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At a time when organisations are plugging more effort into innovation, Gerard Harkin has written a book called ‘Innovation Unplugged’. Why? As he puts it himself, Gerard is on a mission to make innovation more effective by ‘unplugging’ from the hype, confusion and ‘gobbledygook’ that are so prevalent today, and return to the basic principles of innovation, and its role in enabling business growth.

One of the first things that struck me about Innovation Unplugged is that it’s different from the standard 250-page business book. Innovation Unplugged is a ‘30 minute read’ and is refreshingly free from complex innovation models and stage gate processes. It’s written in plain language, presenting insights and advice on innovation management, clearly and concisely. It makes for a sensible, enlightening, yet easy read. And although the book is written for managers in technology companies, the helpful advice is more broadly applicable.

Across the eight short chapters Harkin covers everything from how to match your corporate ambitions with your innovation goals, to practical advice on setting up major innovation programmes, and how to remedy the ‘blind spot in management meetings’ that can so often derail successful innovation:

  • Chapter 1 discusses the importance of profitable innovation and why responsibility for innovation should be shared across the management team.
  • Chapter 2 highlights the vast range of innovation options available to help a business to grow. Harkin paints a clear picture why technology companies should not limit themselves to technological or product innovation. He also stresses the importance of articulating the big and small challenges facing a business, before commencing an innovation programme. It’s impressive that he covers so many of the options around innovation without resorting to case studies of the old reliables!
  • Chapter 3 contrasts different types of innovation and covers eight key questions to help managers determine if their long-term business growth initiatives are on track.
  • Chapters 4, 5 and 6 provide practical advice on how to set up major innovation programmes to deliver the right results, and how to address common pitfalls. The advice will appeal to managers and includes personal stories from Harkin’s diverse career in innovation.
  • Chapter 7 addresses an important topic that I have never come across in an innovation management book, yet is highly relevant to managers and project leaders who present business cases at senior management meetings and innovation reviews. Harkin explains how to remedy the ‘blind spot in management meetings’ that can so often derail successful innovation, and could be costing your organisation millions in opportunities lost in ‘corporate limbo’.
  • Chapter 8 provides a concise summary.

Another helpful aspect of the book is the ‘reflection’ questions presented at the end of each chapter. I recommend you pause at this section, and reflect on these questions with your peers.

In summary, Gerard Harkin uses his extensive experience across diverse companies, and the technology sector especially, to deliver straightforward, actionable advice. In this ‘30 minute read’ he demystifies innovation, a topic that is so often over-complicated, with simple to understand insights for managers seeking new business growth.

Innovation Unplugged is a must read book for anyone working in the field of innovation and business growth today.

By Jesper Ekelund

About the authors

Gerard Harkin brings over two decades of experience in business innovation gained in both consulting and commercial roles. During this time he has worked across a variety of industries with many organisations, helping them to innovate successfully and build new businesses. He holds an MBA from the University of Brighton, and a BSc in electronic engineering from the Dublin Institute of Technology.  Gerard has written over 70 articles on innovation.
Twitter: @GerardHarkin

Jesper Ekelund leads Oak Grove‘s innovation, strategy and growth streams. He is a passionate advocate of business as a force for good and strongly believes in the power of the customer and the importance of meeting their needs in driving positive change. Jesper has significant experience in both B2C and B2B markets and has worked with many NGOs. He is  an expert workshop facilitator with an ability to build strong relationships across organisations and has worked with a diverse range of clients including British Gas, The Carbon Trust, CfBT Education Trust, Hays, Johnson Matthey, Microsoft, RSA Group, Samsung Electronics, Symantec and United Utilities.