Wannabe innovator? Dig into these success stories

By Papri Sri Raman, IANS

Book: "How Innovators Connect"; Authors: Rohit Agarwal and Patricia Brown; Publishers: Himalaya Publishing House; Price: Rs.950

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The last two years have seen a flurry of books on innovation. But what sets apart this slender volume by Rohit Agarwal and Patricia Brown is the ease with which it showcases successful innovators in Silicon Valley as well as India.

From Apple's Guy Kawasaki to Google's Ram Shriram, the 40-odd case studies in "How Innovators Connect" are discussed without the usual jargon of technology and enterprise writing, which is what makes the book interesting.

There is an innovator in each of us, say the authors at the start, simply, directly and clearly, and, "the book is about the experience of people who have innovated".

It also examines how innovation, a process of change, has been monetised.

TechTribe Networks CEO Agarwal needs little introduction. Before venturing into authorship and helping enterprise start-ups, he steered Webify Solution's business development. It was acquired by IBM last year.

Award winning journalist Brown has recently been senior executive editor for InformationWeek's monthly Optimize magazine. She is the co-founder and editorial director of BizTechReports.com, an independent reporting agency, and is associated with CMP Media, the McGraw-Hill Companies, Microsoft Corp and Access Intelligence publications.

Their book begins with a sneak peak and statements like "innovation to me is a little bit like falling in love, you really cannot programme it" and "and I think it's really important that people decide to be an entrepreneur first and then figure out what they are going to do".

The chapters too are enticingly titled such as, "Is innovation for you?" The book pitches for single-tasking and staying focussed in an era of multi-tasking.

At the same time the book advocates tremendous networking, bringing to the reader examples like Emmet B. Keeffe, III, the co-founder of iRise, a business modelling software company. "The network is the business," says Keeffe.

It throws up Silicon Valley success stories little known in India, like Jerry Kennelly, co-founder of Riverbed Technology, a wide-area data solution provider, which had a market capitalisation of more than $2 billion in 2006.

The book talks about connecting with the environment like a mantra, "recognising white space or pain points" within the existing business environment, giving the example of Rajeev Samant of Sula Wines that is rocking even Indian cellars. It talks about how the industrial engineer recognised the potential of "gently rolling hills and a large lake" and became a farmer.

Getting the right people into the team is another key to innovation's success and the timing is important. The business climate must be there, say the authors. There must be a connect with the customer too, they insist.

And finally, there has to be some spirituality to make the cocktail of moneymaking innovation and marketing "fall into place", says the techTribe chief.

"At techTribe, we've created code names for each of the colossal mistakes we have made in our lives. We use them in conversations to highlight that we do not want to make the same mistakes again. It's fun exercise to keep the lessons fresh," says Agarwal.