Apr 9, 2007

Innovation and Connection

How Innovators Connect - A book review

This is the first book I am reviewing that I received because I'm a blogger here :-) I got an email asking me if I'd like a copy, and since innovation is a BIG interest area for me, I readily agreed.

Rohit Agarwal, CEO of the social networking site for techies called techTribe, has written this book which focusses on the importance of connections for innovations. And the connections he talks about in the book (that he co-authored with Patricia Brown) is not just with other people, but to connecting with self, an idea, the environment, timing, the team, partners, money, customers, humility, failure and spirituality.

It might seem strange to how a person connects to self and what implication it has for innovation. Or even other abstract concepts like humility, but Agarwal and Brown bring excellent examples (though, primarily from Silicon Valley) to bring alive the ideas of the book. Therefore, this book is about innovation at various levels.

At one level it focuses on the nuts and bolts, from how collaboration is a life-line of innovation (why should a larger firm partner with a smaller firm?) to what's a good time to raise capital to how timing can make or mar a breakthrough idea.

On the other side, it also explores the inner mind of the innovator, how failure impacts, how to deal with your ego to how faith and equanimity impacts your innovativeness.

Therefore, this is a book filled to the brim with ideas and examples, and yet the ideas are not joined in a simplistic "how-to-innovate" framework. While that can be challenge for the casual reader, the innovator who wants to bring out his ideas into reality will walk away with learnings from others that are relevant to him or her.

It also has a great collection of stories, from the more well known recent stories like YouTube's success to the habits of successful innovators like Steve Jobs.

The book has been based on a series of 40 interviews that the authors had with people like Guy Kawasaki, Gururaj Deshpande, Jan Baan, Kiran Karnik.

The focus for the book has been technology innovations, with the exception of Sula Wines, which is the only non-technology firm covered in some detail.

The other drawback of the book is that the focus seems to be Silicon Valley innovation, and while that is a great aspirational view to have, there have been quite a few domestic technology innovation and apart from Quintant that later was acquired by iGate, none of the Indian technology innovations are covered in much detail.

In fact, the richest story in the book is how Rohit brought about techTribe to fruition. It's a personal story, and blends in some of the various "connections" that an innovator needs to make to bring an idea to reality. I only wish that the story could have been been a little longer :-)

I think the book delivers on its promise, though at Rs. 950 it seems to be little overpriced.