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Getting to Innovation by Arthur VanGundy

Getting to Innovation by Arthur VanGundy

Getting to Innovation: How Asking the Right Questions Generates Great Ideas Your Company Needs

By Arthur VanGundy
AMACOM, 2007

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Googling “business innovation” produces 16,200,000 hits (although, of course, the number will be higher by the time you read this review). Probably no topic is hotter in business periodicals than innovation BusinessWeek devotes an entire issue annually to featuring “The World’s 100 Most Innovative Companies.” It comes as no surprise that Art VanGundy has added yet another book on this trendy, yet vital subject to the dozen he has penned in the past 23 years on creativity and innovation.

Readers seeking a heavyweight tome on the psychology of creativity or a highly technical work on the history of innovation should look elsewhere. However those who want a well-crafted, systematic volume on applied creativity will not be disappointed.

Pragmatism leaps from every page of this coherent, useful handbook. An authenticating and valuable feature of the book is VanGundy’s citation of business organizations that have succeeded in producing cutting-edge products, solutions, services or processes. Many readers will doubtless affirm, “It can be done. It has been done!”

The book’s subtitle, “How Asking the Right Questions Generates Great Ideas Your Company Needs,” hints at one of its major features: VanGundy offers a handy framework to help the reader craft incisive, pertinent inquiries that may trigger innovative solutions.

Supplementing this valuable question-raising feature is the chapter on “Constructing Conceptual Maps for Innovation Challenges,” in which the author goes beyond the well-established Mind Map format to guide readers towards producing maps that “typically help to clarify relationships among hierarchically ordered, interrelated innovation challenge objectives.” This feature is an integral part of the valuable emphasis that VanGundy thoughtfully develops in integrating innovation with organizational strategy.

If there is a justifiable criticism of the book, it might focus on comprehensiveness, but not the lack of it. Some chapters in the second half of the book are largely a summary of what has already been published on individual and group creative problem-solving methods and on the evaluation and implementation of ideas.

One chapter, “Tips for Designing and Facilitating Brainstorming Retreats,” ought to be a separate handbook by itself. Another also suggests a distinct work: “Idea Management and Creativity Software,” although this chapter does, indeed, contain savvy critiques of a dozen creative problem-solving software programs.

If you want a book that embraces most of what you need to know to generate and evaluate ideas that could lead to innovation in an overall strategic context, this volume is worthy of consideration.

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