Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators ā€” from Idea to Execution


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Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators ā€” from Idea to Execution
Harvard Business School Press, 2005 (with Chris Trimble).

How to Build a Breakthrough New Business within a Profitable Old One

Even world-class companies with successful business models eventually hit the ceiling on growth. That's what makes emerging industries so attractive. These markets represent huge opportunities for capturing long term growth and competitive advantage. But because they lack a proven formula for making a profit, they are risky and expensive—with dire consequences for failure.

Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble argue that every organization's survival depends on strategic experiments that target such untested markets, but few firms understand how to implement them successfully. Too many managers think that a great idea is enough to get them from business plan to profitability, but somewhere in the middle of the innovation process, most organizations stumble. In Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators, Govindarajan and Trimble reveal where firms go wrong on their journey from idea to execution—and outline exactly what it takes to build a breakthrough business while sustaining excellence in an existing one.

Based on an in-depth, multiyear research study of innovative initiatives at ten large corporations, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble identify three central challenges to strategic innovation:


In such a slowly growing world, strategic innovation is critical to success. Govindarajan and Trimble offer concrete rules that managers can use to drive growth. Their emphasis on "theory focused planning" is a good fit with high-performance company culture. This book is a great addition to your toolkit.
–Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, General Electric Company
An extremely important book...
Govindarjan and Trimble show why disruptive innovations cannot be completely isolated from the existing organization.
Forget, Borrow, and Learn are indeed the three central implementation challenges for leaders of disruptive innovations.
–Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Admin., Harvard Business School
The slow-growth global economy creates opportunities for those who dare to innovate and experiment with new strategy concepts. Govindarajan and Trimble suggest a compelling approach for how to execute these concepts, backed by real-life examples.
–Ram Charan, coauthor, Execution and Confronting Reality
This book provides specific examples of the themes of forgetting, borrowing, and learning, highlighting them as key to innovation. Many companies get lost in the middle of the innovation process, but these authors show how to turn breakthrough ideas into breakthrough growth.
–John B. Menzer, President and CEO, Wal-Mart International
Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators makes a compelling case: In today's complex marketplace, the survival of the fittest is determined by a company's aggressive pursuit of growth—that is, creating, leveraging, managing, and sustaining it. Govindarajan and Trimble's analysis shows just how vulnerable established companies are, and how they can avoid failure by unlocking themselves from a narrow and nostalgic business model.
–Robert L. Nardelli, Chairman, President & CEO, The Home Depot, Inc.
Strategic innovation is the major source of economic value creation for investors and for our society. Yet mature corporations often fail at this very important activity—not because of the lack of ideas but because of the lack of execution skills. Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators is a wonderful primer on how to execute and is a must-read for any senior executive interested in how to successfully grow and innovate.
–Glenn A. Britt, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Cable, Inc.
Govindarajan and Trimble have produced an enormously important book! The challenges of building growth businesses inside existing organizations are well known; the solutions are not. In Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators the authors have combined solid theory, relevant case examples, and simple wisdom... The notions of forgetting, borrowing, and learning will likely become major bases of logic in our organization.
–Leonard A. Schlesinger, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Limited Brands, Inc.
Innovation and growth are inextricably linked—a key to corporate success. This book helps you get it, and get there.
–Sir Christopher Bland, Chairman, British Telecom Group
This insightful book asserts that established, successful companies must become skilled in strategic innovation; that is, skilled in creating new businesses that depart significantly from historic ideas and assumptions about how businesses succeed. By analyzing strategic experiments in diverse industries, the authors diagnose the root cause of failure and illustrate how observing ten rules for strategic innovation will substantially enhance the chances for success. Great reading!
–Ray Stata, Chairman, Analog Devices Inc.
Govindarajan and Trimble provide a common-sense roadmap for breakthrough growth. Indeed, a new high-growth business within a large organization will struggle if it cannot forget, borrow, and learn—the three central challenges the authors identify. The rich and dramatic examples in this book show the way.
–Indra Nooyi, President, PepsiCo.
Truly the primer for and advanced placement of a new paradigm within an existing organization. Best practices, as well as worst potholes to avoid, are explicitly detailed in this all important work on innovation. America's—indeed, the world's—future is innovation, and Govindarajan and Trimble get one to think outside the box.
–Alan G. Hassenfeld, Chairman, Hasbro, Inc.
As many of us know from experience, it is a daunting challenge for established companies to breathe life into an entirely new business. Govindarajan and Trimble do a terrific job of pinpointing key factors that can turn potential into meaningful, sustained results.
–Robert W. Lane, Chairman, CEO and President, John Deere Company
Driving innovation is one thing for a start-up company—but it poses entirely different challenges for a large, established corporation. Govindarajan and Trimble not only map the differences but also provide a guidebook for managing strategic innovation that leverages the benefits, while discarding the baggage of being large and established.
–Richard J. Harrington, President & CEO, The Thomson Corporation
Drawing on a series of case studies, Govindarajan and Trimble's fascinating new book explores the challenges corporations face while pursuing strategic innovation. At the heart of Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators is an actionable, systematic approach to business innovation. The authors offer fresh, compelling insights into the opportunities and perils of the innovation process. This book is essential reading for corporations and entrepreneurs alike.
–N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies, Ltd.
Successfully building innovative new businesses is the critical challenge for established companies that want to thrive. Ten Rules clearly outlines many of the roadblocks to building breakthrough businesses and creates a strong, practical framework for success. Through the novel concepts of forgetting, borrowing, and learning, Govindarajan and Trimble have developed a compelling, hands-on guide for business leaders driving growth.
–Christina L. Shea, Senior Vice President, External Relations, and former President, New Ventures Division, General Mills, Inc.
Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators is a fabulous contribution to the literature on innovation and organizational competitiveness. Govindarajan and Trimble's research and synthesis of the dynamic-capability literature provide breakthrough insights for managers interested in deeply understanding the roots of innovation and organizational change. Better yet, they couple their fresh ideas with a diverse set of detailed cases in which managers put these ideas into practice. This book will be of great value to both scholars and practitioners.
–Michael L. Tushman, Paul R. Lawrence MBA Class of 1942 Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
An original and powerful book! The authors demystify the process of how promising, new ventures can fail or bring about breakthrough growth. This is one of the best books, if not the best, on the management of innovation.
–Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, USC, and coauthor, Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values and Defining Moments Shape Leaders
The most difficult managerial challenge facing business leaders today is how to grow through innovation! This book offers us true thought leadership regarding this challenge, not the usual cookbook solutions! The authors emphasize the critical dilemmas at hand to achieving innovation-driven growth. The path-breaking research, so well reported, will provide guidance and inspiration to all those coping with the implementation of innovation and growth.
–Peter Lorange, President and Nestlé Professor of Strategy, IMD International
Old dogs can learn new tricks. Govindarajan and Trimble tackle the toughest challenge in business: They show executives of established firms how to translate strategic dreams for growth into real business realities. A wise, insightful read.
–Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, S. W. Ascherman Professor of Strategy, Stanford University, and coauthor, Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos

Book Reviews

This book is full of rich case examples and will be very helpful to any senior executive who wants to launch a new business venture within a corporate environment.
Wall Street Journal, July 2006 (Subscription required)
"...sensible suggestions offer innovators a better route map through the unknown unknowns of future competition.
Financial Times, January 2006
...the best book we've seen on the 'how-tos' of creating an innovative new business, and thus the single best strategic book of the year.
Strategy+Business, Winter 2006
...great primer for both big-company executives charged with overseeing a strategic experiment and entrepreneurial spirits striking out in a new direction.
BusinessWeek - SmallBiz BookShelf, March 2006
The execution of a great idea is even more difficult and more critical than formulating the idea in the first place.
–BizEd, November/December 2005
There are only three fundamental principles for stewarding innovative projects within established companies: forgetting, borrowing and learning.
Publishers Weekly, December 2005
A valuable read.
The Hindu Business Line (Mumbai), December 2005
...complements Gary Hamel's Leading The Revolution and Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma, though more the latter than the former.
Business Standard (New Delhi/Chennai/Mumbai), January 2006
Sometimes innovation is about breaking the rules. But I also know that you need some reference points for making innovation happen.
Chief Innovation Officer, February 2006
Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble have added to a growing lexicon about how to succeed at innovation.
CMA Management Review, February 2006
...excellent chapters on the ways in which perfectly reasonable corporate behavior can inhibit learning.
Strategy + Business, Spring 2006
...if there is no one who can tell you how to avoid the lions, tigers and bears that are seemingly attendant with the undertaking, then having these rules is essential.
Automotive Design & Production, March 2006
If you’re an established company, this book is for you.
Business Innovation Factory, April 2006
There is little doubt that this book is likely to be a major and path-breaking work in the areas of strategic management of change, managing cultures and developing theories of business.
VIKALPA - Manikutty Review, June 2006
...I learned so much that I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in the topic of strategic innovation.
800-CEO-READ Blog by Paul Scott, June 2006
I'd recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone struggling to fit strategy, innovation and execution together in their organizations.
800-CEO-READ Blog by Arun Sadhashivan, June 2006
The methods presented here are uncomplicated and can be applied to consumer products and, with minor modifications, to industrial products.
Journal of Product Innovation Management, September 2006

Book News

  1. Wall Street Journal - Recommended Leadership Reading - The WSJ listed Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators alongside Freakonomics(Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner), The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), and Blink (Malcolm Gladwell). (Subscription required)
  2. NewYork Times - ARMCHAIR M.B.A.; Novel Thinking As a Survival Tactic
  3. Business Week - The World's Most Innovative Companies
  4. Financial Times - Good parenting guide for innovators
  5. Business Week - Video Interview with VG
  6. Forbes- Innovate, Yes-But where? Recommendation by Rich Karlgaard
  7. Fast Company - VG & Chris's monthly column - January 2006 Issue
  8. Business Week - How Failure Breeds Success
  9. Financial Express - To succeed one must innovate
  10. DNA (India) - Forget, borrow, learn to keep innovation alive
  11. CFO Magazine - First, Forget What Works
  12. Investors Business Daily - Riding The Cutting Edge
  13. KCTS Seattle - Serious Money (TV Interview with Chris) - QuickTime / Windows Media
  14. NECN - Business Daily Series (TV Interview with VG) - QuickTime / Windows Media
  15. Optimize Magazine - Emerging Thinkers
  16. Forbes - Gambling On Breakthrough Growth
  17. World Trade - Innovation Takes Many Different Forms in Transforming Global Supply Chains
  18. Pitch Magazine - Book Extract "Ten rules for strategic innovators"
  19. ManagementFirst - Strategy & Leadership (Interview with VG & Chris Trimble)
  20. The Smart Manager - Vijay Govindarajan: Forget, Borrow and Learn
  21. New Indian Express (Chennai)
  22. - Strategically placed
  23. Rediff India - World's top biz guru on innovation
  24. Management Herald - Las 10 reglas para los innovadores estratégicos (in spanish)
  25. Entrepreneur Magazine - Supply Chain
  26. Bloomberg Television - Interview with VG - aired Dec 14, 2005
  27. First Business Television - Interview aired on November 19, 2005
  28. Radio Interviews...
    • KFNN-FM, Phoenix - "Business for Breakfast" with Chris
    • WFMD-FM, Baltimore - "Your Financial Editor" with Chris
    • KXYZ-AM, Houston & KMNY-AM, Dallas - "The Art of Doing Business" with Chris
    • KXYZ-AM, Houston - "The Money Man" with VG
    • KCEP-FM, Las Vegas - "Enterprising People" with Chris

Best Seller

Recognized as a Top 10 Management Book by...

  1. Wall Street Journal (Subscription required)
  2. 800-CEO-READ
  3. Amazon.Com (Top 10 Organizational Change Book)
  4. The Times of India, Mumbai - (Top 10 Business Book of 2006)
  5. Birmingham News
  6. Business First (Louisville, KY)
  7. Business Standard (Mumbai/Bangalore/Chennai)
  8. Crossword Bookstore
  9. Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY)
  10. DNA Sunday (India)
  11. Hartford Advocate
  12. Hindustan Times (Mumbai)
  13. National Post (Canada)
  14. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  15. St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
  16. Stamford Advocate
  17. The Baton Rouge Advocate
  18. The State (Columbia, SC)
  19. Tri-State Business Times (Dubuque, IA)