Flight reading: innovation and evidence

Flight reading: innovation and evidence

On my evening flight to New York on Monday I decided to save the pile of work for my day flight on the way home and instead settled into some work books that I’d been meaning to read for a while.

I started with The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. The central point was an important one – the power of disruptive innovation. Such innovation often comes from outside of existing successful organisations, which fail to see the next big thing as they focus on more incremental ‘sustaining’ innovations. Being too busy improving existing products means that they often fail to focus on developing new ones.

Next up was The second bounce of the ball by Ronald Cohen. It is a fascinating and very well written personal story of how he built his venture capital business. It keeps you turning the pages as insight on what makes a successful entrepreneur is held together by a powerful narrative of the story of one organisation. I was particularly interested in reading it, given the central role that Ronald Cohen has gone on to have in the world of social investment, which we work on at Nesta.

Providing a Sure Start by Naomi Eisenstadt was a deeply engaging read from start to finish. It is a really well told and interesting story of policy design and delivery. With the benefit of hindsight it reflects on what could have been done differently and what lessons were learned, both about designing policy and about evaluating it. I found it particularly fascinating having been involved in evaluating the Labour government’s welfare-to-work programmes during this period. Sure Start was a key policy in the suite of policies to help lone parents move into work, which was the area I was predominantly involved in researching and evaluating at the time.

Clumsy Solutions for a complex world, edited by Marco Verweij and Michael Thompson was a bit more hard going, though to be fair this may have been a function of starting to read it at 11pm UK time. It is an edited collection of case studies that argue that the complexity of ‘wicked problems’ mean that seemingly sensible and straightforward solutions often fail, with messier solutions often being more successful.

I’m already looking forward to my next excuse for doing nothing but read for seven hours. If you have any suggestions of what should be on the list, please let me know!