The Book Corner - Review

“Idea Agent” by Lina M. Echeverria

Idea Agent: Leadership That Liberates Creativity and Accelerates Innovation

Idea Agent: Leadership That Liberates Creativity and Accelerates Innovation

by Lina M. Echeverria
American Management Association, 2013
274 pages

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialAt least three factors make this book different from typical business books on creativity and innovation:

  1. After earning her BS in Geological Engineering, the author went on to earn a PhD in Geology from Stanford.
  2. During a twenty-seven year career at Corning Inc., she rose from Senior Research Scientist to Vice-President of Science and Technology (with nine promotions along the way).
  3. The author puts her topics in the framework of actual leadership and organizational challenges and opportunities, as opposed to the cultivation and application of one’s own personal ingenuity.

Certainly a psychologist or professor (or an individual who is both) might write a worthwhile book on creativity, but a scientist who “earned her stripes” in the corporate world, in a technical company, and reached the executive suite, does bring distinctive experience to the creativity/innovation domain, especially for a book targeted towards business leaders. She grounds her key points by referring to specific experiences she had in developing products and working within a technical corporation to bring the products to market. She grounds the potential “far-out” topic of creativity and the much-publicized need for innovation in the reality of business life and her corporate career odyssey.

The author herself makes a distinction clear: “This is not a theoretical book summing up research. Instead it is a personal chronicle of my experience in leading creative talent and delivering technology through developing human beings and of being equally impacted by them.” Many individuals come to organizational leadership positions having worked earlier in a technical specialty. This book offers wisdom and savvy for achieving success throughout that demanding transition.

Even though she holds a doctorate in a scientific field and has been a VP, she does not shrink from using the word “Passion,” a much-needed quality for business leaders in this reviewer’s opinion (Steve Jobs certainly evinced it in his historical career, as does Richard Branson today). A few of the passions she explores and enforces are: “Structure a Clear Organization,” “Provide Authentic Leadership,” and “Demand Excellence and Enrich Lives.” She introduces each passion with a brief section (“My Personal Journey”) that narrates how she herself dealt with that topic in her career.

In the 5 point GBR scale, this book is a 4.