Book Review: “No-Excuses Innovation” By Bruce Vojak And Walter Herbst

If you are going to read only one book on innovation, it should be “No-Excuse Innovation”.

If you are a young patent attorney, then I have written the following book review for you. You are probably an engineer or scientist who has somehow ended up in intellectual property (IP). And you are faced with real innovation for the first time in your life. You don’t know what book to read about innovation. When you search for  the keyword “innovation” on Amazon, you get “1-48 of over 100,000 results for ‘innovation’” as a result.

And if the “No-Excuse Innovation” book resonates with you, which means that you have the seed of an innovator in you, then the long bibliography and the extensive notes and references at the end of the book will be a guide for your next steps. A long glossary of innovation terms and a comprehensive index complete this fine tome.

How this book differs from others in the field

“No-Excuse Innovation” is a highly strategic book, and that makes it different from most of the “success literature” that is all about planning and improvement.

The book begins with what would be a disaster for most design engineers: Novus, a large car manufacturer, asks Wes-Tech, an SMME (Small or Medium-sized Mature Enterprise) in the automation industry, to build part of an automated assembly line, but without providing specific requirements. Instead, Novus provided only estimates and problems to solve for many of their needs. This is very different from what we engineers are trained to do. And only those suppliers willing to play by the new Novus business model are added to the list of accredited Novus suppliers.

Needless to say, Wes-Tech succeeded, and the book says that

… Wes-Tech renewed itself and its industry. It established itself as a new service paradigm provider to  new market – knowledgeable in how to price, specify, and deliver on such projects, accepting and embracing volatility, complexity, and ambiguity rather than dreading and hiding from them.

The book puts this story into a strategic picture by applying the Wes-Tech example to one of the most important strategic diagrams in innovation, the “S-curve,” and the three strategic options available to SMMEs as they move toward maturity. Wes-Tech has clearly taken the “renew” path and has been successful in doing so.

This is one of the many strategic insights you will gain from reading “No-excuse Innovation”, and it is what makes this book so valuable.

The “No-excuse Innovation” book makes a very reasonable distinction between the types of companies (large mature, SMEs, startups) and the methods/process tools they use to innovate. It addresses only the SMMEs, which is unheard of.

Another novelty is that “No-Excuse Innovation” is the only book that addresses the question of “why innovate?” This is critical because there is often little support for innovation investment in SMMEs, as many are manufacturing companies trying to squeeze out small margins rather than investing in renewal.

How this book is the same as most in the field

What follows after the introductory chapter is a curated collection of innovation tactics culled from what feels like 100,000 books on innovation. The authors have spent their entire professional lives in the field of innovation, and they present the best insights they have gained during that time.

What I find refreshing are the candid remarks the authors sprinkle throughout their books, such as the last sentence of Chapter 4:

Innovation processes and tools are insufficient in themselves to guarantee success. As we discuss in Chapter 5, they require a skilled innovator to bring them to life.

Serial Innovators

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand more about what human material is needed to bring non-incremental innovation into practice, while most incremental innovation can be done successfully by regular (uncreative) developers. The chapter summarizes the four essential personality features of serial innovators as the way

  • how they engage with problems,
  • how they engage with projects.
  • how they engage with business, and
  • how they engage with people.

How someone can use this information productively

Chapter 7 of the book “No-excuses Innovation” shows you how to put all this information together. If you ask me, this is where you can start reading the book because it is an insightful story about how a real company “gets it” when it comes to innovation that leads to renewal.

What I would also like to mention is chapter 8 of the book, which is a replay of chapter 8 of the book “The Serial Innovator“. It comes with different action items for different groups of readers, including people who are skilled and inclined to innovate. What a great way to end a book!

Continue reading here.