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Faculty Book

The Power of Little Ideas

David C. Robertson, with Kent Lineback  |  May 2017

A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation

Conventional wisdom today says that to survive, companies must move beyond incremental, sustaining innovation and invest in some form of radical innovation. "Disrupt yourself or be disrupted!" is the relentless message company leaders hear. "The Power of Little Ideas" argues there's a "third way" that is neither sustaining nor disruptive.

This low-risk, high-reward strategy is an approach to innovation that all company leaders should understand so that they recognize it when their competitors practice it, and apply it when it will give them a competitive advantage. This distinctive approach has three key elements: It consists of creating a family of complementary innovations around a product or service, all of which work together to make that product more appealing and competitive; The complementary innovations work together as a system to carry out a single strategy or purpose; Crucially, unlike disruptive or radical innovation, innovating around a key product does not change the central product in any fundamental way.

In this powerful, practical book, Wharton professor David Robertson illustrates how many well-known companies, including CarMax, GoPro, LEGO, Gatorade, Disney, USAA, Novo Nordisk, and many others, used this approach to stave off competitive threats and achieve great success. He outlines the organizational practices that unintentionally torpedo this approach to innovation in many companies and shows how organizations can overcome those challenges. Aimed at leaders seeking strategies for sustained innovation, and at the quickly growing numbers of managers involved with creating new products, "The Power of Little Ideas" provides a logical, organic, and enduring third way to innovate.



About the Authors

David C. Robinson is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he teaches Innovation and Product Design. Dave is also the host of the weekly radio show “Innovation Navigation”, a live show on SiriusXM Channel 111 where David interviews world-renowned thought leaders about the management of innovation.

Kent Lineback, author, collaborator, and coach. For more than 25 years he served as a manager and executive in organizations of all kinds – public, private, not-for-profit, and government. He piloted the rapid growth of a highly successful internal start-up, oversaw ongoing operations, and guided a public company through strategic change. He has written or collaborated on 17 books and co-authored three Harvard Business Review articles.