Did you know bees can smell bombs? Or that it could soon be possible to fly from the US to Japan in 30 minutes? Would you like to know exactly how your Kindle works? How could a tree be related to a laptop? Did you know there is a handshake invented to combat Swine Flu? And is SMS more popular in Asia due to people having thinner fingers? Would you like to know how to build a well without going down a hole?
Sanjeev Sharma, a New York-based consultant and US citizen who moved from India in the 90′s, gives insights into all these questions in his book, 5 Core Methods of Innovation.
The book is a real treasure trove of facts, absolutely soaked in a Who’s Who of everyone in the world of innovation from Thomas Edison to Amazon to Steve Jobs, and outlines how they made it happen in a bitesize format, with examples of their best work, which is a great potted history for any reader, as we discover their business and design techniques that made their products and services household names. Also we get a great case study of many dot.coms that made it big.
A fantastic study piece, Sharma lays out the principles of innovation and their related disciplines, such as Addition Framework (adding a feature for innovation, such as the frame to the lenses for glasses, an eraser to the end of a pencil), Subtraction Framework (streamlining features or taking them away) Disruptive Innovation (such as what the product cannot do) as well as talking about ergonomics and efficiency, which are cornerstones of the innovation principle in degree level education, and, more importantly, the pen-to-paper application of these principles, which is vastly welcome in this type of book, and over more, rare. The writer has obviously come across this oversight in other academic texts and thoughtfully given his student readers a real guide to getting on with it ‘on the ground’. I wish I had read this when studying for my degree in design in London!
Another great point for this book is the questions laid out for design success, such as, “Is the product a status symbol to own now?” or “What is the existing usable life of the product?” Seem like obvious questions, but as any innovation student will know, not asking yourself this type of thing before you start the design process often ends in one of the millions of rubbish products with no purpose that end up being scrapped or land up in dollar stores with a huge loss of capital.
There is also an erudite and interesting section on business methodology, describing techniques used by successful companies to innovate businesses, which covers matrix organization and Six Sigma in a way that anyone can understand, including links to any relevant websites and information outside of the book itself, along with a steady description of nearly every social networking tool and device we use in business and leisure today, as well as giving first hand insights into some of the fascinating gadgets being used in India today, and “fun stuff” like how to store ice without a freezer, how to light a fire without a match and build a well using simple techniques really gives the reader some food for thought for application in the modern world.
I especially devoured the sections of financial concepts such as reverse mortgage and trading because they are concepts that have evaded me up until now. I found them easy to follow and backed up with evidencial story telling to make the ideas stick.
This book is written by someone highly knowledgeable in his field but it falls down on grammar and punctuation because it is clear the author is not first language English and has not had the book edited or proofread before publication, a problem for some of the heavier text, as well as the lack of consistent formatting for titles and sub-headings etc. The paperback version has been professionally edited, and should be picked up by many academic libraries.
The photos could afford to be page size, as they do show fun ways to innovate, but are not very easy to see on a Kindle, but maybe this is down to delivery costs for the book: in which case I do not blame the author for keeping them small.
This book has, however, the potential to make it as part of tertiary education material as a solid introduction to innovation, and is also in my opinion, almost mandatory 101 reading for any company leader whose vision is to improve any part of their business model, with chapters on consumer psychology, culture and localization, vendor vs. consumer centric models and profitability containing some real gems of knowledge that can be a great set of soundbites for any business related situation where knowing it all comes in handy.
I am glad I read this book, and will be taking some of the knowledge forward in my everyday working life and also personal life in some areas. I feel enriched in many disciplines and able to apply the methods across the board. Recommended.
About the Reviewer: Cate Baum
Cate Baum is a filmmaker and writer of self-published book “The Bull and The Ban” (under the name Tosko) and contributed to "Ole!", a book about 21st Century attitudes to bullfighting with Ernest Hemingway's grandson John and New York Times writer Edward Lewine. She is also editor and co-founder of Filmmaking Review, the sister site to Self-Publishing Review. She is married to SPR founder Henry Baum and lives in LA.