Communicating The New – A Book Review
Posted by Plish on December 30, 2013
I recently finished reading, Communicating The New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation by IIT Institute of Design Professor, Kim Erwin.
The premise of the book is simple but it’s a point that gets missed. If someone is trying to communicating a new idea, the typical way is to use concepts, techniques and metaphors that are familiar. I’ve seen it in many industries. In music we hear people say, “The music is a cross between Joan Jett and Enya.” While the statement is provocative, it falls short because people are forming an idea of what the “Joan/Enya” amalgam sounds and looks like, a perception that is likely inaccurate in some, if not many, ways. In business I’ve seen products described as “XYZ product but it does it in a different way and better.” Again, this type of comparison rings hollow and doesn’t do justice to what may truly be a ground breaking concept.
So what to do?
As the book points out: If you want to communicate The New, it should be done in ways that get the message across and at the same time pave the way for bringing the idea to fruition. It’s not just about transmitting information, it’s about bringing information alive and making it engaging on myriads of levels. Hence the subtitle of the book: “Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation.”
While the book is about communication, it’s about much more than that, it’s about creating and cocreating – bringing things to actualization. This book is about innovation tactics; it’s about dream-storming. We all have heard and seen great ideas that don’t get a chance to spread their wings because the idea was ineffectively communicated. This book shares tools to give an idea wings. In addition, it provides tools that will excite and empower stakeholders/team members so that they engage with, and develop, fledgling ideas. The more these people are engaged, the more they feel confident and enthusiastic about pushing an idea out of the nest expecting it to fly!
The book is easy to read and is aesthetically pleasing as well. There are multiple case studies and insights from innovators – it adds breadth to the content. One minor complaint I have is that there are some great graphics that span adjacent pages. As a result, some of the content in the graphics is hard to see because it disappears in the seam between the pages. Granted, the content of these ‘page spanning graphics’ are from case studies and they aren’t really pertinent to the content of the chapters, but the graphics were interesting and it drove me nuts to not be able to see the entire graphic. If I can read part of a graphic, I want to be able to read all of it. Just a personal pet peeve. The remainder of the graphics are well done and helpful, illuminating the text.
The resource section of this book, what people would normally consider the end notes of a book, are outstanding and provide links and directions to sources for further research. This chapter is a gem and should be read.
A final point is that a book about communicating The New, should perhaps be more than a book. The webpage is a step in the right direction, but somewhere in the back of my mind, this book is screaming for new ways of being shared. I am also looking forward to more case studies of people who are successfully (and unsuccessfully!) communicating The New. This book is just getting the conversation started!
Erwin’s book is a welcome addition to the libraries of innovators and entre/intrapraneurs alike. I highly recommend “Communicating the New” for anyone who has ideas and knows it’ll take more than an army of one to make them reality.