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Blogs / Alliance for Innovation Regional Director Stories from the Road / Summer Book Recommendations on Innovation

Summer Book Recommendations on Innovation

The summer is quickly coming to an end and soon the Alliance regional directors will embark on their visits to different parts of the country to uncover the new challenges governments are facing and the top ideas that are addressing them.  To inspire fall innovation, here is my summer must read list for books on innovative culture and lessons for local governments (in no particular order): 



1. Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move the World:  Ever wonder how you can encourage more creativity and entreprenurship in your community?  Adam Grant examines the key characteristics of innovative people and what leads to successful new ideas.    Key takeaways:

  • Too much expertise can harm creativity; vet your ideas by other entrepreneurs not those in your field.  Encourage entrepreneurship by diversify the knowledge base of your staff.
  • Familiarity is vital for acceptance of new ideas; connect non-conventional ideas with conventional ones
  • Balance your risk portfolio; balance your involvement in cutting-edge ideas with more established ones.  Encourage adoption of emerging ideas over developing new ones as being second has a higher degree of success.
  • When you have a conflict between two great ideas, launch pilot experiments of both and see which works better.

2. Outliers: The Story of Success:  What factors lead to success? We often look at leaders as products of individual characteristics and aptitude but we are missing a major part of the story.  Key takeaways:

  • It takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert; identify your community's strengths and focus on them.
  • Nurture your superstars by putting them in the right situation and building a supportive culture around them as intelligence and natural strengths have diminishing returns.
  • What structures and process do you have that creates advantages for some and disqualifies others?   

3. The Ten Faces of Innovation:  What are the key characteristics of an innovative organization?    How do you sustain that advantage?  Alliance Transforming Local Government Conference Keynote, Tom Kelley answers these questions using IDEO as a guide. Key takeaways:

  • When facing a service challenge, go to the source; send out observers to determine what the real problem is.
  • Expose staff to diverse and provocative ideas such as by providing a library of books and magazines or brining in a speaker outside the field.
  • Recognize that each individual brings different strengths that can help the innovative process?  Who are your hurdlers who can overcome any challenge; who are your cross-pollinators who can make connections between two seamlessly unrelated ideas?  

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