Monday, July 02, 2007

Book Review: Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Find and Execute Your Company’s Next Big Growth Strategy, by Eric Joachimsthaler (HBS Press, 2007)

I promised to write a review of the book, so here it goes…This book is a must read for all executives trying to understand why their companies continue to miss the most obvious innovations. Companies, especially incumbent firms, struggle to keep their innovation engines going. I especially found the book to be of interest given my current research on sustainable innovation program. In a research project that I undertook with Ashley Braganza (Cranfield University) and Yukika Awazu (Bentley College), we outlined several reasons why incumbent firms have a hard time sustaining innovation. We also recommended action strategies that these firms could take to be more successful at innovation (see Link).

Joachimsthaler introduces the DIG model for innovation. DIG stands for Demand-First Innovation and Growth. The model is premised on a firm recognizing customer demands, and then structuring demand platforms to meet these needs, followed by devising strategic blue prints to capture the value from these platforms. Joachimsthaler rightly argues that most companies have built up distance between themselves and their customers. Specifically, the average firm does little to understand their customer behavior independent of their products and services. This narrow-minded view of their customers limits the ability of the firm to introduce products and services that become part of the customers’ lifestyles. In today’s marketplace such firms are sure to follow the trajectory towards demise.

I found the DIG model to be interesting for two main reasons. One, it forces firms to place an emphasis on getting to understand their customers intimately. Two, it also forces the firm to structure its processes, policies, rules, etc around capturing customer needs, rather than around aging bureaucratic practices.

Joachimsthaler does an excellent job walking the reader through the DIG model. The book has a number of case studies from State Street to Frito Lays, and GE to BMW. In addition, the book is easy to read and follow. The book begins by discussing the case of Sony and how the iPod revolution caught the company by surprise. The DIG model is introduced next, and successive chapters walk through the various components of the model. The concluding chapter of the book discusses how to embed innovation into the corporate fabric.

I do not want to give away too much about the book (I know as an author that seeing your book sell is important!), so will stop here…Overall, a must read…I surely enjoyed it…

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