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Aman­tha Im­ber, Wi­ley, $ 29.95

For­get the light­bulb mo­ment. This book makes it clear that in­no­va­tion is rarely ac­ci­den­tal and al­most never a sim­ple mat­ter of ap­plied in­tel­li­gence.

In­deed, Aman­tha Im­ber, an Aus­tralian psy­chol­o­gist, sug­gests it is all about busi­ness get­ting the set­tings right. She of­fers 14 “keys” for unlocking a cul­ture “where in­no­va­tion thrives” and ar­gues that it is pos­si­ble to im­prove in­no­va­tion at an in­di­vid­ual, team and or­gan­i­sa­tion level.

The em­pha­sis is on busi­ness and the ad­vice is pitched to man­agers, in­creas­ingly aware that any com­pany that does not con­tin­u­ally in­no­vate will not sur­vive.

Im­ber starts with a com­pre­hen­sive au­dit of your firm’s in­no­va­tion cul­ture, be­fore out­lin­ing el­e­ments needed to over­come de­fi­cien­cies. There’s straight­for­ward ad­vice on whether and how to give staffers more au­ton­omy, and use­ful chap­ters on col­lab­o­ra­tion, su­per­vi­sor sup­port, and risk-tak­ing. Im­ber de­bunks sev­eral myths that have dom­i­nated man­age­ment books over the years. They in­clude the use­ful­ness, or not, of so-called “blue-sky think­ing”.

Her take? It is a prob­lem. In­deed, “ask­ing peo­ple to go blue-sky when it comes to in­no­va­tion is like play­ing darts with­out a dart­board; you sim­ply don’t know where to aim”. She sug­gests that a bet­ter way to go is for lead­ers to set clear, or­gan­i­sa­tion-wide goals to keep peo­ple’s ef­fort fo­cused and ef­fec­tive. It is a com­mon-sense ap­proach de­vel­oped from years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Chang­ing a cul­ture is not easy, but Im­ber sug­gests that if you are se­ri­ous you need to do more than in­stalling a “foos­ball ta­ble and some bean­bags”.

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