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Published on: Friday, April 15, 2011

Breaking Away to Innovate


I recently went to a reception announcing the release of Breaking Away, a new book on "how great leaders create innovation that drives sustainable growth — and why others fail." There are many books on innovation, but this one is a keeper. It was written by the Jane Stevenson, Chairman, Board and CEO Services at Korn/Ferry International and Bilal Kaafarani, who has been a "serial" innovator at P&G, Kraft, Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

Stevenson's and Kaafarani's main purpose is to clarify what innovation is and how companies can consistently succeed in making the breakthroughs in innovation that lead to transformational change, revolutionizing an industry, a market or a company itself — the payoff being activating profitable and sustainable growth.

The excitement and passion of the authors for the subject is matched by the extensive in-depth interviews they did with 51 CEOs and innovation leaders around the world and the unique case studies they developed to illustrate both good and bad practices. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry Group, Beth Comstock, CMO at GE, and Murray Martin, CEO and President of Pitney Bowes were recognized contributors to the effort showing the breadth of innovation possibilities across all businesses.

Their main message "in the book" and "in person" is that there are four types of innovation that companies need to be continually engaged in — the transformational (e.g. the "creation of the big light bulb type idea) that opens an entire new business area, category innovation, market innovation and operational innovation.

What makes companies succeed in innovation? Stevenson is very clear: "Innovation fuels the engine of growth. Leadership delivers the fuel."

Stevenson and Kaafarani stress it isn't lip service to more brainstorming sessions, but leadership and effective process. Innovation needs to be embedded into every facet of business. Companies with CEOs with the vision to merge the innovation processes and build a team of committed, like-minded people into a powerful, self-sustaining innovation engine dominate markets.

In their book, Stevenson and Kaafarani highlight how companies drive the teamwork and a culture of innovation across their organizations to succeed. Celebration of an external focus and learning from successes and failures, avoiding arrogance and "I know" myopia and innovative ideas "hiding in plain sight" are three key concepts that permeate the book that we can all learn from.

Breaking Away is climbing the most popular book lists, and it should. Enjoy!

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Mark Anderson 's avatarMark Anderson
Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

Posted by David Siever
05/05 @ 09:19 AM
Saw this article by Bob Weber this morning while reading the news on my iPad. Looks like a good book, think I'll order it.
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Finding new ways to do business is always a challenge, but for success in an ever-changing world, business leaders today must be willing to try new things and remain extremely flexible. Read what some of the world's greatest innovators had to say in this ExecuNet exclusive.

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