Although one might think this book is formulaic, it is far from it despite the title by Paul Sloane being comprised of several multi-step methods to achieving one’s goals. Sloane, founder of the Destination Innovation consultancy, is a British author who takes a unique approach to reaching his audience. As he notes in his introduction, the book was created “not in some grand theoretical framework but in the form of practical tips and methods that can be put into immediate effect.”
Sloane isn’t the first author to claim that he is trying not to waste his reader’s time. However, his follow-up proves that it is not an idle boast. The style of The Innovative Leader is reminiscent of a collection of essays. Sloane chooses a topic, idea generation is an example, then spends the next 40-odd pages producing terse, three to four page dissertations of his thoughts on how to achieve the goal. He is a write whose verbal frugality is greatly appreciated. Sadly for American authors, Sloane’s work mirrors the economic state of the exchange rate of two dollars to one British pound. His contemporaries on this side of the Atlantic could due with trading some of their more verbose chapters in for Sloane’s efficiency.
Despite the incredible influence of the global marketplace, there are those executives that still feel leery of applying a “foreigner’s” advice to the American workplace. Fortunately, many of the themes in The Innovative Leader are universal. Creativity, like the world economy,knows no boundaries, and the author is devout in his mission to engender innovation. In the same way he does not waste words, Sloane is rather abrupt in his assessment of what limits a company’s creativity. Some readers may be surprised that TheInnovative Leader does not attempt to coddle them. If you have a team member whose negativity is limiting the innovative impulses of other teammates, Sloane recommends you jettison that person before he or she brings the whole enterprise crashing down. The author’s methods would be considered extreme in some circumstances, if he didn’t follow up the majority of his arguments with solid examples from major businesses such as Google, IBM (for whom Sloane worked for a time), Virgin, 3M and Disney, to name a few.
Executives will be appreciative of the way in which The Innovative Leader delivers its messages. The short, punchy chapters could have fallen prey to reading like the jottings of a professor before a lecture. Instead, they have an astonishing amount of clarity and impact. To increase their resonance, it is recommended that readers only tackle two to three per day. Leaders are encouraged to give Sloane’s ideas real consideration and attempt to apply the ones that fit their organization. Although, Sloane himself would probably suggest that executives also try to apply the ideas that seem furthest from their company’s particular set of needs. Innovation, as expressed in TheInnovative Leader, relies heavily on going far beyond one’s boundaries.
An additional message to take away from Sloane’s philosophy is the need to cut personal ties to projects and swallow one’s pride. The process of expanding one’s business requires a great degree of willingness to try and fail, and to recognize when those failures cannot be saved. This is what gives The Innovative Leader a distinct advantage over other business books that attempt to inspire leaders. Sloane has an amazing ability to walk the line between the pragmatic and the emotional. His more philosophical arguments are still rooted in real business sense, while his logical applications are discussed with passion. This combines to make a captivating read whose return on the reader’s investment of time is sure to be exponential.
TheInnovative Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity byPaul Sloan is published by Kogan Page.