Ten Faces of Innovation by Tim Kelley – book review in five tweets

Ten Faces of Innovation, signed by Tom Kelley himself

Ten Faces of Innovation, signed by Tom Kelley himself

A short while back, I received a signed copy of Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation. This is my review of it, in five tweets.

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In The New Capitalist Manifesto, Umair Haque explains how capitalism is evolving

Have you heard of Ray Anderson (who sadly recently passed away) and his company Interface? No? Really not? Well, they make carpet. And do you know what they have in common with Nike and Walmart? They made a complete turn around of their way of operation. In stead of plundering the earth and societies to make a profit, they have decided to make a start with creating thick value. Maybe not fully, yet, but they’re in the progress of creating a new look on business. A new look on the system business is operating in, even. And that system is capitalism.

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A Reading Trial

The first year of mandatory classes of German in Dutch education, I was a still a youthful bragger. I was thirteen at the time, and basically thought I could take on anything. So when we had to make our reading lists – yes, literature was part of the language course – I aimed high and put Kafka’s The Trial on it. In German, obviously. When my teacher tried to tell me that this book was maybe a bit too difficult to start with, and actually even the students that were 3-4 years older than I was didn’t normally pick it for their lists, of course I did not listen. So, I got the book out of the school library, and started reading.

I think I never got further than the first page. The story, the German language, it was all a bit too much. But, in the back of my mind, this stuck with me. At least, that I found out when I recently saw The Complete Novels of Kafka in the book store. And this time, more than 2 decades later, I am finally reading it. It’s still a bit of a struggle, because it is a bit long-winded, but at least I seem to be getting the point this time around. And that long-windedness seems to be intentional, to sketch the struggles of K in his trial.

Lead Your Tribe

Recently I read a very inspiring book. Although reading might not be the best verb to use in this case, since it was an audio book. But that is rather beside the point. It was Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, written and read by Seth Godin. A book that calls for leadership, and inspires to lead. The book is based, to my interpretation, around three main points: it’s about the people, everyone can lead and modern technology enables everyone to lead.
The fact that people are put in the center, is not a very novel idea. Nevertheless, with all the Twitters and Facebooks and now Wave, many forget that the technology itself is useless, if you can not mobilize the people. Find a common goal, find your tribe, and use these wonderful tools to lead that tribe. For me, the book came, not coincidentally, on a very right moment. I was in the midst of organizing a charity challenge, and realized that I was leading a tribe in that respect. And that was not about me, which was the cool thing. It was about the people that wanted to participate, and the girls we were raising money for so that they can have an education. Because, according to Godin, leading is not about the leader. It’s about the tribe, and the goal. The leader is actually a facilitator, and everybody can do that.
Whilst listening to Godin, there were two moments I absolutely disagreed with him, and they are very much related. One was when he referred to the ‘Six Sigma sham’ and later, when he referred to the famous quote by Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Why is that related? Well, Six Sigma is aimed very strongly at finding what the customer wants, and delivering that in a stable way. While Godin implies Six Sigma to be a straight jacket that keeps people from breaking out, to me, if you apply it correctly, it makes your production process more controllable, and gives the people in it more freedom to innovate new ways of making what the customer really wants. Six Sigma not only focusses on eliminating deviance in the production process, but also very much on the Voice of the Customer. And that is where the Ford quote is a perfect illustraiton of a mass production misconception: the arrogance that the producer knows best. The problem with the Forsd quote is, that while it might ask the right question (what do my customers want), it is satisfied with the wrong answer. Listening to the customer is not only noting their answers, but trying to find out what’s behind it. Behind the ‘faster horses’ answer, is the wish to travel faster from point A to point B. Maybe in a more reliable way, being able to bring more than you can pack on a horse, and with a cover over your head to shield you from the weather. Any Six Sigma practitioner will tell you that listening to the customer is about finding out their real needs.
And that brings me back again to the brilliant part of the book: look around you, find the needs and goals of people, and where they match with yours, you not only may have found your tribe, but you have an opportunity, or maybe even an obligation, to lead that tribe to reach your goals.

Paris The Moveable Feast

Reading A Moveable Feast is a great pleasure. It breathes Paris, even almost a century later, very recognisable to the current day inhabitant. Although it’s scene is not set in ‘my quarter’, the atmosphere is very Parisian and immediately familiar. Also some aspects of expat life have not changed much: trying to blend in, having mainly international friends and traveling more than average. It’s a very good read, and it is also one that I would recommend to anybody who’s coming to live in Paris. It should be in the New Parisian’s welcome pack, if there was one. I liked the way how it gives insight in how Hemingway thought about writing and being a good writer, how he shows the struggle, not only financial one, but also the personal one, of a young man coming of age. And then there is the last chapter. The chapter where the fuss is about. Apparently, the grandson of Hemingway finds that his grandmother is not being described favorably, and so he has organised an altered version of the book. Of course he claims that this altered version is acually closer to the version Hemingway intended to publish. But somehow, that doesn’t feel right while reading the last chapter. A Moveable Feast is one of the last works Hemingway wrote, before he committed suicide. And the whole book reads like a memory of happy times, in spite of the lack of funds; or as the last words read “when we were very poor and very happy”. This was the period when Hemingway had just finished his first novel, and basically, everything was about to change. And this change came also with a change of partner, that, looking back on life some 30 years later, he might have wondered about whether it was the best thing to do. I have not read the altered version, but the 1964 version of A Moveable Feast is not only a nice guide to Paris, but also a fantastic insight in how a great writer found his vocation.

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The Island At The Center Of The World

Apparently, some of the sayings in the English language that are dismissive of the Dutch and their culture stem from the time we fought the English over Manhattan. Not only did the English in the end win that battle, and the power over the first American colonies, but they erased the influence of the Dutch from official history, and tried to ridicule them as much as they could. Russel Shorto tries to set the record straight with his excellent book The Island at the Center of the World, in which he traces a big part of modern Manhattanite culture to the original New Amsterdam colony, and rewrites history in the process. Not only for the Dutch, but also for all New Yorkers and history buffs, this is a very interesting and fun read.

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How a Dull Read Turns Into a Confronting Mirror

Normally, a Booker Prize winner is just my flavour. So with great enthusiasm I started to read Anne Enright’s The Gathering. At first, I was a bit dissapointed. The book has a slow start and seems to go nowhere except to a predictable horrific event that must have been the thing that started all events eventually leading to the death of the main character’s brother. And even the predictable horrific event, finally reached somewhere halfway through, isn’t as horrific as you’d might expect. But then the story started to kick in. Being from a rather large family myself (I am the youngest of seven) I could very much relate to the feelings the main character has for her somewhat estranged family. You know their habits, their remarks and behaviour becomes predictable and everyone has found his part to play somewhere in his or her early twenties and has stuck to the literal text of the play. And although you’ve grown a bit apart, and sometimes there doesn’t seem much that binds you, you still love them with all your hart. You simply have no choice.

So the second part of the book turned my initial opinion of it upside down, and if you’re from a large family, just read this. It isn’t as strong a story as the movie Festen, but it just exactly tells you all the things you always knew, put jus couldn’t put your finger on

A Good Move

It’s four weeks now that I live and work here in Paris. And a little to our surprise, it is not as weird as we thought it would be. In fact we feel at home here. Yes, of course, there are differences between France and The Netherlands, in a lot of things. And yes, the french ways are mostly obscure for us, but it is not bothering us to the point that we want to go back home crying. In fact it is amusing and expected. There are stories to tell, but most already have been told. One particularly good version is A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke. It describes very accurately, and in a very funny way, how France works.

Personally I think that one of the beautiful things of submerging yourself in another culture is to experience a different take/view on life and learn from it. For that matter, I can already say that moving here was a very good decision.

Wat is jouw doel?

Dat bedrijven vaak in afgebakende gebieden, zoals afdelingen, werken en denken is niet iets nieuws. Het meest verrassende aan die constatering is dat ze dat nog steeds doen. Een van de grote voorvechters van een meer holistische benadering is Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Al in 1984 verscheen zijn boek Het Doel, waarin hij zijn Theory of Constraints weergeeft. Met zijn systeemdenken en wetenschappelijke benadering weet hij bedrijven beter te laten presteren. En dat weergegeven in wat men een ‘business novel’ noemt: een managementboek in romanvorm.

Voor het romanaspect van Het Doel kan je het beter laten liggen. Er
zijn veel schrijvers die dat trucje beter kunnen. Maar de principes van
de Theory of Constraints
worden wel haarfijn uitgelegd. Door op een wetenschappelijke manier
naar een systeem als geheel te kijken, kan men op zoek gaan naar de
punten waar het misgaat. Daarbij geldt het principe dat een ketting zo
sterk is als de zwakste schakel, en dat juist alles in het werk moet
worden gesteld om die schakel te versterken. Of in ieder geval optimaal
te laten presteren. Maar dan ben je er nog niet. Het is niet alleen
belangrijk om die zwakste schakel, of ‘constraint’, te vinden en te
versterken, maar dat in een continu proces te doen. Want het
verstevigen van de zwakste schakel kan wel eens betekenen dat een
andere schakel de zwakste wordt. Zo, op basis van de vijf stappen waar
de hoofdpersoon in het boek al lerend achter komt, zet je een continu
verbeterende organisatie neer. Dat alles zonder het belangrijkste uit
het oog te verliezen: het doel van die organisatie.

De theory of constraints wordt inmiddels veel, en met succes,
toegepast. En niet alleen in fabrieken. Ook de dienstverlenende
bedrijven zien steeds meer in methoden die er nauw verwant mee zijn,
zoals LEAN. Voor degenen die hun organisatie beter willen laten
presteren: lees dit boek.

Deze post verscheen eerder op RM Blog.