These days, it seems as though every business challenge has the same solution: innovation. Innovation is the watchword for generating fast growth in the very slow recovery from the Great Recession, and, thanks largely to Clayton Christensen’s concept of disruptive innovation, it’s the narrative center of gravity in Silicon Valley and the rest of the global tech community. But if innovation is the answer, the obvious next question is how to innovate.
This year’s three best business books on innovation offer answers to this crucial query in intriguing and insightful, if sometimes indirect, ways. In The Second Machine Age, economist Erik Brynjolfsson and information technologist Andrew McAfee suggest that smart machines are not only the products of innovation, but also essential enablers of innovation prowess. In Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex Pentland offers a data-driven and eye-opening inquiry into the flow of ideas among people. And in How Google Works, high-level company insiders Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, with Alan Eagle, take us down to where the rubber meets the road.