Bookshelf: Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy

Bookshelf: Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy

By Judy Estrin, McGraw-Hill, September 2008, 254 pages, $27.95

This book addresses a topic that has raised much consternation in the U.S. manufacturing community: the loss of emphasis on innovation in this country, a loss the author attributes in large part to short-term Wall Street thinking as well as an increasing fear of risk-taking. "We can -- and must -- regain our momentum," she writes. "If we do not, we will lose our position of strength, and with it our hopes for ongoing economic prosperity and enhanced quality of life for our children and grandchildren."

Estrin, who is CEO of JLABS LLC, addresses multiple aspects of innovation in her book. She outlines what she considers the five basic ingredients of sustainable innovation: questioning, patience, trust, openness and risk. She introduces the concept of Innovation Ecosystems, whose collaborative organisms include scientists, product developers, businesspeople and customers, "all of whom participate in one or more of three communities: research, development and application. Ongoing, sustainable innovation results from interactions between these communities at an organizational, national and global level."

The second half of Closing the Innovation Gap addresses measures needed to nourish innovation. Estrin talks of reviving the "national ecosystem" via federal policy and funding, the education system and greater collaboration among the organisms that comprise the Innovation Ecosystem. In addition to sharing her thoughts about reviving innovation in the United States, Estrin cites examples from companies like Google, Procter & Gamble, Pixar and Xerox to illustrate the message she is delivering.

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