While traveling for Thanksgiving I read Scott Berkun's The Myths of Innovation. I originally became aware of the book from attending his session at this past OSCON. His OSCON session consisted of what would be the first two or three chapters of the book. I really enjoyed that and had been meaning to pick up the book since. I finally did about 2 weeks ago and dove in.

The book centers around the common (mis)perception of innovation, invention, and creativity. The beginning of the book talks epiphany and history. The classic moments of invention are brought down to us as stories with some single moment as the source of innovation. Newton with the apple is the classic example. Sadly history and innovation isn't nearly that clear. Berkun's first task is to open our eyes to the complex history of innovation and the fact much work comes before and after the "ah-ha" moment.

Having given us this perspective, Berkun begins to explore our other common misconceptions. Taking the time to glance over the chapter titles will give you an idea of the myths he covers. Thankfully Berkun doesn't just dispel these myths, he also gives us tactics to deal with them and succeed. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about methodology, finding ideas, and how your boss doesn't always know what's best.

The book reminded me why I drive myself with far too many personal projects, and gave me ideas on how to manage that issue. I was reminded throughout of a course I took in college, History of Creativity, which aimed to teach history from the perspective of creativity and innovation. It looked at why cultures become such strong centers of creativity, then stop. It looked at, although briefly, many of the same issues that Berkun discusses in his book. The book has the benefit of looking at the issues directly, while the class looked at them across history.

If you'd like to see how we often have misconceptions about innovation and what you can do to make better on your own ideas, this book is for you. If you manage people who need to be innovators, this book is for you. If you'd like to experience innovation but don't know how to begin, this book is for you. If you're hopelessly stuck on a project of your own, this book is for you.

Posted: Nov 29, 2007 | Tags: reading

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