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Hardcover | $21.95 Trade | £15.95 | ISBN: 9780262028363 | 256 pp. | 6 x 9 in | September 2014
Ebook | $15.95 Trade | ISBN: 9780262323031 | 256 pp. | October 2014
About MIT Press Ebooks

The Innovator's Hypothesis

How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas


What is the best way for a company to innovate? That’s exactly the wrong question. The better question: How can organizations get the maximum possible value from their innovation investments? Advice recommending “innovation vacations” and the luxury of failure may be wonderful for organizations with time to spend and money to waste. But this book addresses the innovation priorities of companies that live in the real world of limits. They want fast, frugal, and high impact innovations. They don’t just seek superior innovation, they want superior innovators.

In The Innovator’s Hypothesis, innovation expert Michael Schrage advocates a cultural and strategic shift: small teams, collaboratively--and competitively—crafting business experiments that make top management sit up and take notice. Creativity within constraints—clear deadlines and clear deliverables—is what serious innovation cultures do. Schrage introduces the 5X5 framework: giving diverse teams of five people up to five days to come up with portfolios of five business experiments costing no more than $5,000 each and taking no longer than five weeks to run.

The book describes multiple portfolios of 5X5 experiments drawn from Schrage’s advisory work and innovation workshops worldwide. These include financial service approaches for improving customer service and addressing security challenges; a pharmaceutical company’s hypotheses for boosting regulatory compliance; and a diaper divisions’ efforts to give babies and parents alike better “diapering experiences” with glow-in-the-dark adhesives, diagnostic capability, and bundled wipes.

Schrage’s 5X5 is enterprise innovation gone viral: Successful 5X5s make people more effective innovators, and more effective innovators mean more effective innovations.

About the Author

Michael Schrage is a Research Fellow at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan School of Management. A sought-after consultant on business innovation, he is the author of Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate and What Do You Want Your Customers to Become?


"In a world where intuition too often rules, it is important to realize the value of testing and exploring the world around us. In The Innovator's Hypothesis, Michael Schrage provides a practical guide for a simple and promising way to force ourselves to do better for ourselves, our customers, and society as a whole."
Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, Duke University; author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality

"Michael Schrage has created a powerful and practical guide for innovators in organizations large and small. He vividly illustrates that the road to a bold and brilliant future is often best travelled in steps that are simple, small, fast, and frugal. You'll never think the same way about innovation."
Andy Sieg, Managing Director, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

"This is a really terrific book. The style is disarmingly casual but Schrage makes important fundamental points about how business could and should explore experimentation to create profitable innovation."
Jim Manzi, Chairman, Applied Predictive Technologies

"If you, like me, believe that ideas are worthless in the context of innovation, this is the book for you. Michael Schrage presents us with an excellent methodology, using business hypotheses and rapid experiments, along with lots of examples, for accelerating the innovation process, rather than just getting stuck on ideas."
Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group; author of Startup Communities; and coauthor of Venture Deals

"Most books on innovation fail to deliver practical guidance that a business can execute immediately. The Innovator’s Hypothesis isn't one of them. Michael Schrage’s 5x5 framework has helped us instill and sustain a true ethos of experimentation in our organization."
Peter Steinlauf, Chairman of the Board and “Chief Experiment Officer,”

"Michael Schrage’s writing has profoundly influenced my work over the years. The core essence of this book is a must-read for anyone seeking to accelerate the pace of innovation."
Qi Lu, Executive Vice President, Applications & Services Group (ASG), Microsoft Corporation

"As CEO of a 21st century company, I need to make sure that we are catalyzing innovation, not just thinking about it. The Innovator's Hypothesis is the first book I’ve read that explains how to do this through a clear methodology. It's ‘must’ reading for any business leader."
Victoria R. Montgomery-Brown, CEO, Big Think

"The Innovator's Hypothesis is a brilliant breakthrough of a book that includes the first fresh thinking on innovation in years. Simple, profound, empowering methods any company can use immediately."
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good

"Schrage delivers (again). This is a new classic, a book that will change the way thousands of companies innovate, grow, and thrive."
Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception


Honorable Mention, 2014 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in Business, Finance & Management, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers