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The Myths of Innovation

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How do we know if a hot new technology will succeed or fail? Most of us, even experts, get it wrong all the time. We depend more than we realize on wishful thinking and romanticized ideas of history. In the new paperback edition of this fascinating book, a book that has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, Slashdot.org, Lifehacker.com and in The New York Times, bestselling author Scott Berkun pulls the best lessons from the history of innovation, including the recent software and web age, to reveal powerful and suprising truths about how ideas become successful innovations -- truths people can easily apply to the challenges of today. Through his entertaining and insightful explanations of the inherent patterns in how Einstein’s discovered E=mc2 or Tim Berner Lee’s developed the idea of the world wide web, you will see how to develop existing knowledge into new innovations.

Each entertaining chapter centers on breaking apart a powerful myth, popular in the business world despite it's lack of substance. Through Berkun's extensive research into the truth about innovations in technology, business and science, you’ll learn lessons from the expensive failures and dramatic successes of innovations past, and understand how innovators achieved what they did -- and what you need to do to be an innovator yourself. You'll discover:


Why problems are more important than solutions
How the good innovation is the enemy of the great
Why children are more creative than your co-workers
Why epiphanies and breakthroughs always take time
How all stories of innovations are distorted by the history effect
How to overcome people’s resistance to new ideas
Why the best idea doesn’t often win
The paperback edition includes four new chapters, focused on appling the lessons from the original book, and helping you develop your skills in creative thinking, pitching ideas, and staying motivated.

"For centuries before Google, MIT, and IDEO, modern hotbeds of innovation, we struggled to explain any kind of creation, from the universe itself to the multitudes of ideas around us. While we can make atomic bombs, and dry-clean silk ties, we still don’t have satisfying answers for simple questions like: Where do songs come from? Are there an infinite variety of possible kinds of cheese? How did Shakespeare and Stephen King invent so much, while we’re satisfied watching sitcom reruns? Our popular answers have been unconvincing, enabling misleading, fantasy-laden myths to grow strong."

-- Scott Berkun, from the text

"Berkun sets us free to change the world."

-- Guy Kawasaki, author of Art of the Start

Scott was a manager at Microsoft from 1994-2003, on projects including v1-5 (not 6) of Internet Explorer. He is the author of three bestselling books, Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation and Confessions of a Public Speaker. He works full time as a writer and speaker, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes magazine, The Economist, The Washington Post, Wired magazine, National Public Radio and other media. He regularly contributes to Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Businessweek, has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington, and has appeared as an innovation and management expert on MSNBC and on CNBC. He writes frequently on innovation and creative thinking at his blog: scottberkun.com and tweets at @berkun.

192 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Scott Berkun

16 books298 followers
Scott Berkun is the author of four popular books, Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker and Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds. His work as a writer and speaker have appeared in the The Washington Post, the New York Times, Wired, the Economist, Fast Company, Forbes, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio and other media. His many popular essays and entertaining lectures can be found for free on his blog at http://www.scottberkun.com, and he tweets at https://twitter.com/berkun.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 147 reviews
12 reviews10 followers
June 21, 2015
I'm big on critical thinking. I'm also big on recognising magical thinking.

Back in college I'd meet girls who kept saying that their boyfriends are extremely smart and can read a book once and remember everything they've read. I then went and followed those guys around, looked at their studying habits from afar and saw that they not only read their books multiple times, they mark things, underline, annotate, note, make notes on notes, summarise, rehears and what have you.

There were no magical geniuses, nor were there superhuman idea men or women.

This realisation and proof isn't just important for debunking silly magical thinking. It is important for those who think less of themselves when they hear these stories. "They only need to read it once and I have to spend hours on a single chapter, I'm not cut out for this, I better quit."

I've motivated several people who now have their bachelor's or master's degrees. I told them about how these people simply do not exist, explained how these perceived geniuses work and how they can do it too.

This book too, takes off the shroud of mystery and exposes that genius and innovation doesn't just happen. It takes work and dedication.

I really liked it and will recommend it to others.
Profile Image for Jessica.
47 reviews4 followers
January 22, 2014
In a way, this book is an excellent bibliography for OTHER books on creativity and innovation. I liked it! I enjoyed it! It was short and sweet, and hammered home (repeatedly) the point that there is NO magic bullet for innovation and creativity - it may not be 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, but the ratio isn't far off. I loved the annotated and "ranked" bibliography, and this has definitely inspired other reading choices for me. It was nice to continue debunking the "linear progress of science/math/technology/knowledge through the ages," and I loved that he not only mentioned historiograhy, he highly encourages all of his readers to go read the seminal book on historiography (the 1960's masterpiece by E.H. Carr - "What is History?"). I liked it, but in the end it's not giving me any more NEW information beyond that offered in other books - hence the lower rating. A good quick read, though - good writing, enjoyable prose. It certainly is a good reminder that ideas are cheap - it's the motivation and stick-to-it-iveness to see your idea reach reality that is in short supply. Speaking of which, perhaps I should get back to my own projects!
Profile Image for Q.T. Pi.
Author 1 book22 followers
February 11, 2018
A short read that reminds you good things don't necessarily happen all at once. It's human nature to want to attribute groundbreaking discoveries to one person, when in reality the overnight success was really forty years in the making.

There were over 500 people working on the Apollo Mission that landed the first man on the moon but people associate it with Neil Armstrong, and sometimes Buzz Aldrin. Thomas Edison only invented the lightbulb because the technology already existed from the discoveries of two lesser-known inventors: Joseph Swan and Humphry Davy.

The main takeaway from this book, at least for me, was greatness is not a readymade meal. It isn't all included by one mind, it's the culmination of many small victories before it finally takes off throughout mainstream culture/utility.
Profile Image for Michael Huang.
805 reviews35 followers
Read
March 8, 2018
There are some myths about innovation: they come from epiphany, people like new ideas, managers are great at encouraging them... In reality, the author claims, innovation is rather different. They are the result of small steps, rather than one inspiration. People actually find new things unfamiliar so feed them smaller increments such as giving them samples to get used to. Many great ideas are rejected by managers, editors, and what not. So don’t feel discouraged.

Overall, the observations are probably true on the balance. But I have to nitpick. Edison is perhaps more accurate in attributing 1% to inspiration. Sure, even that 1% inspiration will strike the person sweating about an idea for a long time. We can’t sit around waiting for epiphanies, but they do occur — case in point: Einstein’s happiest thought in his life.
Profile Image for Nasim.
19 reviews16 followers
August 28, 2020
نکته های خیلی خوبی داشت این کتاب

ایده های خوب یهویی پیدا نمیشن و حاصل ایده های کوچکتر و زمان و تلاش زیاد هستند

ایده های خوب همیشه مورد قبول عموم یا مدیران قرار نمی گیرند

و اینکه نتیجه تلاش یک فرد به خصوص نیستن
Profile Image for Gregg.
74 reviews58 followers
January 20, 2013
The science of creation is known as imagineering. I think these concepts should be taught at least at the high school level. The grand scheme of evolution is to be "equal" co-creators with ALL-THAT-IS. As we accelerate our movement towards that state, the necessary tools will come into place, and this book is one such tool. The writing was lucid and contemporary. I enjoyed how the author used real life examples of some of the great minds of our known history. Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Jobs, Mother Teresa, all these individuals had to "create" ways to manifest, and for most of them it took hard work. The belief that they were lucky, or just born that way, is a mantra that people use to deceive themselves into not using their own creativity. There are a number of books on the subject of creativity, and they are listed in the back of this book, but this text stands out as a goodread, and was definitely an eye opener for me.
Profile Image for Howard Liu.
13 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2017
Interesting book with lots of historical references that reveal the practical side of innovation. By stripping innovation from its falsely glorified epiphanies, the writer convinces us that the great creations in history are accomplished by people similar to you and I, who put themselves in the right environment, defined clear goals, built upon existing ideas, then achieved it via plain grit and balls. However, in an effort to explain his points and perhaps lighten the mood, the book makes many far-fetched comparisons, resulting in a disconcerting amount of false analogies. This makes the book almost intolerable at certain points. Still, the points made are insightful and down-to-earth, convincing us that hard work is indeed the only true formula of success.
Profile Image for John de' Medici.
148 reviews20 followers
January 7, 2021
An easily accessible read that debunks notions that most of us usually have on innovation, innovators and where ground-breaking ideas come from.

The book outlines some of these myths, where they originate from, what they get wrong, and most importantly hints at the murky, complicated, beautiful and messy way that innovations spring.

An overall good read.
January 31, 2020
Great book for entrepreneurs or anyone interested in the history of innovation! Also, some interesting clips of the author speaking on Youtube.
327 reviews5 followers
October 27, 2019
1.เราไม่ได้คิดอะไรได้เลย ต้องเกิดจากการทุ่มเทพยายาม
2.ประวัติศาสตร์ที่คิดว่านักคิดคิดแบบนั้นได้ไม่เป็นความจริง ส่วนใหญ่เป็นเรื่องราวชวนเชื่อทั้งนั้น
3.วิธีคิดที่ถูกต้องไม่มี
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5.ไม่มีใครคิดอะไรได้ด้วยตัวคนเดียว
6.ความคิดไม่ได้หายากแค่เราไม่คิด
7.ไม่มีใครคิดได้ดีกว่าใคร
8.ทุกคนชอบความคิดที่ชนะ
9.ความคิดหนึ่งแก้ปัญหาและนำปัญหามาให้
10.คิดได้ แต่ขายความคิดยากกว่า
Profile Image for Michael Scott.
724 reviews130 followers
July 17, 2011
I read Scott Berkun's The Myths of Innovation as part of my own studies of innovation, creativity, and productivity in research (in other words, my own quest to improve my work-related abilities). It was a few hours' read.

What I liked about this book:
1. The easy-to-read feel.
2. The annotated and the ranked bibliographies, and in particular Scott Berkun's ranking system; books are sorted by the number of notes Scott took. Scott's ranked a solid 47 in my list.
3. The many points where I could say "I agree". For example: "The systems of education and professional life, similar by design, push the idea-finding habits of fun and play to the corners of our minds, training us out of our creativity." (My actual comment was "A bit militant and unscientific, but believable.")
4. A series of nice examples (although heard about before, see negative point #2.)
5. A chapter on pitching ideas (see negatives 1 and 2).


What I disliked:
1. This book is trivial.
2. This book rehashes the things I've heard about over the past decade.
3. The author's own admission that "there is no real formula". (This is compounded by negatives 1 and 2.
4. The author's attempt to defend against points 1-3 (e.g., "But this advice does not seem 'innovative,' and since people somehow assume advice on innovation must itself be innovative, they dismiss it.") I'd rather read about a new theory than this summary.


Overall, I liked the book and decided to read "one more Berkun". Not a masterpiece of thought, just a good survey.


**** spoilers ****
Profile Image for George Rodriguez.
Author 10 books9 followers
December 14, 2011
I immediately liked this book after reading the "Commitment to research accuracy" page near the front. Any author who goes above and beyond in their effort to provide the most accurate information they can and even provides a link to report inaccuracies cares about his readers and this resonates throughout the rest of the book.

Mr. Berkun has clearly been on a quest to discover not only the basics of creative thinking, but how it relates to entrepreneurs and invention. Using this bottom up approach to innovation allows him to target 10 myths of innovation and analyze them so we can understand where they came from and how to avoid them. Each myth is allotted its own chapter and they are as follows (along with my quick thoughts on each chapter):

1. The myth of epiphany (epiphany looks like hard work and wears overalls)

2. We understand the history of innovation (the victors write the history)

3. There is a method for innovation (great chapter, worth the price of whole book)

4. People love new ideas (great ideas usually don't look great, ask Google)

5. The lone inventor (one of my favorite chapters - nobody goes it alone)

6. Good ideas are hard to find (have more ideas,have crazy ideas,have no fear with your ideas)

7. Your boss knows more about innovation than you (don't confuse power with creativity)

8. The best ideas win (winning isn't based on how good the idea is)

9. Problems and solutions (problems matter and how you define them matters more)

10. Innovation is always good (unintended consequences matter)

Berkun closes the book with chapters on hype and history, creative thinking hacks, how to pitch an idea and how to stay motivated. His aside in the hype and history chapter that "if you want to be creative, you must create things" is at first glance simple advice, but for me it speaks to the core message of this book: if you want to get anything out of this book you have to do something. He has provided the roadmap, we have to begin the journey.

Finally, Berkun does an excellent job of not only listing sources in each chapter (which is nirvana for those willing to further explore original source material), but his "Research and recommendations" appendix, specifically the ranked bibliography, were outstanding ideas and deserve special mention.

A definite must read for anyone interested in innovation, ideas, creativity and not only what not to do, but what to do on their innovation journey.
Profile Image for John McElhenney.
41 reviews3 followers
August 8, 2008
The eureka moment of innovation we are all hoping for is a fallacy. All of the fables of great inventions and ah-ha's (Newton's apple, Franklin's lightning strike) were not moments of inspiration but inflection points in a process of great effort.

The stages of innovation are:
1. Learning and submersion
2. Working the problem
3. Ah ha
4. The hard work that goes into realizing the ah ha.

Tons of us have epiphanies. Not very many of us use those insights to build an empire.

Berkun is a fantastic writer and this little book has a lot of spirit.
Profile Image for Yvo Hunink.
60 reviews
December 16, 2016
While some of the myths seem trivial, Scott Berkun acknowledges this, they are indeed common thoughts that have crossed my mind too.

With clear examples, Scott dismisses many of the common thoughts we have. For example, did you know the Wright brothers promoted their newly developed aeroplane as a device that could stop the need for war, because it would make it to easy to spot enemy troops? Their envisioned use has clearly turned a different way and so do most ideas.

A good read for anyone who has the deep wish of starting building a new idea or is doing so.
Profile Image for James.
Author 1 book6 followers
May 4, 2010
Had the privilege of reading a pre-publication draft of this. It's short, and I recommend it. In particular I want to take the "Myth of the Lone Inventor" chapter and wave it at half the people in Silicon Valley.
Profile Image for Steve Garfield.
Author 3 books39 followers
December 5, 2009
I knew it. Everything we learned in school WAS wrong. This is a great read.
Profile Image for Alicia.
Author 2 books21 followers
September 20, 2014
Penn Hillman Scholars program is giving us "summer reading"...
361 reviews67 followers
August 30, 2011
Notes from Myths of Innovation:

I wondered whether Beethoven or Hemingway, great minds noted for thriving on conflict, could survive in such a nurturing environment without going postal. How did Shakespeare and Stephen King create so much, while we're satisfied watching sitcom reruns?

Myths are often more satisfying to us than the truth, which explains their longevity and resistance to facts: we want to believe that they're true. This begs the question: is shaping the truth into the form of an epiphany myth a kind of lie, or is it just smart PR? Myths always serve promotion more than education.

Part of the challenge of innovation is coming up with the problem to solve, not just its solution.

In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, he studied the thought processes of nearly 100 creative people, from artists to scientists, including notables like Davies, Gould, Norman, Pauling, Salk, Shankar, and Wilson. He focused instead on the innovators' individual insights.

I think it's very important to be idle…people who keep themselves busy all the time are generally not creative. So I am not ashamed of being idle.

Stand still and watch the patterns, which by pure chance have been generated: Stains on the wall, or the ashes in a fireplace, or the clouds in the sky, or the gravel on the beach or other things. If you look at them carefully you might discover miraculous inventions.

The big ideas are a small part of the process of true innovation.

Successful entrepreneurs do not wait until “the Muse kisses them” and gives them a “bright idea”: they go to work. Altogether they do not look for the “biggie,” the innovation that will “revolutionize the industry,” create a “billion-dollar business” or “make one rich over-night.” Those entrepreneurs who start out with the idea that they'll make it big—and in a hurry—can be guaranteed failure. They are almost bound to do the wrong things. An innovation that looks very big may turn out to be nothing but technical virtuosity; and innovation with modest intellectual pretensions, a McDonald's, for instance, may turn into gigantic, highly profitable businesses.

If history seems perfect, it's not because life made more sense to people then—it's because much is hidden about what happened and why.

Simply because one thing has replaced another doesn't mean that it improves on it in every respect, and as conditions change, the notion of improved does as well.

Entrepreneurs are drawn to new markets because they have at least as good a chance as anyone else, even if they have less funding or experience.

At the time, Atari, Xerox, and HP made reasonable business decisions.

Innovating comes at a price: it might be money, time, sanity, friends, or marriages, but there will definitely be one.

The eventual problem with excessive, dreamy curiosity is that— instead of making our own beginnings, right here and now—we seek to reuse others' proven magic.

“It doesn't matter where you start, as long as you start.”

Many innovations are driven by the quest for cash. Peter Drucker believed Thomas Edison's primary ambition was to be a captain of industry, not an innovator: “His real ambition…was to be a business builder and to become a tycoon.”

The founders of many great companies initially planned to sell their ideas and designs to larger corporations but, unable to sell, reluctantly chose to go it alone.

Innovation is powered by the combination of intensity and a willingness to reconsider assumptions, minimizing the chance of following dead ends and maximizing the potential for finding better paths.

We reuse ideas and opinions all the time, rarely committing to the truly new.

Even innovators themselves read movie reviews, consult Zagat restaurant ratings, and shop at IKEA, distributing the burden of dealing with new ideas.

Even early adopters, people who thrive on using the latest things, are at best adventurous consumers, not creators.

New ideas spread at speeds determined by psychology and sociology, not the abstract merits of those new ideas. Innovation has to be compatible with habits, beliefs, values, and lifestyles. The smaller the perceived conceptual gap, the higher the rate of acceptance.

Perceived advantage is built on factors that include economics, prestige, convenience, fashion, and satisfaction.

They also benefited from powerful friendships: da Vinci was a pal of Machiavelli, and Michelangelo was childhood friends with Pope Clement.

Much like children, the people who earn the label creative are, as Howard Gardner explains in Frames of Mind, “not bothered by inconsistencies, departures from convention, non-literalness…”, and run with unusual ideas that most adults are too rigid, too arrogant, or too afraid to entertain.

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,”

We reward conformance of mind, not independent thought, in our systems—from school to college to the work-place to the home—yet we wonder why so few are willing to take creative risks.

Whenever ideas are needed because of a crisis or a change, there's a fire-drill call, an immediate demand. But rarely is the call met with sufficient resources—namely time—to mine those ideas. The bigger the challenge, the more time it will take to find ideas, but few remember this when criticizing ideas to death moments after they've been born.

Linus Pauling, the only winner of two solo Nobel Prize awards in history, had this to say about finding ideas: “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas."

Over 70% believed they got their best ideas by exploring areas they were not experts in.

You have three things: facts, ideas, and solutions - You need to spend quality time with each individually.

Idea-finding (aka brainstorming) rules:
1. Produce as many ideas as possible.
2. Produce ideas as wild as possible.
3. Build upon each other's ideas.
4. Avoid passing judgment.

According to Osborn, a group of four or five properly led people can continually find new ideas for anything for a half-hour to an hour, producing 50 or 100 ideas before running out of steam.

Judgment isn't necessary during exploration; we don't know enough about the possibilities, so why would we reject or accept any idea?

Peter Drucker writes, “Management tends to believe that anything that has lasted for a fair amount of time must be normal and go on forever. Anything that contra-dicts what we have come to consider a law of nature is then rejected as unsound.”

Teams with healthy idea life cycles are easy to spot: ideas flow between people easily and in large volumes. Conversations are vibrant with questions and suggestions; prototypes and demos happen regularly; and people commit to finding and fighting for good ideas.

Bob Taylor hired with innovation in mind, recruiting people who naturally challenged the status quo and were self-driven pursuers of their imaginations. He wanted people who thrived on the uncertainties of doing new things, who could drive ideas forward. Taylor viewed his management role not as a grand creator or assembly-line foreman, but as an enabler of other people's ideas. And it worked—his team developed the laser printer, Ethernet, object-oriented computing, and the graphical user interface (GUI).

Too much idealism, and the work never ships—not enough, and little change is brought to the world.

All innovation heroes survived the closing of doors in their faces: Carlson (Xerox), Jobs (Apple II), Page and Brin (Google), and Smith (FedEx). As persuasive as these greats might have been, they weren't convincing enough to prevent rejections.

The difference between success and failure is most often relentlessness, not talent or charisma.

Jobs explains, “I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Persuasion is a skill; if sufficiently motivated, anyone can improve.

Every successful innovation depends on getting people to believe in things that have not been done before.

Fairy tales and hero stories follow similar patterns: good guys win, bad guys lose, and people who do the right thing get nice prizes.

More than 4,000 mousetrap patents exist, yet only around 20 ever became profitable products.

Fireplaces, staples in American cabins and homes, are one of the least efficient heating systems known to man. Fireplaces, mentioned earlier, are popular because of how they look more so than how they function.

Many dominant designs achieve popularity on the back of another innovation. Better designs might follow, but to gain acceptance, they must improve on that dominant idea by a sufficient margin to justify the costs of the switch (e.g., relearning how to type).

Many superior ideas are rejected by societies interested in cheaper, shorter-term gains. In the 1930s, major cities in the U.S. had public transportation—trolleys and tram systems modeled on successful designs from Europe. But in the rush of the 1950s, and the thrill of automotive power, those street-cars were removed and replaced with new lanes for cars.

The truth is complex: sometimes forcing innovation adoption works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Most successful innovations are not the most valuable or the best ideas, but the ones that appear on the sweet spot between what's good from the expert's perspective, and what can be easily adopted, given the uncertainties of all the secondary factors combined.

The first innovators— driven by complete faith in their ideas—are so often beaten in the market, and in public perception, by latecomers willing to compromise.

Problem solving is not nearly as important as problem finding.

Einstein once said, “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it,”

Being curious of mind, he followed his own logic and asked questions others were unwilling to ask, and when he saw no answers, he simply set about finding his own.

Edison framed the problem, and aimed to make an electricity system cities could use to adopt his lights.

Instead of focusing on engineering constraints, or lofty dreams of revolutionizing computers, they focused on what customers wanted. Fit in a shirt pocket:
• Sync seamlessly with PC
• Fast and easy to use
• Not more than $299

We forget that the common sense we hold dear today was, years or centuries ago, discovered by an innovative mind willing to ignore the common sense of her own time.

What we casually call good is rarely beneficial to everyone: it depends on who you are and where you stand.

No one is immune from wishful thinking, or hubris, when it comes to predicting the future

The lesson is that morality, or any philosophy, is invisible to the forces of innovation, and any innovator who takes his work seriously must operate with this in mind.


In fact, software that rewards people for slowing down and thinking about what they're reading and writing might be the greatest innovation of our time.

Many innovations, for all their progress, leave behind a sailboat of forgotten goodness. And in our race to innovate, we instinctively reject people who hold on to the past, We discount the possibility that there is something timeless and good worth keeping, which our new idea might unintentionally eliminate.

The best philosophy of innovation is to accept both change and tradition and to avoid the traps of absolutes.

Many of them were dropouts or wanderers in the spaces between disciplines and professions.

Many of the great figures didn't care to study; they preferred to do.

Most progress throughout history was achieved by people working without the theories, resources, and devices we depend on today.

When faced with a day of avoidable hard work (e.g., work on a pet project that might lead to a breakthrough—or might not), our brains are amazingly fertile places for distraction. And a favorite kind of distraction is the quest for silver bullets. When we start looking for those silver bullets, we get distracted from the actual work and, before we know it, it's time for a meeting, dinner, or to go to bed. We postpone the only path that can give us what we want, namely, ordinary hard work, in favor of the wishful but impossible fantasy of finding a magic shortcut. Many people repeat the same failed cycle, convinced the failure is in their lack of knowing some secret, rather than their inability to put in the long, unavoidable hours required to fulfill their dreams

The solution to these dangerous traps is simple: if you want to be creative, you must create things. If you want to be innovative, you must make things for other people. Just as if you want to be a guitar player, you should spend time every day actually playing guitar. End of story.

What's rare is the willingness to bet your reputation, career, or finances on your ideas—to commit fully to pursuing them.

History suggests clear language is one of the tools great thinkers, creators, and innovators have always used.

The opposite is true. It's the simple patterns and challenges that are ignored and discounted, and that fact more than any other explains much of the confusion and failure out there.

She expressed how the pivotal role of collaboration, the “lack of interpersonal fear” as she describes it, plays in the team's ability to solve problems.

[At Pixar] there is very high tolerance for eccentricity, [people are] very creative…to the point where some are strange…but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative—we get rid of them. If we don't have a healthy group then it isn't going to work.

Get used to the fear you feel when starting something new, as well as the feeling of getting past that fear.

Get paper and a pencil and make some lists of problems you'd like to solve

A film director is the singular creative leader on a movie; yet most corporate or academic projects divide leadership across committees, diffusing authority, which always makes decisions more conservative


Many people quit on their second or third try.

An idea is a combination of other ideas.

If you want to be a creator instead of a consumer, you must view existing ideas as fuel for your mind

Over time, creative masters learn to find, evaluate, and explore more combinations than other people. They get better at guessing which combinations will be more interesting, so their odds improve. They also learn there are reusable combinations, or pat-terns, that can be used again and again to develop new ideas or modify existing ones.




Creativity has more to do with being fearless than intelligent or any other adjective superficially associated with it. This explains why many people feel more creative when drinking, on drugs, or late at night: these are all times when their inhibitions are lower, or at least altered, and they allow themselves to see more combinations of things than they do normally.


Start paying attention to your rhythms and then construct your creative activities around them. I learned that I tend to be most creative late at night. I don't find it convenient, and neither does my family, but I've recognized it to be true. If I want to maximize my creativity, I will spend hours working late at night



Being creative for kicks is easy. But if you want to be creative on demand you must develop helpful habits, and that's about persistence.

Study the histories of great creators, and you'll find a common core of willpower and commitment as their driving force.

Forget brilliance or genetics, the biggest difference between the greats and us was their dedication to their craft.

Writing proposals, sketching designs, pitching ideas: it's all work you know how to do. But how far are you actually willing to go to make your idea real?

Einstein and Bohr used to debate physics while going for long walks—they both believed they thought better when moving around.

If your goal was to design the best website for your team, switch to designing the worst one you can imagine. Five minutes at an inverted problem will get your frustrations out, make you laugh, and likely get you past your fears.

Try explaining your problem to a child, or to the smartest person you know, which will force you to describe and think about the problem differently

Stop reading and start doing. The word create is a verb. Be active. Go make things. Make dinner, make a drawing, make a fire, make some noise, but make. If all your attempts at being creative consist of passively consuming, no matter how brilliant what you consume is, you'll always be a consumer, not a creator.

So before you pitch, you must study the innovators of the past and be prepared to face the common kinds of rejections (see “Idea killers” on page 90).

People rarely think about their ideas thoroughly enough to recognize why no one has executed on them before.

They have to put together the plans, skills, and thinking required to deliver the ideas to the world before anyone will take them seriously.

Getting feedback on a hunch or vague idea is fine provided you have a friend who is a sounding board and doesn't feel like you're wasting his time. But don't take your pitch to your boss or a potential investor until you're able to answer some basic questions.

Others are only convinced by data and won't start listening until there are some numbers to look at.

Always prepare three versions of your pitch: 5 seconds, 30 seconds, and 5 minutes.

Never allow yourself to believe yours is so complicated and amazing that it's impossible to explain in a sentence.

There is always the risk of coming off as phony, like Vince, the ShamWow guy of infomercial fame. Too much polish and perfection can work against you.

Most successful creative people, including entrepreneurs, pitch their ideas dozens of times before getting a single bite.

Businesses, especially those on the Web, can be founded on small-business loans or second mortgages.

The masters in all fields are foremost great self-manipulators, orchestrating their will to achieve what the rest of us cannot (or will not).

All great ideas require grunt work. Van Gogh mixed his own paints. Michelangelo cut his own marble. If you chicken out because you don't want to get your hands dirty, know that you are putting yourself in not-very-worthy company. Find a partner willing to be paid for the grunt work you hate

You might need to take long walks or travel alone, like Buddha, Jesus, and Confucius all did, enjoying stretches where you make every single decision yourself for hundreds of hours, before you'll hear it, but it's there. Buy a one-way ticket to somewhere no one you know has ever gone.

No professional athlete likes to train every single day, but they do. No professional writer likes to write every single day, but they do, too. A week from now, will I wish I had worked today or slacked off?

One definition of wisdom is context. You need to be able to com-pare one thing to another to have insight and act wisely.

Interviews are the only way to access true stories of innovation too graphic, embarrassing, absurd, or criminal to ever find their way on the record.

Scott is based in Seattle, WA, if you'd like to hire him to speak at an event, see: www.scottberkun.com.

From the references list:
* The Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
* Beethoven: The Universal Composer, Edmund Morris
* What Is History?, Edward Hallett Carr
* Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
* The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki
* Blockbusters, Gary S. Lynn
* Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days, Jessica Livingston
* Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age, Michael A. Hiltzik

December 28, 2019
The Myths of Innovation uses many other works to define innovation in condensed and useful language, easy to read. If you are an entrepreneur, or are a practising designer or engineer, this isn't going to tell you anything you don't already understand somewhere in your conscious, but it is going to help you articulate to others, when the need arises, what innovation is, and how best to best support a knowledge worker towards your goals.

There is always a challenge between innovation and the status quo, and confusion of the useful boundaries of management (control of work through others against a past ways of doing things), and leadership (a vision and moving others to a future state). The management ideology often extends beyond risk mitigation and resource allocation, and into role attempting to 'manage' creative knowledge workers through a hierarchical decision making role. The Myths of Innovation is a must read for the manager who owns innovation, yet doesn't do innovation. The knowledge worker, the people who define problems, solve problems, experiment, prototype, and pour creative drive (intrinsic motivation) into satisfying a curious need or desire to achieve a vision or goal, need leadership, and managing reinforces the status quo, rather than breaks down barriers towards the goal.
Profile Image for Pipat Tanmontong.
109 reviews10 followers
August 2, 2019
ไม่กี่ปีมานี้ เราได้ยินผู้คนพูดกันมากมายว่ายุคนี้เป็นยุคที่เศรษฐกิจถูกขับเคลื่อนด้วย”นวัตกรรม”
ผู้คนมากมายกระโจนลงสู่วงธุรกิจ start up ความหวังที่ว่า”ความคิด”ของเราจะเปลี่ยนโลก สร้างรายได้ ถูกจุดขึ้นในใจผู้คน
แล้วไอ้”นวัตกรรม”ที่ดีนี่มันต้องนิยามกันอย่างไรนะ? สูตรลับในการเป็นนวัตกรที่ประสบความสำเร็จล่ะ จะเรียนได้ที่ไหน?
หนังสือเล่มนี้ช่วยตอบเราได้นะ มันไม่ใช่หนังสือที่บอกสูตรสำเร็จกับเราแต่จะปลุกเราให้ตื่น จากมายาคติต่างๆ ที่เราเคยได้ยินมรจากเรื่องเล่าของนวัตกรชื่อก้องโลกผู้ประสบความสำเร็จ
หนังสือเล่มนี้ช่วยให้เราตระหนักรู้ถึงระยะห่างระหว่าง”ไอเดียเจ๋งๆ”ในโลกของความคิด กับ”ผลงานสักชิ้น”ในโลกแห่งความจริง
ผู้เขียนพยายามตรกรอบให้เรารู้ว่า”การทำอะไรใหม่”ที่คนอื่นยังไม่ค่อยทำกันเราต้องเจออะไรบ้าง
ผมว่าหลังจากนี้ ข้อคิดที่ฉุกคิดได้จากการอ่านหนังสือเล่มนี้จะเป็น”เข็มทิศ”ที่ผมใช้เวลาเริ่มต้นทำอะไรใหม่ๆ
54 reviews5 followers
July 6, 2019
With just 147 pages, Scott is able to breakdown the concept of innovation, offering insights on the history of innovation, debunking myths around epiphany and serendipity, discussing factors that may influence or contribute to innovation while evaluating innovations in the light of success vs failure and good versus bad. Personally, a key takeaway is the importance of framing a problem where the bulk of the effort should be spent on defining the problem, as "a properly defined problem is partially solved". By the end of it, you'll come to realise there is no secret recipe, ideas never standalone, innovations are unpredictable and it just comes down to good old honest, persistent doing and learning. Well worth your time as it is succinct and engaging.
25 reviews
August 14, 2020
4 ดาว สำหรับหนังสือ��ล่มนี้
หนังสือเล่มนี้สามารถอ่านได้อย่างไม่ยากเย็นฮะ สำหรับคนที่สนใจนวัตกรรม ผมคิดว่าเหมาะอย่างยิ่งเลยฮะ ถ้าคุณเป็นคนหนึ่งที่ชอบพูดคำว่านวัตกรรมในสถานการณ์ต่างๆ ไม่ว่าจะในวงสนทนา เวลานำเสนอโปรเจคในมหาลัย หรือเวลาที่เสนองานในที่ทำงาน เพราะหนังสือจะชวนคุณสนทนา และคิดวิเคราะห์ถึงคำๆนี้กันอย่างเต็มอิ่มหลากหลายมุมกันอย่างจุใจเลยฮะ
สำหรับเนื้อหา หนังส��อรวมความเชื่อที่คนมักจะเชื่อกันผิดๆ 10 ข้อเกี่ยวกับนวัตกรรม รวมกับประเด็นเรื่องความคิดสร้างสรรค์ การขายไอเดีย และการรักษาแรงขับในการสร้างสรรค์งาน
สำหรับผมแล้ว หนังสือเล่มนี้ชวนผมขบคิดถึงความหมาย และแง่มุมต่างๆของนวัตกรรมเหมือนมีเพื่อนมาตั้งคำถามกับตัวผมเลย เพราะผมกำลังทำโปรเจคหนึ่งอยู่เช่นกัน อ่านแล้วรู้สึกได้กำลังใจในการทำงานขึ้น เพราะผมเห็นด้วยกับหลายๆ แนวคิด(ที่ไม่ได้เป็นคำคมแต่อย่างใด) จากหนังสือเล่มนี้
333 reviews2 followers
January 25, 2023
This is an exceptional book because it goes beyond what's on the surface of discoveries and innovations.

Innovation has been glamorized far too much and little detail is provided further.
This books reminds us that innovation is built on hard work, and this idea ties in perfectly with two other books - The Practice by Seth Godin and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Aside from this, the concept of working to fine-tune your innovation is critical and not often discussed in much detail.

If you are curious or a student of history or you just like to get to the bottom of things accurately, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Antoine Buteau.
14 reviews11 followers
March 17, 2018
Good ideas can come from anywhere and are usually the result of the connection of multiple small insights. Eureka moments don't really exist as ideas rest in the mind and the connections are made by doing other activities or mingling with other people. An other factor to keep in mind is how the innovation will fit in the current cultural values.
Book is OK, examples are good, but would have wanted more tools.
512 reviews10 followers
October 23, 2018
It starts with a Berkun-typical anecdote but quickly turns into a history book about (American) interventions. I like this style much more and I am happy that it is more about facts than episodes out of Scott’s life. The myths he tries to debunk are strawman arguments at best and where in other books much better debunked using far less words and better examples. All in all, I fail to see what Scott adds to the topic of innovation.
Profile Image for Martin Chalupa.
224 reviews4 followers
November 29, 2020
I liked the ideas presented in the book. How things evolve and there is no single point of breakthrough innovation but rather layers of ideas which overtime create big innovation together. I felt that the book repeated the idea from multiple angles. I usually prefer shorter get to the point description and in the end, it felt a bit repetitive. I would probably be satisfied with a much shorter version.
Profile Image for acid.
10 reviews2 followers
May 23, 2017
Although it is a thorough read on the topic I found it really hard to chew, as you can see on the time I needed for the read.

A delight were the last two chapters which appear to be added in later editions. Considering that this was his first book I'm really happy that he learned so much from it, I really recommend his later works! :)
Profile Image for André Gomes.
Author 3 books108 followers
February 12, 2018
New ideas need to be nurtured and developed over time in an encouraging environment. The modern workplace is a challenging environment for innovation because it’s overseen by managers whose training and experience go against the forces required for innovation. This book gives you some good insights to get rid of false ideias about innovation and create a better environment for it go flourish.
27 reviews
November 15, 2019
Great book especially because it has history. The only reason I did not give a 5 star is because many negative references refer to "she" while more of the positive references refer to "he". Also minimal reference to female innovators as examples other than Madame Curie which is odd or history did not record them?
Profile Image for Sashko Valyus.
193 reviews9 followers
July 26, 2020
Коротка, лакончіний, але і різнобічний погляд на інновації. Тут не лише про те, як генерувати хороші ідеї, але і про їхні наслідки. Тут немає готових рецептів, скоріше їжа для думок, напрям мислення і здоровий реалізм ��а інновації. Невелкика книга на пару вечорів. П'ять зірок за лаконічність і конкретику
Displaying 1 - 30 of 147 reviews

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