Review: Mantra Design Innovate, Buy,or Die

Overall, I rate Mantra Design; Innovate, Buy or Die!  by Dana Oliver:

Dana Oliver has written a great book on profitable innovation.  He covers many aspects of innovation from culture to commercialization and he does it in a way that every entrepreneur or corporate leader can take away a gem for implementation.

What I liked best was Oliver’s focus on the customer. In a world where program management/project management focuses on stakeholders, I believe that we  have lost focus on who pays the bills…our customers.

This message was loud and clear with suggestions throughout his work on how to leverage product innovation to engage customers.  He advises us to “look for opportunities to protect key accounts by including them in organic development”. Oliver advises us to focus on profitable innovation by keeping the most important features for our customers in scope. He also reminds us to communicate our latest concepts with our customers twenty times! We need to ensure that we solve our customer’s business problems with our product innovation.

Testing was also well discussed. Quality testing needs to go beyond simple test plans because a product needs to work beyond the day we first receive it. Test plans need to include time and customer simulations. This I challenge my cohorts in I/T – it is no longer good enough to document lessons learned – you need to anticipate!

You may be wondering how a return to customer focus will improve customer social responsibility…well with an increase in consumer activism and more companies focused on CSR as a way to increase profits – the customer will be asking for CSR deliverables and products that respect people, planet and profit.

Oliver’s blunt discussion about how structured processes can sabotage creativity and innovation challenge the reader to create a balance between the two. He gives implementable ideas for individuals and corporations on the how to.

As a program director , I will be implementing Oliver’s suggestion:

“Spend 15% of your time on innovation.” in both my personal and organization’s time management.

My only criticism of Oliver’s work is that there may be too much good information in his book to digest and action.

…and to my colleagues in program leadership, I challenge you to increase your organization’s focus on innovation and lessen the dependence on structured process… are you up for that?

yours in Corporate Social Responsibility

Cara MacMillan


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