I recently received a review copy of Jeremy Gutsche’s “Better and Faster.” Jeremy is the CEO of TrendHunter.com and the book reflects the quality of the site. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I rarely post (if ever) post book reviews. But I liked this one so much, I decided to extract some of the insights.
The book, IMHO, is less about innovation and more about creativity. Regardless, the heuristics for trend hunting make this a great reference book to be used over and over.
The prologue has a great example of what is to come. Jeremy describes how an origami expert used his skills to help NASA develop a revolutionary way to fold a telescope into a rocket ship. These same skills were used to help automakers better pack airbags. This example illustrates the point I make to my clients: expertise is the enemy of innovation, therefore you need to look elsewhere to find breakthroughs.
The primary focus of the book is about how we need to go beyond our “farmer” roots and find out inner “hunter.” Farmers are more interested in improving what has worked in the past. Hunters are looking for something entirely new.
I strongly believe that asking the right questions is the key to innovation (I always say, “don’t think outside the box; find a better box”). This book focuses more on solutions (rather than questions), but in it are some great case studies of how asking the wrong question led to inferior results.
For example, Roy Raymond tried to solve the problem: How do we create a guy-friendly shop where men can buy lingerie for their girlfriends/wives? With this in mind, he went off and created a chain of male-oriented stores (with wood paneled walls). The problem is, men rarely buy lingerie; women do. The stores struggled and neared bankruptcy. After Raymond sold the chain, it was quick revamped and targeted towards women. What emerged was the wildly successful Victoria’s Secret. (and as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story”)
Jeremy talks about three traps of the farmer mentality:
- Complacency – a lack of curiosity
- Repetition – a desire to repeat the past
- Protectiveness – a lack of willingness to destroy what has worked in the past
The rest of the book is organized around 6 patterns for tapping into your inner hunter:
- Convergence – combing multiple products, services or trends
- Divergence – designing products and services to break free of the mainstream
- Cyclicality – identifying predictably recurring opportunities
- Redirection – channeling the power of a trend rather than fighting it
- Reduction – simplifying a concept
- Acceleration – dramatically enhancing a critical feature
Each pattern has approximately a half-dozen sub-patterns.
The book is an easy read and is packed with examples and practical concepts. If you are looking for a way to kick start your creative juices, I highly recommend “Better and Faster.”