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Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation

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Why can some organizations innovate time and again, while most cannot?

You might think the key to innovation is attracting exceptional creative talent. Or making the right investments. Or breaking down organizational silos. All of these things may help—but there’s only one way to ensure sustained innovation: you need to lead it—and with a special kind of leadership. Collective Genius shows you how.

Preeminent leadership scholar Linda Hill, along with former Pixar tech wizard Greg Brandeau, MIT researcher Emily Truelove, and Being the Boss coauthor Kent Lineback, found among leaders a widely shared, and mistaken, assumption: that a “good” leader in all other respects would also be an effective leader of innovation. The truth is, leading innovation takes a distinctive kind of leadership, one that unleashes and harnesses the “collective genius” of the people in the organization.

Using vivid stories of individual leaders at companies like Volkswagen, Google, eBay, and Pfizer, as well as nonprofits and international government agencies, the authors show how successful leaders of innovation don’t create a vision and try to make innovation happen themselves. Rather, they create and sustain a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again—an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.

Collective Genius will not only inspire you; it will give you the concrete, practical guidance you need to build innovation into the fabric of your business.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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Linda A. Hill

22 books43 followers

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5 stars
96 (24%)
4 stars
162 (41%)
3 stars
114 (29%)
2 stars
15 (3%)
1 star
4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
28 reviews
May 21, 2014
Great book! The author makes the argument that the future of innovation needs to be in the hands of a new kind of leadership. Leaders that can move people to find their own potential and then work together to encourage creativity and innovation. No longer is it leadership of just a solo genius, but leadership that can bring people together for a greater cause. The future is for leaders to be like Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King. The leaders of the future will need to move the masses to change the world and to keep innovation on the forefront of the human imagination.
Profile Image for Jordan Munn.
179 reviews2 followers
December 4, 2016
This book sometimes feels like a cliche business book full of cherry-picked anecdotes to illustrate the authors' points, but nonetheless, its proposed framework is reasonably convincing. As is the case with many of these kinds of books, I gleaned a few insightful tidbits from random pages apart from the main points. A decent read.
1 review2 followers
February 13, 2018
Excelentes cases, sólido framework de liderança para inovação

Decidi ler esse livro por causa de um artigo da HBR, um resumo da leitura. Vou dizer q fiquei decepcionada ao notar q o artigo resume muito bem o framework e em termos de visão consolidada da proposta funciona melhor, mas... para um entendimento mais profundo do q as pesquisadoras identificaram o livro é fantástico. Em especial destaco as leituras dos cases que são em muitos momentos cativantes.
Profile Image for Victor Panggabean.
41 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2016
Buku ini menceritakan mengenai hubungan antara kepemimpinan dengan inovasi, mirip dengan Creativity buku karangan Ed Catmull presiden dari Pixar. Beda-nya di buku ini Linda A Hill dan kawan-kawan meneliti di berbagai bidang bisnis bukan cuma industri film animasi, tp juga di industri otomotif, teknologi informasi, konsultan desain dll..
27 reviews
January 26, 2019
This is one of those books that could be a lot shorter but the authors tend to repeat a lot of concepts several times. Many of the cases that are used in the book are very interesting and if it wouldn’t be for that, I’d give it 3 stars. Good concepts that are helpful for leaders that need to drive their organizations forward.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,925 reviews20 followers
June 28, 2014
This had some interesting findings and the ideas and themes made sense, but the writing was SO REPETITIVE. It could easily have been 25-50% shorter. Oh well - still worth a look.
Profile Image for Florence Dambricourt.
Author 8 books3 followers
October 30, 2022
Very interesting book on this notion of "collective genius" and the evolution needed on our perception of leadership to make this possible. An advocate for company culture based on trust and self-leadership, both key elements to allow innovation to happen, I was so pleased to find many examples supporting this approach (and the framework I build behind). I can only agree with some common traits identified with future leaders "idealists yet pragmatic" "holistic thinkers, yet action-oriented" "generous, yet demanding" "human, yet resilient" and this know fact "leaders are not born". Agree, some people may have innate capabilities however these are simply a headstart in the journey & learning path. Reading this book, you will not only explore how to unleash others' slices of genius, you will as well understand better how to make your slices of genius really count. Enjoy!
23 reviews
April 6, 2018
Interesting collection of stories from successful leaders, but far too long. The book has some interesting insight but if you have already read about the innovation styles of Pixar, Google, and eBay you will find much of the same regurgitated information. If you are unfamiliar with those techniques, however, then by all means, read on my friend! Still, it's basic points are meaningful. Innovation is a creative collaboration; it should include a diverse collection of ideas, especially opposition. Horizontal leadership structures vs top-down hierarchies create spaces of candor and innovation. These leaders were far more concerned about the culture they created rather than the vision they inspired.
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 12 books69 followers
September 25, 2019
Solid summary of how to organize teams to innovate. The talk about creative abrasion (cultivating diverse ideas, not group think), creative agility (non-standard methods of working together, including changing the focus of the project), and create resolution (not settling for either/or solutions, but a third way that combines). The idea is to find the goldilocks zone in the middle, not to lean too far to control or freedom.

The best part about the book is the case studies of how others did it. The theory isn't particularly original or profound. But the stories have a lot of useful nuggets. Warning: they are all for large, multi-national companies. So if you're not leading in one of those (Google, Volkswagon, etc.) then it won't directly apply.
97 reviews4 followers
January 28, 2022
I really liked this book. The author's perspective on innovation as being primarily a collaborative effort, and the leadership required to change to a collaborative mindset was really helpful. And the "case studies" chosen were really interesting.

If there is any flaw in the book, it may be that it went too far into the narrative details of the stories, and I would have appreciated more interpretation and application by the authors. Only because I was really interested in what they thought.

But there is really good stuff in here
Profile Image for Goke Pelemo.
3 reviews
January 8, 2023
A lot to learn from the bits about Ed Catmull and Pixar, considering that they were an unconventional creative business. Also the bit about how they use computers to render animations, and the actions that they needed to take in order to get Toy Story 2 released on schedule. From a systems perspective, it was interesting to see all the options that they considered.

Acumen’s approach to developing leadership potential is also outstanding. A good read for any manager/leader looking for new ideas on how to engage a team to come up with new products or services.
September 18, 2022
Linda’s book have aged well by extracting good leadership lessons (rites, structure, mindset) from Google, Pixar, VW and HCL. It will work as a review for people familiar with tech, but can be very enlightening for people from traditional companies, because the book describes how management could foster collaboration, experimentation and other innovation practices with better structure, compensation and mindsets.
Profile Image for Abdulaziz Al-naim.
6 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2021
This book introduces a profound methodology of how to transform a standard organization to highly innovative enterprise including managing the different paradoxes of highly innovative environment. The transformational examples in the book are well thought of to explain the process. The interactions between creative abrasion, creative agility and creative resolution is remarkable.
July 24, 2022
Loved every bit of this book. Great examples from different industries and well presented research which is perfect for any aspiring leaders who want to create a thriving environment at work. Highly recommend for anyone who is leading innovative teams and/or wants to foster innovation in their workspace.
101 reviews
May 24, 2021
Stunningly Underwhelming

Lots of words - lots - to make relatively obvious points. And framing those as paradoxes doesn’t make banality insightful. As expecting something (a whole lot) better from such accomplished academics and practitioners.
10 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2022
I liked the topic and the anecdotes and stories. However as much as I loved the first quarter to first half of the book, it felt quite repetitive and became long as I came to the end. By the time I finished it I was dreading completing the book. it is very similar to multipliers if you read that.
Profile Image for Jessica.
156 reviews6 followers
October 1, 2022
Despite this taking me so long to finish, it’s an excellent book! And one that I’ll be returning to for reference. It clearly showed the difference in leading innovation (over traditional leadership approaches). Highly recommend
Profile Image for Sara.
105 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2017
Read for work but one of the most engaging management books I've read in a long time! Great storytelling.
Profile Image for Mai Mislang.
103 reviews8 followers
November 24, 2018
The wisdom offered by this book was helpful in fleshing out some business ideas I’ve been studying. A good read for those in the social entrepreneurship and tech space.
Profile Image for Jer.
62 reviews
October 27, 2019
I enjoyed this — need to go back through and read it again, but there were certainly elements I found apropos to working with the target audience (leaders and innovators).
May 2, 2022
This books adds to the founations and framework of our potential. It would be interesting to see how these main concepts could be measures within organizations.
Profile Image for Micha Goebig.
Author 1 book6 followers
May 10, 2022
Good overview of what distinguishes leadership in innovation from more conventional leadership
86 reviews
August 17, 2015
I use this book in my Leadership, Creativity and Innovation class and I think it is outstanding. Collective Genius is the best introduction that I know to the newer concept of "leadership without starting with a vision." In many leadership situations these days, leadership has to start well before the vision comes clear. This is a good contrast to the vision-focused works of writers such as Warren Bennis or Kouznes and Posner -- not that the vision leadership is wrong, just that there are other options and other situations. I have picked many quotes from this book for my own work, but I will add one here for an introduction:

"We've described how innovative organizations need more than talented people. They also need leaders who can create and sustain a place--a context or environment--that unlocks the slice of genius in each of their people and then combines them into collective genius. And we described how leaders create that place by making sure their organizations are capable, in particular, of collaboration, discovery-driven learning, and integrative decision making."

Love that line, particularly the image of a "slice of genius", which implies that we all have a part, but genius is something more than one person. I also like the trio of collaboration, discovery-driven learning, and integrative decision making. It is very hard to create that combination, and even harder to sustain it, but to me that is the goal of a group. Each of those three areas can be expanded, and this book should lead to even more reading in diverse books including works by Peter Senge, Herminia Ibarra, and Eric Ries.
Profile Image for mavromou.
144 reviews4 followers
March 9, 2016
Es un libro maravilloso, indispensable e imprescindible si se quiere tener una visión moderna de lo que debe ser un líder en una organización del siglo XXI. Mediante una serie de estudios sistemáticos durante 10 años en diversas organizaciones los autores muestran con ejemplos extraídos de la realidad el qué y el cómo hacen y piensan los lideres para generar condiciones que propician la creatividad y la innovación.

It is a wonderful , indispensable and essential book if you want to have a modern vision of what should be a leader in an organization of the XXI century. Through a series of systematic studies for 10 years in various organizations the authors show with examples from reality what and how to do and think the leaders to create conditions to foster creativity and innovation.
Profile Image for Claudia Yahany.
192 reviews12 followers
March 14, 2016
La innovación está llena de paradojas, y para poder dirigirla hay que saber jugar con todas: hay que valorar a los individuos y a los grupos, hay que apoyar las ideas y confrontarlas, hay que experimentar, aprender y dar resultados al mismo tiempo, hay que permitir las improvisaciones y respetar la estructura, hay que ser pacientes y urgentes, hay que seguir iniciativas de todos los niveles de la organización. Todo al mismo tiempo y con una sonrisa en la cara.

El libro es un excelente resumen de mi aprendizaje (y frustraciones) de los últimos 7 años.
Dato cultural: lo leí en menos de 12 horas.
Profile Image for University of Chicago Magazine.
1,605 reviews30 followers
November 7, 2014
Linda Hill, AM'79, PhD'82

From our pages (Nov–Dec/14): How do some organizations innovate over and over again, while most can’t even start? The authors spent the past nine years exploring this question, talking with exceptional leaders of innovation across the globe, in industries ranging from filmmaking to e-commerce. Collective Genius distills their findings. The book provides a practical tool for leaders seeking to build and sustain a culture of innovation throughout their organizations. Spoiler alert: It ain’t easy. But it is worth the effort.
2 reviews47 followers
July 28, 2014
The book is a collection of essays from leaders who have successfully created an environment conducive to innovation. Hidden in these essays are solutions that have worked and solved the fundamental problems that inhibit innovation. I believe most executives will identify with the problems and challenges discussed in the book. Full review. . .
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews

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