Dealing with Darwin

Ever see a book in the bookstore that catches your attention and you realize it was a best-seller sometime in the past?  You realize you never picked it up to read it and decide that you should?

That’s what happened when I ran across Dealing with Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution by Geoffrey Moore.

I heard about this book when it was released in 2005 and always meant to read it…but just never did.  Whilst perusing the local Half-Price Books, I decided I’d pick it up and read it…because I’m a book nerd, there is a dinosaur on the cover and I saw what I thought were fractals in the book! 🙂

I got the book home and started reading…and I made it to page xii in the preface to the paperback edition before realizing I may have made a mistake buying this book.  What happened?

I read this passage:

The key message is simple. In order to achieve competitive advantage in a commoditizing market, one must innovate so dramatically as to create definitive seperation between your offers and those of the low-cost commoditizers. That means selecting a vector of innovation that can set you apart and investing intensely along that vector…

Huh?  The key message is simple but the author makes the message difficult to understand.

Why didn’t Mr. Moore just say: To gain competitive advantage, you need to separate yourself from your competitor by choosing an innovation path and investing in that path.

After reading this passage, I was very very skeptical about the rest of the book.  Especially after this passage immediately following the above one:

Extract resource from context to fund core.

What does that mean?

There are some great ideas in this book but those ideas are often overshadowed by verbosity (as shown above) and/or using contextual language that makes little sense outside of the context of the book.

The book does do a good job of outlining the different types of innovation (e.g., disruptive, product,platform, etc). The author does a good job of describing the process of looking at the marketplace to determine how to attack innovation. The framework that Moore lays out is very useful and intriguing and is worth studying in further detail. Again, the author does know his stuff.

That said, the book is a difficult read.  If you are serious about innovation and competitive advantage, you should read this book..but be prepared to re-read many pages/sections.  I found myself stopping every  few paragraphs and trying to comprehend what I just read.

Is there anyone out there that has read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it?   Am I being to harsh on this book?  Could it be that I’m getting cranky in my old age? 🙂

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