WSJ – Bill Gates’s Favorite Business Book and Disruption Innovation Revisited

Business Adventures by John Brooks

The July 11, 2014 WSJ featured an excellent article – ‘Bill Gate’s Favorite Business Book’ that, also happens to be the favorite book of Warren Buffett.  The article is even more interesting when one overlays it with another WSJ article published on the same day –  ‘Disruption Innovation Revisited’.

‘Bill Gates Favorite Business Book’

Gates highlights, ‘Business Adventures,’ a book written by John Brooks in 1969; a compilation of  twelve timeless business tales (corporate mis-communication, not listening to customers, how to nurture innovation) featuring companies like Ford, Xerox, GE and Piggly Wiggly.

Gates notes that “Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them”.  One such deep-dive related to Xerox –  “one that everyone in the tech industry should study”; referencing Xerox’s struggle to reconcile innovation (ethernets, the first graphical user interface pre-Windows) with its core ‘copier business’.  Gates concludes that the “essential human factor” – “Which people are you going to back? Do their roles fit their abilities? Do they have both the IQ and EQ to succeed?” are the real keys to success.

‘Disruption Innovation Revisited’

In the Wall Street Journal article,  ‘Disruption Innovation Revisited’, Irving Wladawsky-Berger writes a response to a recent New Yorker Article:  The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong.  The New Yorker article is referenced as a “a takedown” of Jill Lepore’s fellow Harvard professor Clayton Christensen’s ‘book – The Innovator’s Dilemma.

The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

Mr. Wladawsky-Berger highlights that “We’ve generally studied disruption by looking at case studies of individual companies, including companies like Digital Equipment Corp., Wang Laboratories, Polaroid Corp. and Borders Group.”  What’s even more notable is how the “tenure of companies on the S&P 500 was 61 years in 1958; it’s now 18 years. If these trends continue, 75% of the S&P 500 companies will have changed over the next 15 years”.  

He quotes a 2013 Shift Index study that notes that disruption is “further amplified when technologies coalesce into open platforms and ecosystems.  These reduce the investment and lead time required to drive the next wave of innovation into markets by enabling people and technologies to rapidly build on previous waves of innovation.”

By synthesizing these two articles, one may take away that a disruptive idea is only achievable and sustainable if one has the right team, and corporate culture in place.  Whether you are a leader in government in Washington DC or in business in Silicon Valley, you will enjoy reading these two articles as they provide insights into why ‘disruption’ is harder than it looks.

To read ‘Bill Gates Favorite Business Book’ on the Wall Street Journal web site, click here.

To read ‘Disruption Innovation Revisited’ on the Wall Street Journal web site, click here.

By Nick Mavrick

You can find Nick Mavrick on Google+

Intelligent Response specializes in operationalizing Predictive Analytics and Digital Advocacy projects from start to finish in Washington DC.

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