Skimmer's Guide: The Wide Lens
The book: The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation, by Ron Adner; Portfolio.
The big idea: Invention used to be 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. These days, it's probably 50 percent collaboration. Companies trying to commercialize innovations won't succeed unless suppliers, distributors, and other partners can and will do their parts.
Out, out, weak links: Adner, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, explains how to map relationships among all constituents who touch your brilliant idea and evaluate their ability and willingness to deliver. Even if an innovation benefits your customers, it could flop if it negatively affects a partner.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Two evaluates co-innovation risk—your reliance on partner companies to innovate. Adner points to Nokia, which was the first to market with a 3G mobile phone in 2002. The handsets failed to take off, because the company paid insufficient attention to the software makers whose offerings would have made the devices more attractive. Chapter Three calculates adoption-chain risk, your reliance on retailers and distributors embracing your innovation. Movie studios, for example, were excited about the potential of digital cinema but had trouble persuading theater chains to adopt the technology, because it involved expensive upgrades.
Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Adner spent a decade researching innovation, including a deep dive into the semiconductor industry.