Drucker’s Do’s And Dont’s Of Innovation


Last year I read Scott Berkun’s book ‘The Myths of Innovation‘, which gives a critical and concise discussion of the various preconceptions/myths that have built up on ‘doing successful innovation’.

An innovative feature of this book is that he ranks the usefulness of the books reviewed (there were nearly 100 of them). This is helpful and insightful – a ranked bibliography – and something that many more authors could very usefully pick up on.

On the top of his list was Peter Drucker’s ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship‘, which was first published in 1985. Out of interest I thought I’d re-read this as I remembered that it was exceptionally well written (in fact it motivated me to buy and read his autobiography ‘Adventures Of A Bystander‘).

Extracted from Chapter 11, The Principles of Innovation, we get his ‘Do’s And Don’t, And Conditions For Innovation’:


Analyse Opportunities – ‘purposeful, systematic innovation begins with the regular analysis of opportunities’.
Look, Ask and Listen – ‘innovation is conceptual and perceptual – look at both numbers and people aspects’.
Keep It Simple And Focused – ‘it should do one thing (or else it will confuse) and as everything new runs into trouble, if complicated, it cannot be easily fixed’.
Start Small, Not Grandiose – ‘requiring at first little money, few people, and only a small and limited market’.
Aim At Leadership – ‘otherwise likely to be incapable of establishing itself (ie perceived as not innovative enough)’.


Try To Be Clever – ‘innovations are for ordinary human beings and incompetence is in abundant and constant supply, so anything too clever is almost bound to fail’.
Try To Do Too Many Things At Once – ‘an innovation needs the concentrated energy of a unified effort behind it – it also requires that people who put it into effect understand each other and this, too, requires a unity, a common core’.
Innovate For The Future – ‘innovate for the present! innovative opportunities sometimes have long lead times but it is still necessary to focus on projects that, if successful, lead to immediate practical applications’.

Three Conditions For Innovation – ‘obvious but often disregarded’

Innovation Is Work – ‘requires knowledge, ingenuity, diligence, persistence and commitment’.
To Succeed, Innovators Must Build On Their Strengths – ‘look at opportunities over a large range but ask which opportunity fits me and the company’.
Innovation Is An Effect In Economy And Society – ‘so innovation has to be close to the market, focused on the market, indeed market driven’.

In my experience, all these factors are usually taken into account but usually not in a particularly systematic or balanced manner (for all sorts of reasons).

Also from the above principles it’s clear that ‘constructive honesty’ is a key (if rare) virtue for both individuals, teams and companies! This links in to lessons learnt.

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