Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reflections: The Innovator's Dilemma

I've written before I'm not a big fan of many business books because many authors "intentionally or unintentionally, [attempt] to make [their] book some kind of new scriptural canon, demanding of our attention year after year."  The Innovator's Dilemma is a different book altogether; it's MBA territory and not meant for readers who enjoy a quick but mostly superficial exploration at self-help techniques.  Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma is a challenging and enlightening book, which purports to break new ground in the understanding of business and technology but also explores existing principles beneficial to all and not only the entrepreneur or senior manager. 

My awareness of The Innovator's Dilemma came while reading the excellent biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  Isaacson wrote: ". . . Christensen was one of the world's most insightful business analysts, and Jobs was deeply influenced by his book The Innovator's Dilemma."  I figured I should pay attention to this book so highly regarded by one of the most influential business leaders in recent memory.  Christensen's book attempts to document and explain how disruptive technology differs from sustaining technologies within industries—all detailed and defined, of course—and how entire industries have been significantly changed and how seemingly successful companies have folded or been greatly reduced in capability and reach due to disruptive changes.  That all sounds a bit esoteric, and in some ways it is without modest knowledge of businesses and organizations, but I found the information very interesting and useful.

Amazingly, I didn't find The Innovator's Dilemma to be redundant, as many business  books are.  It seemed that any time the book started to become too repetitious it would pivot to a new theory or model to continue explaining the phenomenon of disruptive technologies.  Although I was able to follow with a modicum of confidence the main ideas and principles, I certainly had to slow down a few times, re-read a few sentences, and ponder over a few graphs for a bit longer than usual to truly understand what was being presented and discussed.  In some cases, I'm still pondering.  As mentioned previously, this is not an easy read.  It will push you to dig deeper into seemingly straightforward business cases and consistently use your critical thinking skills.

Clayton Christensen offers something truly valuable and insightful with his book The Innovator's Dilemma.  I don't expect to create any disruptive technologies or necessarily be in a senior management situation having to make organizational decisions to deal with one, but I feel much more educated regarding business, organizations, and the constant change that is pervasive through most industries.

On a side note, Clayton Christensen's TED talk, How Will You Measure Your Life?, is well worth listening to and provides an impetus to reflect and examine your life and ambitions. 

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Steve Jobs
Reflections: Too Big to Know
Reflections: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Monday, July 18, 2016

Reflections: The Night Circus

The Night Circus is a book that wanted so badly to be great but never quite got there. In fact, I wanted it to be great. I wanted Ray Bradbury—phantasmagorical, reality imbued with fantasy, seemingly effortless profundity. Alas, The Night Circus is not that book, no matter how hard it tried.

The book's imagery is at times striking, even evocative, but the story lacks consistency. Centering around a competition or duel established at the beginning of the book, the story meanders from scene to scene only occasionally addressing the central plot element. Yet, as if remembering why words were being put to paper, the author quickly and somewhat clumsily re-focuses the narrative during the last quarter of the book. As the story comes to a conclusion and as the characters find their closure, the overarching meanings feel a bit obtuse, and I was left wondering what the real purpose was and why I should care. (I had similar feelings after completing The Westing Game).

I have a propensity to enjoy books like The Night Circus. Something Wicked This Way Comes, for example, is one of my favorite books. I love stories that embrace hyper-reality—facts colliding gently and sometimes harshly with fiction. The Prestige is another example of a book and eventual film—yet another one dealing with magic and entertainment—that embraces fact and fiction and interweaves them together. The Night Circus in some ways does a wonderful job of cradling reality and fantasy, but it stumbles in other ways.

Having said all of that, The Night Circus does have a menagerie of interesting characters. The magical pull of the circus can be felt through the book's pages. It's a place I'd like to visit, to be, to experience. Mystery permeates basically every page of the book, albeit the resolution is inadequate. The book excels in its exhibition of imagination. Like any good fantasy, the new sights, sounds, and smells should intrigue and capture the reader. The Night Circus at times was captivating.

I wish there was more to recommend The Night Circus; yet, I feel the book is more feigned style than it is genuine substance. As a concept, the story has a lot for me to love, and visually I think a talented filmmaker could do something pretty special. The Night Circus frequently skirts the edge of greatness but never actually crosses the line. It's a shame because I really, really wanted it to.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The Westing Game
Ray Bradbury & Me
Books to Movies: The Prestige