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The Power of Little Ideas

A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation

David Robertson and Kent Lineback

Just published: The Power of Little Ideas is available for purchase here on the Wharton Digital Press site in hardcover format and at all major book retailer sites in ebook and hardcover formats.

Conventional wisdom today says that to survive, companies must move beyond incremental, sustaining innovation and invest in some form of radical innovation. “Disrupt yourself or be disrupted!” is the relentless message company leaders hear. The Power of Little Ideas argues there’s a “third way” that is neither sustaining nor disruptive. This low-risk, high-reward strategy is an approach to innovation that all company leaders should understand so that they recognize it when their competitors practice it, and apply it when it will give them a competitive advantage.

This distinctive approach has three key elements:

  • It consists of creating a family of complementary innovations around a product or service, all of which work together to make that product more appealing and competitive.
  • The complementary innovations work together as a system to carry out a single strategy or purpose.
  • Crucially, unlike disruptive or radical innovation, innovating around a key product does not change the central product in any fundamental way.

In this powerful, practical book, Wharton professor David Robertson illustrates how many well-known companies, including CarMax, GoPro, LEGO, Gatorade, Disney, USAA, Novo Nordisk, and many others, used this approach to stave off competitive threats and achieve great success. He outlines the organizational practices that unintentionally torpedo this approach to innovation in many companies and shows how organizations can overcome those challenges.

Aimed at leaders seeking strategies for sustained innovation, and at the quickly growing numbers of managers involved with creating new products, The Power of Little Ideas provides a logical, organic, and enduring third way to innovate.

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About the Authors

David Robertson

David C. Robertson joined the faculty of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in January of 2011, and was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland from 2002 through 2010. As the LEGO Professor, Robertson was given unique access to the company’s management team, has written two case studies about the company, and is the co-author of a Harvard Business Review piece on LEGO.   At IMD, Robertson was the co-director of the sc ... More

Kent Lineback

Kent Lineback has spent more than twenty-five years as a manager and executive and, before that, several years as a consultant and a creator of management development programs. He has collaborated on several books, including Being the Boss. ... More

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