As a Corporate Innovator, you are guaranteed only three things.
- No one will understand what you do.
- You won’t have enough budget to do it.
- Because of 1 and 2 you will spend your time cobbling together new things.
The third entrant into my Corporate Innovator bookshelf is Connections by James Burke. If you’re as old as I am you may remember the television series from your youth. Both the book and the television series demonstrate how crucial inventions and discoveries were built successively and through interconnected ways to bring about modern technologies. The stories are told as a series of linked vignettes that describe the historical setting and the chains of events leading to innovations. The interdisciplinary approach taken by James Burke is eye-opening and exhilarating and shines through in the series, which includes entertaining re-enactments and working models, as well as the book, which is much more detailed. This isn’t a step-by-step guide, but a primer in pattern matching.
Why should a Corporate Innovator read this? Simple. Connections will show you how to think about how seemingly unrelated pieces of technology and inspired design come together. Spotting connections and acting upon them is the lifeblood of Corporate Innovation:
- Have you spotted a technology or two that’s languishing in it’s original role, but perfect to kickstart something new?
- Could you move the project forward if only you knew someone with a particular set of skills?
- Will a customer introduction or access to research motivate that startup or customer to help you out?
- Could that same customer or startup be the catalyst needed to spur action in your business unit or generate new business value?
- How do you get that resource you need? Create a trading network.
- Can you rig one business unit’s business model to another’s and create something new?
- Can you bring together people who think like you to supercharge your work in a different direction?
Sound familiar? This is my day job. I call it Connection Craft – the art of building an interconnected network to generate business value by bringing together seemingly unrelated or loosely related ingredients. Contrast this to first principles thinking, where you look at the art of the possible and build your way up. Connections Craft is to First Principles as a buffet is to fine dining. Then again, since Corporate innovators usually start with no money, they know how to make a trip to the buffet last.
Connections is in my Innovator’s Bookshelf because places a very different lens in front of us, which opens us to a wider world of possibility right inside the bigger corporation. Why don’t you try that lens on for size?