Taking Innovation From Intangible to Inevitable

Be Less Zombie is a ‘How To’ manual for innovation. Elvin Turner opens by positing that companies fall into one of two categories – Unicorns and Zombies. 

Zombies are the risk-averse companies that focus exclusively on the daily grind and are potentially grinding themselves out of existence; whereas Unicorns are looking to the future and constantly evolving to embrace it. In this expansive book, Turner outlines how we can be more Unicorn through a watertight, step-by-step guide.

It’s clear that many years of innovation consultancy experience have been condensed into this volume, as we open with the steps to building an innovation strategy. I hear echoes of Allen Carr, as Turner dismantles every conceivable barrier to building a purposeful plan.  These range from lack of time to short-term cashflow addiction or even a simple denial of reality.

One can also imagine the abundance of stakeholder management the author has handled over the years as every ‘yes but’ is deftly served a riposte, complete with examples and anecdotes cited from historic clients as well as famous innovators.  People and technology company 3M for example, requires that 30% of its revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago, thus forcing innovation at the core of the company’s strategy and operations.

The bulk of the book then outlines the thorough seven-step process to get you there. We start with opportunity scoping and culminate in scaling successfully tested ideas. Every step is practically outlined and eminently doable. An abundance of useful frameworks and further reading is provided in straightforward language.  

Finally, recognising that the biggest challenge is making theory reality, Turner calls out that innovation needs to be facilitated in every aspect of an organisation. The last five sections address the broader steps that need to be taken across resourcing, culture and capability building.

What is particularly useful is how Turner removes perceived risks at every step of the process to arrive at tangible business outcomes. Innovation and creativity are democratised yet developed within clear parameters. We are urged to start with the consumer need, not the product, and then advised to dream big but test small. We are introduced to the notion of two modes or ‘spaces’ needed within a company, to enable the essential permission to experiment. The ‘Rehearsal Space’ is where employees have the opportunity to test, validate or fail forward, whereas the ‘Performance Space’ is about optimising today’s product.

Turner takes the mystery out of innovation by breaking it down into 50 bite-sized chapters that are drenched in common sense. This book is comprehensive, but it’s also dense. I see how I would dip into it in future for one of its many useful tools. I can also see by the same token, how Be Less Zombie could become a bible to those who feel their company is in the land of the living dead.




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