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This week we're reading: Jeremy Gutsche's Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas

By Matt Boffey | founder

August 19, 2015 | 5 min read

Each week, London Strategy Unit's Matt Boffey reads one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity so you don't have to. In today's Booknote, he tells us whether Jeremy Gutsche's 'Better and Faster' really is 'The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas' it claims to be.

Why have we chosen this book?

Because it’s packed full of innovation case studies that range from Red Bull to the ring buying start-up for failed engagements: I Did Now I Didn’t. In Better and Faster Gutsche calls for the end of what he calls ‘farmer’ thinking: looking to drive profit from efficiency savings and squeezing a bit more from what you already do. Innovators are ‘hunters’, they seek an opportunity based on its breakthrough potential irrespective of their own area of expertise.

Better and Faster author Jeremy Gutsche

What’s the original thought or argument?

That innovations always stems from one or more of these six patterns of opportunity:

  • Convergence (combining products or trends)
  • Divergence (breaking from mainstream product offerings)
  • Cyclicality (making products that tap into recurring opportunities)
  • Redirection (channeling behaviours into products)
  • Reduction (simplifying business concepts down to one specific idea)
  • Acceleration (identifying a critical feature of a product and accelerating that)

Hunters, Gutsche argues, use these opportunity patterns as a framework for building their breakthrough ideas into coherent products and services.

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If you want to look smart, just read

Part II, where Gutsche goes deep on each of the above areas. He argues that it’s not just start-ups who can tap into those patterns - the best corporations succeed because they rethink their organisations along those lines too. One case study for acceleration is IBM: they deliberately exited hardware markets to focus on problem-solving algorithms. They now provide predictive software across industries: enabling banks to anticipate global market changes and helping doctors in the US make data-assisted diagnoses.

You might want to skip

Part I, where Gutsche sets up the hunter / farmer dichotomy which he sporadically refers back to later in the book. It’s a little heavy on the bombastic self-help tone and doesn’t have any of the insight and real-world applications that make the second part so good.

Why trust this author?

Gutsche went straight from a directorship at Capital One to launching, an online trends and innovations dashboard that’s studied over 250,000 innovations and advises 300 brands.

Once you’ve read this you don’t need to read

Anything about trends written before 2015. Better and Faster contains hundreds of up-to-date case studies, many of which refer to ideas realised only in the last six months. Being an out of date trend hunter is a cardinal sin.

Why should this stay on your bookshelf?

Because though it seems like every good idea has already been done, looking at old problems with a view to achieving an elegant, simple solution can lead to breakthrough ideas. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey solved the relatively small problem of allowing independent businesses to accept card payments. The result was Square - founded in 2009 and now worth over $5 billion.

What’s the one thing you should do differently after reading this book?

If you’re delaying starting a new project or pursuing a new idea - jump into it. Escalate commitment and apply pressure by making a public statement of your intent. Toronto based consultant Sang Kim leveraged this pressure when he created and launched a restaurant in 30 days, turning his personal quest into a media stunt by printing a URL on the building to a website that charted his journey and drove user engagement.

Best quote in the whole book?

“People forget how easy it can be to learn new things and find new ideas, but you actually have to push yourself to look. Whether the goal is to change the world or to find a new business idea, we’re all capable of much more than we might think.”

Matt Boffey is the founder of London Strategy Unit, which you can follow on Twitter @LSUsocial


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