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Book Review: The Myths Of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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Do you ever wonder where new ideas came from? Do they just spring into the innovator's head? Is there a Eureka moment in which an individual or a small group has an epiphany and there is something new in the world?

According to Scott Berkun, the epiphany moment is a myth. Most eureka moments come about, like everything else in life, with 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. Taking Isaac Newton for example, whether an apple fell from a tree to inspire him on his essays on gravity or not, it was the prior 20 years of study that allowed that "epiphany" to take hold.

The Myths Of Innovation is book that tries to put into perspective the history of the development of innovation. For example, most people think that history is a straight line that runs from point A to point B to point C. It would also appear that what has evolved to be on top throughout history, is what's "best." Berkin says no: what has come to the top of the pile has done so through favorable conditions, and those conditions can change at any time. Just ask the dinosaurs.

The Myths Of Innovation is a small book, 192 pages, with some very powerful ideas. It is divided into 10 chapters and an appendix. The goal of this book is to use the myths of innovation to understand how innovation works. Each chapter discusses one myth, explores why it is popular, and then uses the history of innovations — recent and ancient — to explain the truth.

The real goal is to describe how innovation happens. While the author debunks and demystifies the myths, he is trying to help the reader understand how the world works with regard to history and innovation.

While I won't go in to each chapter, some of the myths addressed are the aforementioned "The Myth of Epiphany," where something just pops into the creator's head and a new idea is born. "There is a Method for Innovation," which is the belief that there is a play-book for innovation and that once you know the rules anyone can do it.

"People Love New Ideas" addresses the idea of if you build a better mouse trap, people will beat down your door to get to it. When what really happens is that every great idea has had the red stamp of rejection on its face. Similarly, "The Best Ideas Win" exposes the fact that the idea that is best adapted to what society will accept is the one that wins.

The Myths Of Innovation is an entertaining book that is easy to read and easy to understand. It makes you think before you assume. Although he debunks and destroys many myths, Berkin actually creates a set of insights that will help you come up with ideas, or at least get you to thinking about them.

The book is written for anyone who wants to know how we got where we are, and why things are the way they are. If you want to learn, if you don't want to be hit over the head with statistics, if you are open to alternative points of view, and you have a sense of humor, then The Myths Of Innovation is for you.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.