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I drink your milkshake: Thoughts on the Innovator’s Solution

Snorg Tees I Drink Your Milkshake shirt

Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor’s The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth was recommended by Horace Dediu on his show The Critical Path.

On the show Horace often talks about “Jobs to be Done Theory”, or the idea that customers hire a product to do specific job. It is a very useful way of thinking about products and is fleshed out more in this book. Some other particularly interesting topics (to me) covered in the book include:

  • jobs to be done theory
  • the innovator’s dilemma
  • innovation: sustaining vs. disruptive
  • integration vs. modularity (and the transition between the two)
  • commoditization
  • RPV framework: resources, processes, values
  • good money vs. bad money
  • be patient for growth, impatient for profitability

Although the book seems to be directed towards large organizations, there is much in here for startups as well. In fact, Chapter 8’s “Discovery-driven Planning” is basically Eric Ries’s Lean Startup Methodology of experimentation. One bit of advice that seems counter to the current trend of “growth now, business model later” is “be patient for growth, impatient for profit”. This is especially important inside of an organization because your funding can be cut as soon as the parent organization (investors) need to put out fires elsewhere, thereby losing patience with your venture. If you are profitable from early stages, your master’s might be more amenable to let you continue even when they must focus on something else.

I listened to the audiobook, which was a bit of a slog. You might find the text version a little less… sleep inducing. If you haven’t the time and want to read the Cole’s Notes version, I highly recommend
Derek Sivers’s chapter-by-chapter writeup.

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