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Hardcover | Out of Print | 464 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 25 b&w illus. | August 2010 | ISBN: 9780262014540
Paperback | $22.95 Trade | £18.95 | 464 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 25 b&w illus. | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262518123
eBook | $16.95 Trade | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262290364
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The Innovator's Way

Essential Practices for Successful Innovation
Foreword by John Seely Brown


Innovation is the ruling buzzword in business today. Technology companies invest billions in developing new gadgets; business leaders see innovation as the key to a competitive edge; policymakers craft regulations to foster a climate of innovation. And yet businesses report a success rate of only four percent for innovation initiatives. Can we significantly increase our odds of success? In The Innovator’s Way, innovation experts Peter Denning and Robert Dunham reply with an emphatic yes. Innovation, they write, is not simply an invention, a policy, or a process to be managed. It is a personal skill that can be learned, developed through practice, and extended into organizations.

Denning and Dunham identify and describe eight personal practices that all successful innovators perform: sensing, envisioning, offering, adopting, sustaining, executing, leading, and embodying. Together, these practices can boost a fledgling innovator to success. Weakness in any of these practices, they show, blocks innovation. Denning and Dunham chart the path to innovation mastery, from individual practices to teams and social networks.

About the Authors

Peter J. Denning is Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

Robert Dunham founded the Institute for Generative Leadership and the consulting company Enterprise Performance.

Table of Contents

  • The Innovator’s Way
  • The Innovator’s Way
  • Essential Practices for Successful Innovation
  • Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Sabon by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Denning, Peter J., 1942–
  • The innovator’s way : essential practices for successful innovation / Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham.
  •   p. cm.
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01454-0 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Technological innovations. I. Dunham, Robert. II. Title.
  • HD45.D36 2010
  • 658.4′06—dc22
  • 2010002550
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 
  • To Dorothy
  • To Josephina
  • Contents
  • Foreword by John Seely Brown  ix
  • Preface  xiii
  • Acknowledgments  xxi
  • Prologue: Pasteur and the Dying Cows  xxiii
  • I Foundations of Innovation  1
  • 1 Invention Is Not Enough  3
  • 2 Generative Innovators in Action  31
  • 3 Frames of Mind  49
  • 4 Observing  77
  • II The Eight Practices  109
  • 5 Practice One:
  • Sensing  111
  • 6 Practice Two:
  • Envisioning  141
  • 7 Practice Three:
  • Offering  173
  • 8 Practice Four:
  • Adopting  187
  • 9 Practice Five:
  • Sustaining  203
  • 10 Practice Six:
  • Executing  219
  • 11 Practice Seven:
  • Leading  241
  • 12 Practice Eight:
  • Embodying  257
  • III Journey to Mastery  289
  • 13 Building a Culture of Innovation  291
  • 14 Mastering the Mess  313
  • 15 Social Networking and Innovation  343
  • 16 Dispositions of the Masters  365
  • Epilogue: Stradivarius Street  379
  • Appendix 1 Eight Practices Summary Chart  381
  • Appendix 2 Eight Practices Assessment Tool  385
  • Appendix 3 Levels of Performance at Innovation  389
  • Appendix 4 Somatic Exercises  395
  • About the Authors  401
  • Index  403


“This book will directly appeal to all those involved with inventions, innovations, and research and development-including those in computer and information science areas, as well as business leaders responsible for organizational renewal through innovations.”—C.S. Arora, Computing Reviews


“Denning and Dunham have set a new standard for the inquiry and practice of innovation. Their approach is fresh and revolutionary. Their eight practices are practical, wise, and usher in a new and much-needed perspective on the how of innovation. Standing on solid research and experience this book transcends theory and takes you to the practices that allow innovation to flower. The Innovator's Way belongs on every leader's desk.”
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, author of The Leadership Dojo
“Denning and Dunham have taken innovation out of the realm of mysterious abilities into a very concrete set of practices. The Innovator's Way is a well researched book that walks its talk.”
Julio Olalla, President and Founder, The Newfield Network
“Denning and Dunham make clear something I have been muddling through for decades. I wish I long ago had their checklist of eight practices of The Innovator's Way—would have saved me a lot of wasted time.”
Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor, 3Com founder, National Technology and Innovation Medalist
“Innovations (adopted inventions) become platforms for the next innovation. The World Wide Web could not have existed without the Internet and has itself now become the next platform for new innovations. This book amplifies the importance of adoption to turn invention into innovation.”
Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
“Truly innovative thinking about innovative thinking but it's the authenticity of the authors' experience that makes this book uniquely valuable and valuably unique.”
Michael Schrage, Research Fellow, MIT Sloan School Center for Digital Business


CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2011