Creative Strategy

Creative Strategy: A Guide for Innovation

William Duggan
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Creative Strategy
    Book Description:

    William Duggan's 2007 book,Strategic Intuition, showed how innovation really happens in business and other fields and how that matches what modern neuroscience tells us about how creative ideas form in the human mind. In his new book,Creative Strategy, Duggan offers a step-by-step guide to help individuals and organizations put that same method to work for their own innovations.

    Duggan's book solves the most important problem of how innovation actually happens. Other methods of creativity, strategy, and innovation explain how to research and analyze a situation, but they don't guide toward the next step: developing a creative idea for what to do. Or they rely on the magic of "brainstorming" -- just tossing out ideas. Instead, Duggan shows how creative strategy follows the natural three-step method of the human brain: breaking down a problem into parts and then searching for past examples to create a new combination to solve the problem. That's how innovation really happens.

    Duggan explains how to follow these three steps to innovate in business and any other field as an individual, a team, or a whole company. The crucial middle step -- the search for past examples -- takes readers beyond their own brain to a "what-works scan" of what others have done within and outside of the company, industry, and country. It is a global search for good ideas to combine as a new innovation. Duggan illustrates creative strategy through real-world cases of innovation that use the same method: from Netflix to Edison, from Google to Henry Ford. He also shows how to integrate creative strategy into other methods you might currently use, such as Porter's Five Forces or Design Thinking.Creative Strategytakes the mystery out of innovation and puts it within your grasp.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53146-7
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book is a practical guide to a big idea about innovation. It’s an idea with roots in modern neuroscience, classical military strategy, and Asian philosophy, and it’s played a part in countless cases of creative innovation in business and other fields. Over the past decade, I’ve explained the idea in a series of books and articles, and I’ve taught the idea to thousands of graduate students and executives in courses at Columbia Business School and in sessions at companies around the world. This book offers a method to apply the idea, in a form that any innovator can learn...


    • 1 From Mind to Method
      (pp. 7-15)

      This chapter shows how the human mind creates solutions to new problems and then translates that mental method into a series of formal steps that an individual or group can use for innovation of any kind. The mental method is “strategic intuition,” and my previous bookStrategic Intuitionexplains it in detail. “Creative strategy” is the set of formal steps you can use to apply strategic intuition.

      To start, we must go back to three key milestones in the recent history of the science of the mind. The first came in 1981, when Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize in...

    • 2 Precedents
      (pp. 16-21)

      Precedents are the heart of creative strategy. Rapid appraisal tells you what kind of precedents you want, the what-works scan searches for them, and creative combination selects and combines them to create an innovation. Part of the discipline of presence of mind is the ability to see all human activity as potential precedents for later use. That doesn’t mean you put everything you ever see, hear, or read on the shelves of your brain—if you did that, your head would explode. But it does mean that everything is a candidate to go on the shelf. You must consider all...

    • 3 What’s the Problem?
      (pp. 22-31)

      The first phase of creative strategy, rapid appraisal, identifies what problem your innovation needs to solve and breaks the problem down into elements. It includes interviews with key leaders and a quick study of documents and data about the problem. For simple problems and a few key leaders, rapid appraisal might take less than a day. For complex problems in big organizations, it can take more than a week. Discoveries in the second phase, the what-works scan, can lead you to go back and repeat parts of the rapid appraisal to revise the problem and its elements.

      Not all problems,...

    • 4 Where Do We Look?
      (pp. 32-39)

      The second phase of creative strategy, the what-works scan, scours the world for companies and organizations that have solved different elements of your problem in different situations. You find out exactly what worked for each element, why, and how you might adapt it to your own problem.

      The techniques of a what-works scan range from simple interviews to statistical analysis. The social sciences pioneered formal methods of the what-works scan for social policy, where success is much harder to measure than in the business world. The most formal of the social science methods is meta-analysis: take all the evaluations of...

    • 5 Creative Combination
      (pp. 40-45)

      The third phase of creative strategy, creative combination, selects and combines a subset of precedents from the what-works scan to arrive at an innovation. If you can, do this phase in a workshop with key initiative leaders, to increase their commitment to the solution. The creative combination includes a preliminary plan to implement the idea, based on the activities of each precedent you chose.

      Once again, the line between phases is not always clear: How do you know when to stop the what-works scan and move on to creative combination? One answer might be that you run out of time....

    • 6 Resolution
      (pp. 46-52)

      The resolution phase of creative strategy—after you have your creative combination—can take days, weeks, months, or years, depending on the idea itself and the obstacles you encounter. The idea can succeed or fail. Creative strategy does not guarantee success; it increases your chances of success by giving you a strong idea that’s worth the effort of trying to implement.

      Once you have a creative combination, your next step is to plan. We saw that in the final workshop you end with the start of a plan. You have a goal: your final problem statement. And you have some...

    • 7 Get Organized
      (pp. 53-58)

      Over the past decade or so, more and more companies have turned their attention to innovation. Their efforts take various organizational forms. You find chief innovation officers, innovation councils, innovation funds, incubators, greenhouses, and many other new structures or procedures to stimulate or support new product or business ideas. Many of these are good when they serve as a hub for ideas to come together from various sources or bring attention, endorsement, and concrete support to innovation as a key activity of business. Just add creative strategy—to help people get ideas in the first place—and it can be...

    • 8 Kinds of Innovation
      (pp. 59-70)

      Creative strategy offers a method for innovation, but you will never follow the method exactly the same way twice. That’s because every situation is different to some degree, and so is every innovation. But there are some big categories of innovations that we can group together, where the method will stay roughly the same within each category. This chapter explains some different ways of applying creative strategy to five different types of innovation problems.

      The most common kind of innovation in business is a new product or service—that’s what most companies mean by “innovation.” To pursue this kind of...


    • 9 Brainstorming
      (pp. 73-76)

      The most common mistake in methods of innovation, creativity, and strategy is to rely on some type of formal or informal brainstorming to fill the gap between analysis and planning. Even ordinary problem solving often follows the same three steps: first, you do some kind of analysis; second, you brainstorm solutions; and third, you turn what you brainstorm into a plan. Many methods do not state this formally, but rather leave a blank between analysis and planning that people fall back on brainstorming to fill.

      Brainstorming depends on spontaneous creativity on the right side of the brain. For many years,...

    • 10 Top Ten
      (pp. 77-87)

      Bain & Company, a leading strategy consulting firm, does an annual survey of management tools in use among businesses “across industries and around the globe.” So that’s where we’ll start. Below is their latest top ten, from 2011. My purpose here is to explain how and why creative strategy is better for innovation than each of these ten popular methods. This is not a criticism of Bain. Quite the contrary; they have done a wonderful job of finding out and summarizing what businesses actually do. Here’s the list:


      Strategic planning

      Mission and vision statements

      Customer relationship management


      Balanced scorecard...

    • 11 Creative
      (pp. 88-110)

      The Bain top ten is a good place to start our review of other methods that might compete with creative strategy, but of course dozens more are common throughout the world of business. I will look at just a few of them here, in two main categories: “creative” and “strategy.” That is, some methods promise to help you come up with creative ideas. Other methods tell you how to decide on a strategy.

      This chapter takes on “creative” methods. The next chapter takes on “strategy.” In both cases you will see patterns repeat, as the various methods make the same...

    • 12 Strategy
      (pp. 111-130)

      An innovation must be both creative and strategic: something new (creative) that gives you a feasible course of action toward a worthwhile goal (strategic). Some popular methods of strategy make an explicit promise to give you that new direction, and these are direct alternatives to creative strategy. Other popular strategy methods make no special claims to yield innovation but can crowd out creative strategy and thus block innovation.

      In most cases both sets of methods are actually forms of analysis and do not yield a creative idea. With some modification, you can adapt these methods to creative strategy: use them...


    • Creative Strategy at a Glance
      (pp. 133-143)

      Creative strategy is method for innovation of all kinds, in three parts: Phase 1 breaks down a problem into elements, Phase 2 scans sources to find precedents that fit each element, and Phase 3 combines a subset of those precedents to solve the problem.

      In contrast, conventional innovation methods typically have two steps: first, in-depth research and analysis about the problem; and second, brainstorming a solution. This yields strong analysis and weak solutions.

      Creative strategy reverses the emphasis; it quickly mines your own understanding of the problem and then spends more time searching widely for solutions. That’s how most innovation...

    • Sources
      (pp. 144-152)

      Here I present the sources I found in my own what-works scan for how to get creative ideas for strategy, plus some more recent sources. Some of these references appear in the main body of the book as well. They are gathered here and sorted by field.

      The great work here is Thomas Kuhn’sStructure of Scientic Revolutions. Kuhn shows how scientic breakthroughs actually happen, as a form of creative combination from what others have done before.

      We noted in the section on “Scientic Method” that the method’s founder, Roger Bacon, gives similar advice.

      Isaac Newton named his sources and...

    (pp. 153-154)
    (pp. 155-158)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 159-166)