Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Book Review: The Innovation Superhighway

Without boring about why I am doing this so much later than when I actually read the book, suffice to say, I have decided that this book requires a full review. I had written previously about this book, where I recommended this to my previous employer. I would like to explore why I felt this way and more so why I became disillusioned with the book's message.

First off, when looking for books on innovation, one must know what type of information they are looking for and what information they are going to find in the book that they are going to read. The Innovation Superhighway is a book that starts out presenting the start of a framework using the internet as a means of transmitting information. Early on in the book it is stated that internet and all it's services and facilities are really about innovation, not information. While many innovative activities are occurred because of the information that is made more readily and by the "free wheeling" of early internet companies, the internet is truly about the transfer of knowledge. When much of the book deals with sharing of innovations across some infrastructure sounds wonderful, I have seem little of it in the corporate world, where it may be true in the academic world. In fact I have seen the opposite in the corporate world, where innovation is coveted and hoarded.

In the end, this book will do a couple of good things for you. It provides an excellent look into the ideas of Intellectual Capital, which still has a certain amount of nebulousness about it (although I was looking for something a little deeper here). The book also presents some excellent views into Knowledge and what it can mean to an individual, a company, and even a country. There is a lot of good information in those chapters.

This however only gets us to page 127 out of 349. At this point, the book goes into the story of ENTOVATION which I was unable to find much that I could use in many of my roles of using technology to facilitate communication and parts within a corporation's innovation processes. It becomes the story of how individuals from many roles got together to explore knowledge exchange and sharing for the purpose of innovation. Many of the cases that are put forth rely on companies and individuals seeing the benefit of sharing information and also that all information being shared is of equal value. I have been part of such attempts at sharing only to have them break down due to information having different value to different parties and therefore demanding different returns. The whole knowledge market, although referenced earlier in the book, seems largely ignored. The primary aspects near the end of the book rely on a more idealistic world, where personal gain (thinking selfishly here) is largely ignored and the greater good of society and countries are funded to aid innovation. I have seen little evidence of any working towards that or any chance of these goals coming to fruition. Painting of Exemplar Ken Practitioners through ~40 pages had little value to me in my quest for knowledge and innovation processes.

So, there is value to the book. I felt that the first portion of the book was the most valuable and would love to see more around that, but I was disappointed that after such a strong start, the end left me wanting.

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