BYU business professors Jeff Dyer’s and Nathan Furr’s new book, called “The Innovator’s Method,” was named an Amazon “Best Book of the Month.” Dyer detailed the book’s approach with the Harvard Business Review, explaining the three main take-aways from the book.
Business school teaches good managing but bad innovating
A 10-year study about the productivity of the most innovative companies and their operations sparked the idea for the book. Some of Furr’s and Dyer’s discoveries through the researching process surprised them. They found that the techniques managers learn to improve already existing business plans and streamline production can actually be counterproductive to innovation.
“Why can’t some big companies innovate? For the most part, it’s because they are using those traditional management tools, and they are squeezing the life out of innovation,” Furr said. “If you’re using tools that reduce uncertainty so that you can be more efficient, then you are not, by definition, able to entertain the uncertainty that would allow new ideas to flourish.”
Reducing costs and risks
The book’s method uses the lean startup technique, mentioned in Furr’s earlier book called “Nail It then Scale It.“ The method uses inexpensive experimentation to get genuine feedback from potential consumers, allowing unsuccessful ideas to be discarded early on.
“It reduces the risks and costs of innovation because you test and validate your ideas before you invest to launch it,” Dyer said. “If you decide it’s not a good idea, you don’t launch it, and that helps take out some of the risks involved with innovation.”
Furr and Dyer narrowed their research down to four main things business schools and companies need to teach to allow innovation to thrive.
1. Create processes to generate and capture new insight.
2. Deeply understand customer needs to ensure you nail a problem worth solving.
3. Use fast/cheap prototypes to broadly test a variety of solutions that eventually result in a “minimum awesome product.”
4. Experiment with different business models to take solutions to market.
Furr and Dyer said using this process to innovate, instead of incorrect management techniques, can stop the waste of time, money, resources and valuable human insights. They reassure that management skills are still necessary, but each situation is distinct and calls for different processes and skill sets. Furr explained, “We need to adopt a recognition of what the right toolkit is for the right situation.”
In hopes that companies and business schools alike will benefit from their research, Furr explained how “The Innovator’s Method” promotes an uncertainty theory for management.
“Almost every discipline has developed its own little framework for how to manage uncertainty,” Furr said. “This book was about bringing together all those different perspectives and then showing how entrepreneurs and managers can apply those.”
How is the Marriott Business School measuring up to this new research? BYU already has an undergraduate program for students in place called the Crocker Innovation Fellowship. The program is a year-long course, starting in the winter, that teaches students the process of innovation and includes an internship with hands-on experiences.
“Our goal (with the fellowship) is to create a trajectory shift in how students think about innovation. It could be that they apply it in their own life, apply it working at a company, or they apply it creating a startup. They apply innovation where they think it’s best,” Furr said.
Ideas from the book will be featured in articles at Entrepreneur, Wired, Inc. and Forbes. Publishers Weekly praised the book, saying, “Readers looking for a single volume on nimble innovation will find this guide indispensable.”