To bring us into the holiday season, here’s a recent book review that was published on the ArtsFwd blog over at EmcArts. Titled “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovation,” the book gives a nice blow-by-blow account of some of the world’s most innovative leaders and companies, extracting insights that apply to all kinds of organizations, including those in the arts. Enjoy!


The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovation. By Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen.  Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011. 296 pp.

Steve Jobs untimely death has reinvigorated a decade-old ad campaign featuring the Apple CEO’s voice. The ad’s tagline, “Think Different,” succinctly reflects what Jobs (and Apple) are all about, and its continued popularity reflects the mainstreaming of creativity and innovation in our society.

These skills or traits are now expected from all kinds of organizations, and a recent poll of corporate executives suggests that creativity and innovation will be among the most important leadership competencies for the future. The implications of these findings are particularly acute in the arts, where “creativity” and “innovation” have become so commonplace that they have lost their meaning.  Yet while some folks assume arts organizations are inherently innovative, the recent struggles faced by many performance ensembles and dance companies suggest otherwise. What does innovation look like in the arts, and how can we think differently in trying times such as these?

In their recent book, The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovation, Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen attempt to demystify innovation by helping readers understand where disruptive business models come from. Each of the authors comes from a major business school (Dyer from BYU, Gregersen from INSEAD-Paris, and Christensen from Harvard), and collectively they bring together real-world observations and research findings to expose the nuts and bolts behind the world’s most innovative CEOs and organizations. The book takes the form of an integrated case study, drawing upon nearly a decades-worth of interviews with leaders from some of the world’s most successful companies (including eBay, Amazon, Virgin, IDEO, and of course Apple) to describe how innovation works. It also serves as an invaluable guide for managers interested in cultivating innovative practices within their organizations.

[Read the rest of this review here]