Good Books (Part 2)

About fifteen years ago I was chatting with Michael Porter author of the classic —Competitive Strategy at a field hockey game where our daughters were playing. I could not resist asking him if he had read Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, and if so, what he thought about it. He said (with a big grin), besides his own books most business books were not worth the paper they were printed on. He went on however to praise Christensen’s work.
innovatorsdilemmaThe Innovator’s Dilemma is about how unexpected technologies come along and beat the daylights out of existing business. Often these technologies appear crude, imperfect and unlikely to be transformative. Technologies that are barely “good enough”. Examples might be the cell phone or the personal computer. No one recognized the impact of these inventions. No one saw them coming — ask AT&T, Data General and DEC.

Highly recommended addition to your reading list, but keep in mind that it is a bit dated. It is the beginning of the stream of thought which is now represented by Anti-Fragile.

Porter’s Competitive Strategy is also recommended — but it is focused on business strategy.

Room For Error

Lee De Forest was the inventor of the first amplifying vacuum tube. In a digital world it is hard to fathom that it all started with the development of this device. This led to radio, television, and the first computers.


When De Forest created his first version, a two filament vacuum tube, his theory on why it worked later proved to be wrong. The “breakthrough” came with the addition of a third filament which allowed for the signal to be amplified. De Forest then built a second flawed theory on top of his initial theory. He was later quoted as saying “didn’t know why it worked, it just did.” Needless to say patent litigation followed.

Similarly medieval navigators were able to use the sun and stars to sail ships over much of the world, even though many at the time believed the world was flat and the sun orbited the earth.

We have written about  the role of luck or chance in development.

It seems we even have to provide room for error too.

While the nice phrase for this is paradigm shift, we have to ask — how tolerant is your organization around error and failure?