a word I've struggled with over the past few years. Its a word that seems to have been used to describe almost everything. So, I was pleasantly surprised to get barely into the preface before the overuse was accepted and challenged.

              The book is well laid out, and easy to read. Each of the original chapters takes a myth and breaks it apart, often using forays into history to describe the real story behind some ideas, rather than the popularly held one. Whilst the newly added chapters are more practical "how-to" lessons based around creative thinking, pitching and motivation and seem to contain good advice.

              This book is obviously well-researched, and the references are all well marked up for easy follow-up (especially on the kindle where its a simple one click to find out more).

              So, do I still struggle with the word innovation? I still think its used far too often, by far too many people. But, at least I can now smile to myself when people describe something to me as innovative, whereas before I'd have probably switched-off and stopped listening immediately.

              I'd recommend this book, and having enjoyed and engaged with Scott's writing style, I've already bought and downloaded Confessions of a Public Speaker which I plan to read later in the year

              Disclaimer: I read this book as part of the O'Reilly blogger review program

               
              5.0

              Review of The Myths of Innovation

              By Brian R. Bondy

              from Windsor, Ontario

              About Me Designer, Developer, Educator

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              Pros

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                Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                I wanted to read this book because I spend a significant amount of time learning and doing work, and I figured this book would inspire me to stay along the same path.
                This book did indeed do what I wanted it to do, but the book covered a lot more as well.

                We tend to attribute innovation to a moment's insight or a lucky accident, but the true story behind innovation is much more exciting than the false stories we believe.
                There is no magic element which allowed past innovations to happen, simply hard work. Hard work which is based upon, and combined with existing hard work.
                Everyone that does hard work makes mistakes, encounters obstacles, and has failures. The people who succeed are the people that embrace these mistakes and take the opportunity to learn from them.

                This book inspires the reader to not only passively consume information and knowledge, but to be a creator instead.

                This book also covers many other topics surrounding ideas and innovations including reasons why ideas fail and succeed.
                An idea needs to be able to fit its surrounding environment for it to succeed, and as an innovator we need to frame the correct problems to solve before trying to solve them.

                The author does an excellent job of not blindly giving his opinion, but backing up his claims by other sources and situations throughout history.

                As a kid I remember feeling uninspired because there were genius' out there, and I wasn't one of them.

                *How can I ever amount to anything when competing with such people?*

                Although there are people with amazing mental abilities, most of the people I now consider a genius have no special mental ability, just determination and hard work which enabled their breakthroughs.

                (0 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                Myths of innovation by Scott Berkun

                By Vishal

                from Pune, India

                About Me Developer

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Easy to understand
                • Helpful examples

                Cons

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                  • Intermediate
                  • Novice

                  Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                  Disclosure: I was given an early free access to ebook for a review

                  Scott, starts the book with myths of innovation, which are pretty commonplace in business and popular culture. He explains in detail and with examples of Newton, Edison and likes and explains the time and hard work they had spent in innovating things they did. At times the book seems to take cynical view of things, but if you read along patiently, you will see realistic and objective view of things.

                  Author explains the mechanism and frameworks for innovation, at an abstract level, at the same time making it very clear to reader that innovation is not possible merely by use of frameworks/methodology.
                  The book gives good insight into innovations happened in past and clears misconception popular culture has about innovation. The author is very honest when he says things like "Reading a book on innovation is passive and safe. Putting the book down and starting a project is active and has risks. No matter how many books you read, this will never change.".

                  I would highly recommend reading this book, with sufficient time and patience in hand.

                  (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

                   
                  4.0

                  Innovation Revelaed

                  By george naing

                  from singapore

                  About Me Developer, Educator

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                      Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                      I read this book at our local library. I believe this book is especially useful for software professionals and web entrepreneurs. It gives us courage and inspiration. The examples, case stories are almost ready-made recipies of how to innovate.[@]

                       
                      5.0

                      A fun and interesting read

                      By Tom

                      from Undisclosed

                      Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                      I enjoyed reading this book. It gives a lot of insight into how some of the worlds best minds came up with their ideas for innovative products. The tone is light yet informative. This book definitely gave me something to think about in terms of how ideas come about and different ways to think about problems.

                       
                      4.0

                      A Good Read

                      By JT Smith

                      from Undisclosed

                      Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                      I recently read The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun. I've ready many books like it before, and if you have too then you'll find a few new ideas here, but mostly it will be a nice tidy summation of what you've already read. However, if you haven't read many books on innovation, then I think this is a wonderful place to start.

                      The book does a great job of laying down several myths, and then provides the reasons why it's only a myth. The best part about this is that the author does a good job of citing sources. Too many books these days are more about opinion than fact, and by citing sources the author gives you a chance to read further on that topic, and see why he took the stance he did.

                      Of the myths dispelled, my personal favorite was that innovation happens instantly. It's the myth that an apple fell on Newton's head, and he discovered gravity. That story may or may not be true, but regardless, Newton did not discover gravity, but rather wrote down a series of mathmatical laws to define it. The first person who fell out of a tree probably discovered gravity. =)

                      I think a single quote from the book sums it up:"You can't find anything new if you only travel where others have gone."

                      All in all I think this is a good book, and would certainly recommend it to friends and colleagues.

                       
                      5.0

                      Inspired to Innovate

                      By Dan Slaten

                      from Undisclosed

                      Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                      It was an easy read and very entertaining. Scott Berkin is able to inject subtle humor throughout the book to help keep the readers interest.

                      It debunked the myth of "build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door"

                      Nothing is invented suddenly _ everything is built from the work of others. An inventor used all the knowledge available at the time, put different ideas and products together to 'invent' or innovate something new.

                      The second concept I found interesting was that many new ideas or 'inventions' never made it at the time.

                      A new idea or product requires several things to come together at once. First the public has to ready, there has to be a demand, second someone has to market it, get it out there to the public. It has to be easy to use or understand by the public.

                      What is interesting is that many discoveries or inventions are credited to a now famous person from history, when in fact several others had done the same work or made the same invention or discovery, but they never moved forward with it, got it into the hands of the right people.

                      Success was usually due to good business skills and clever marketing, not to mention finances to bankroll distribution or publicity.

                      And many inventions were created indirectly while trying to solve a different problem.

                      Being a Project Manager and tasked with solving problems, the most interesting concept Scott puts forth is that by clearly defining the problem up front, it almost solves itself. The solution becomes quite clear. The moral is: spend most of your time in defining the problem or project first, then executing a solution will be easy.

                      The book contains many real life examples of products or ideas from ancient history to more modern times. The computer revolution references were particularly interesting to me, being of that generation and working in the IT field.

                      The book contains a huge bibliography and copious foot notes for those that want additional information to substantiate Scott's ideas. It also had a nice index that would normally only be found in a text book or reference book.

                      It was an inspiring book, made me want to revisit some of the ideas and products I had tinkered with in my garage now that I understand the forces at work behind great inventions.

                      It's a book I would reference over and over again in order to re-inspire myself to continue any innovative Endeavour

                      (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                       
                      5.0

                      fascinating

                      By dave graham

                      from Undisclosed

                      Comments about oreilly The Myths of Innovation:

                      I really enjoyed this book. Scott has a great writing style - friendly and informative, well suited to the task in hand. What could have been a dull history of innovation has been turned into a short, punchy work. He manages to pack a great deal into the 192 pages; examples of how innovation works, where innovation comes from, and debunks several popular myths of innovation, pointing out that whilst there is a 'eureka' moment, there's a whole lot of hard work which lead up to it in the first place.

                      I read this book on a train journey, and found myself picking back through it on the return journey. It's jam-packed with interesting anecdotes and information. Inspirational too - it put the idea of writing and where ideas come from in a new light.

                      Recommended reading. Top stuff.

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