Ideas are overrated. I've said this before, but I just ran across this quote from Isaiah Berlin, describing Leo Tolstoy's approach to understanding war and history. If we take his meaning to heart, we could all be better students of innovation.
Efforts to bring electric vehicles to market are stumbling—electric car maker Fisker Automotive just recalled all 2,400 of its plug-in hybrid cars; Electric Vehicle battery maker A123 is being acquired by Chinese parts supplier Wanxiang Group; Tesla's CEO says the next six months will decide their fate. It's a good time to point out that not all disruptive innovation is good, and not all good innovation is disruptive.
What a great diagnosis. As soon as a read the term, I knew I'd suffered from it. Have you? Looking back, I can now see it in the would-be entrepreneurs and innovators I've worked with who, despite promising ideas and heroic efforts, never made much progress.
Just finished reading The Responsible Company, the second business book by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. His first, Let My People Surfing, laid out Chouinard’s personal path and the company’s history before spending the bulk of the book on the business philosophy of the small (roughly $400M) outdoor gear and apparel company. This second book establishes Chouinard’s voice and leadership in the new sustainable business movement—though he and co-author Vincent Stanley are quick to point out there’s no such thing as a truly ‘sustainable’ business.
If you’re thinking about starting something—or re-orienting your existing something—towards what matters to you, this book belongs on the stack on your desk. It’s a perfectly-timed counterbalance to the Jobs biography.
The NYT article on Apple and employment, How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work , offers valuable insights into the future of manufacturing. But there is a way out.
Organizational leadership is a contradiction in terms. The essence of organization is routine, conventional behavior, bound by the standards of knowledge, morality, and legality of the time, The essence of leadership, on the other hand, is escaping the routine, the standard, and the contemporary to implement a new morality, knowledge, and legality quite different from that seen by others. Leadership is pre-eminently anti-organizational. Leaders confront organizations rather than build or serve them. Thus, to speak of the CEOs of business firms, the presidents of labor unions, the directors of governmental agencies, and the commanders of conventional military units as leaders is absurd. They are not and could not be. Leadership will always come from outside organizations and will always be resisted by individuals who are conventional and reliable enough to be given formal positions of authority. There is no possibility of an organizational career for anyone with true leadership capabilities and instincts.
Jim March and Therry Weil (p38) [On Leadership](http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-James-G-March/dp/1405132477)
Working with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, I’ve just completed an study of companies that have already successfully developed and launched new low-carbon strategic initiatives. The resulting report, “The Business of Innovating: Bringing Low-Carbon Solutions to Market,” was released today. The study documents the challenges and best practices to inform other businesses developing their own low-carbon innovation strategies. Innovation is challenging regardless of company or industry but, as the study found, low-carbon innovation has distinct challenges—and requires particular capabilities—that reflect the distinct nature of the technologies, opportunities, and environments involved.