Hello again, this is Jill VanDewoestine chiming in again for the Technology Marketing Center with another review of great innovation books, and comments on implications for marketing.
Ron Adner's book on innovation is a straight-forward strategy book with a lot to like for technology marketers. The thesis is deceptively simple: most companies expect that by listening to the customer, building a product with a good value prop, and focusing on execution, they will succeed in innovation. Professor Adler identifies two major additional factors: Co-Innovation Risk (externally-developed technologies that must exist for the company's product to succeed) and Adoption Chain Risk (every participant in the value chain must adopt the new innovation for customers to realize the full value prop). By spending some time examining these factors, companies can either mitigate them or weed out unsuccessful projects earlier, resulting in a higher innovation success rate.
Adner presents useful tools to identify, analyze, and deal with these risks. Begin by mapping the value chain (which he calls the Value Blueprint), paying close attention to sources of co-innovation and adoption chain risks. Then figure out who stands to win and lose from your company's new product, and how much. Once this deep understanding of the ecosystem is established, the company can then decide if and how to try to change either its product or the environment in order to maximize its chance of success.
This analytical blueprint rings true to my own project experience and others I have observed. The book gives many examples of how companies have been -- or have not been -- able to identify and overcome co-innovation and adoption chain risk. Adner describes them in enough detail to illustrate his points but keeps things cogent and moving along. I especially appreciated his exploration of Better Place electric vehicles, which showed how all of his tools could be used in concert. (Better Place has liquidated since the book's publishing; here is a post-mortem by Adner.)
However, many of the concepts and tools in this book are not new. Adner gives a nod to Michael Porter, Robert G. Cooper and others for some of the basic concepts in innovation partnerships, value chain analysis and ecosystem impacts, but missed others (for example, his term Minimum Viable Footprint is an obvious twist on Minimum Viable Product, but this was not mentioned). He also gives the impression that it is simple to execute his tools and get good results. If a company is already involved in a particular ecosystem, that would be a reasonable assumption. If a firm is looking at an industry where it has little domain knowledge, it will take a lot more than a cursory analysis to uncover the deep insights that are necessary to avoid mistakes. After all, if companies like Michelin, Phizer, and Sony can miss key aspects of their own existing value chains, how much harder is it for others who are just entering an industry?
Bottom Line: this is an excellent book on new business development strategy that is readable and actionable. Its tools should be widely used and discussed by technology marketers and business leaders; just don't underestimate the work involved with implementing its recommendations.