- The Twilight BarkBusy town dogs bark less than country dogs, but all dogs know all about the Twilight Barking. It is their way of keeping in touch with distant friends, passing on important news, enjoying a good gossip.
—Dodie Smith, The Hundred and One DalmatiansWhat people are saying about Innovation for Underdogs.A great guide, clearly written, by someone who actually does itby John FalconeAmazon Customer Review:Dr. Pensak has created a really delightful text in an innovative (no pun intended) way, but what else would I expect from someone who sat on Professor Einstein's knee and was the developer of the first internet firewall along with many others! The book is large enough to cover the topic well yet small enough to assure you non-essential and boring subjects are avoided. I like this because it enables you to complete the book in a reasonable amount of time and use the rest of your time thinking about what you just read and how you can use it in your pursuits!
The book, in my opinion, is divided into three broad areas. The ideas and experiences that shaped his earliest ideas on the mechanics of innovation. Each set of principles have practical and funny examples plus a keen view into Dave Pensak's own thought process. The second group of chapters deal with the pragmatic essentials an innovator need be aware of to stay out of trouble. The third group deal with taking these principles and applying them productively by tickling new ideas in you. An 'efficient' read, you will thoroughly enjoy !Innovation requires much moreProvost and Institute Professor of Chemistry, EmeritusCalifornia Institute of Technology (Caltech)Some may think this book is really 'Innovation for Dummies,' but it is not. Dummies learn by rote. Innovation requires much more, which for me, the starting points are a lively curiosity and a real yen to solve problems. If applying the lessons of this book takes you to being an innovator, then beyond to entrepreneur, there is an interesting, rather detailed chapter as to what you could expect to encounter as you subsequently morph into a business person dealing with venture capitalists. The writing is simple, straightforward, and humorous; no need for Maxwell's equations. Enjoy while learning!Dr. Pensak Keynote Speaker at Conrad Foundation- Innovation Generation Summit Program.NASA Ames Research Centerby Nancy ConradChairman & Founder the Conrad Foundation and the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation AwardsAmazon Customer ReviewDr Pensak has written an insightful, informative and transformative book about one of the important ingredients of our knowledge based economy:innovation. Innovation must be nurtured in today's world. It is America's "special sauce". It is what sent man to the moon, it is what created the internet, and it is what will help us to solve the problems we confront in today's complex global economy. It is imperative that we continue to encourage young minds to expand their ability to think in creative ways. This book helps us to recognize the elements that lead to innovation and does so in an interesting and fun way. Dr Pensak helps us to recognize creative energy and shows us how to stretch our minds to create. This is a MUST read.ABA Banking Journal:Chicago bank marketer applies the lessons of Innovation for Underdogs to financial services marketingby Jake Silker
With Innovation for Underdogs, Dr. Pensak explains how would-be innovators can harness their creativity, and gain the motivation to become successful problem-solvers. According to Pensak, the two essential ingredients for innovating are: first, a familiarity with a frustration, and second, curiosity.
Frequently, curiosity requires us to dig a little deeper and seek solutions outside of our comfort zones. Pensak recommends that, when confronted with a complex problem, we step back and broaden the horizon. The solution could be waiting just out of view.
I’ve found this, as I read the book, to be true. Just yesterday I walked eight blocks with my young daughter to catch the last few minutes of an art festival in our neighborhood.
I had every intention of buying my daughter a small gift. She knew this. The vendors were eager to make a sale. They were about to pack up. The more we bought, the less they would have to cart home.
Everyone seemed to know we had just arrived. Perhaps, they had grown used to the other faces over the past 6 hours. Or, perhaps they noticed that she was the only 3 year old without face-paint and handmade flower headband.
There was just one catch: I had forgotten my wallet.
Changing the horizon: An example
My daughter didn't understand why she couldn't touch everything in sight. I had promised her she could pick something, and now she couldn't shop?
Every vendor was ready to haggle as my daughter found handmade bracelets and toys.
It is not a crime to browse and not buy. But, at least with my wallet in my pocket, I felt like a legitimately discerning customer. By the time I could retrieve it and return, the fair would be over. With no wallet, I had no business even pretending I might buy something. This is not something that concerns a three-year old. She still wanted to shop.
Pensak tells us that successful innovations stem from the same root: frustration.
Confronted with dissatisfaction or need for improvement, a curious and creative thinker will set out to find a solution. Children are innovative by nature. When David Pensak was growing up, he knew it was okay to ask questions. Innovation for Underdogs encourages parents to foster their children’s creativity by reminding the child that detecting problems and asking the right questions is just as important as finding the answers. Innovators need to think like children…to discover possibilities.
As I tried to explain things to my daughter, her natural curiosity got to the truth of the matter. It wasn't that I didn't have any money, the desire to make a purchase, or even that I had forgotten my wallet.
The most basic problem was that I had money, but not the means to access it.
Roots of innovation
As a child, David Pensak had some interesting neighbors, from Nobel Prize-winning physicists to the legendary Albert Einstein. It may come as no surprise he grew up to become a revolutionary thinker. Pensak would say that those influences were interesting, but not intrinsic to his ability to innovate. Nevertheless, Pensak is considered one of the fathers of the firewall and has had a major impact on internet security. With Raptor Systems, he is said to have built the first commercially successful firewall.
In Chapter 3, Innovative Lessons from Einstein, we learn it wasn't any direct lesson from these influential thinkers that made him a great innovator. Instead, they taught him to look for unique solutions by allowing his brain to do what it was designed to do. Pensak calls this process of discovery “Thinking about Thinking.”
The book is filled with anecdotes about innovation through his experiences with others, his work at DuPont, and his teachings as a university professor, as well as his experience as a parent. The mind power behind innovation is quite basic, extremely logical, and certainly inherent in every human being.
Parsing the innovation process
Pensak breaks down the concept of innovation to help us discover opportunities for improvement in many different aspects of life. No matter what the field of study, anyone can innovate:
Product innovations—Make it faster, bigger, longer lasting, more effective, etc.
Process innovations—Enhance speed or efficiency.
Service innovations—Enhance customer satisfaction.
Organizational innovations—Change how a company is structured or how it interacts with the world.
Business innovations—Change the way a product is offered, helping it capture more value.
Marketing innovations—Help a business attract more customers to what it sells.
Social innovations—Improve people's lives by changing how they interact with one another.
Starting up innovation
Pensak considers it important to be grounded in the problem before jumping ahead to look for solutions. Successful innovations are built upon the innovator’s ability to successfully use (and not use) available information.
For example, you probably have a pair of scissors in your desk drawer. A camping knife may have every tool and utensil known to man, but when you want to make quick work of a piece of paper you don't want to fumble around with a spoon and a corkscrew, you need a pair of scissors.
In the same way, you can’t please everyone, and a good innovator is aware of this.
There are other innovations that address this very situation today. A company called Sicap has developed technology which allows consumers to withdraw money out of an ATM using an SMS (simple message service) text message. They can then have the balance added to their monthly phone bill.
The day I found myself sans wallet, I would have gladly paid a surcharge to both my phone company and my financial institution in this particular moment.
Maybe it wasn't me that needed a new way to access my money. Maybe the vendors just needed a new way to accept payments.
Bump Technologies allows users of two smartphones to exchange information just by bumping them together. PayPal is using this to feature to enable their customers to send and receive payments. Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, unveiled Square last December as a way to let people quickly and easily accept credit card payments from their mobile phone. A tiny card reader is plugged into the headphone jack of the phone. It takes finger signatures on the touchscreen, generates email or SMS receipts, calculates sales tax, and comes with an online accounting dashboard to keep track of sales.
DeviceFidelity makes a contactless payment system contained on a microSD card which, when paired with Visa's own payWave system later this year, will let you use just about any microSD card slot-equipped cellphone to make pay contactless payments at between 50,000 to 60,000 merchants in the US.
Have you heard of these technologies? Has your bank considered trying them? Possibly not.
Confidence precedes product adoption
Pensak points out that it takes a very long time to build up customer confidence and only a little time to lose it with a bad innovation. Let me cite an example from a recent personal experience.
I received a new grill as a gift. Unfortunately, when it was time for assembly, I found that a support bracket was missing.
The instruction sheet asked me to not return the grill to the store, but to call the manufacturer, who would promptly ship me the missing part. I called the number of the manufacturer, but a recording told me to call back during business hours.
On Monday, I called back and heard “To speak to someone about grills, press 1.” This apparently meant only that if I hoped to speak with someone I should press 1. Because, after seven more key-presses, answering everything from my model number to my time zone, I heard another message advising me that their call queue returns messages in the order they are received.
During an early meeting the next day, I missed their call to my cell phone.
I was told to call back and thanked for choosing their grill. This call-back feature may have been intended as a service innovation. Sitting on hold is certainly frustrating and this probably seemed like a solution to this common problem. Perhaps, they thought I wouldn't want to sit on hold for a few minutes.
But, it was much more frustrating hearing the same person's voice leave me the same uninterested message three times a day.
In fact, this frustration led me to my own innovative solution. Enrolling my own number in the queue certainly wasn't working, so I enlisted my friends, family, and co-workers to enroll in the queue. It was an open challenge to anyone: Who would be first to retrieve this missing part or even talk to a representative in person?
Three weeks and many many phone calls later, I finally caught the call and received the part another week later.
Pensak reminds readers not to over-innovate. What innovations could be considered “over-innovated”? Software companies have a tendency to over-innovate—think of Windows Vista. Just because an innovation works doesn’t mean it works.
For example, had I forgotten my wallet back in 2006, I could have walked to the local grocery store and withdrawn cash by scanning my fingertip. Pay by Touch used Chicago as their test market for their biometric payment system.
Why isn't this innovation available everywhere by now?
Among other problems, Pay by Touch found it was hard to get customers to enroll at the checkout lane. People hesitate to give up their fingerprints and Social Security numbers. When an innovation won’t be accepted, it might as well not work at all.
Listen, but be careful about acting
Pensak’s book got me thinking about pending innovations in banking.
Take personal financial management software. The makers of this software have been offering innovative solutions to customers and are now offering white-label solutions to banks. Many of these offer dashboards of financial-fitness measures, such as debt-to-income ratios, credit limits, and credit scores.
While these firms have seen moderate adoption rates, there are many customers that look to their financial institution for this type of advice. This is an opportunity for service innovation for banks. Some banks are hesitant to implement this, since they aren't sure if it is something their customers would want. Indeed, many customers say they are afraid to see their full financial picture. They say they would really rather not be greeted by their debt-to-income ratio each time they log in.
Does this mean this innovation won't work?
This is where the innovator needs to take a calculated risk. Henry Ford famously said, “If I had listened to my customers I would have invented a faster horse.”
How not to quash innovation
Examining Innovation in the Workplace: Why the Underdog Isn’t a Workhorse (Chapter 10) alone makes this book worth reading for anyone with an interest in incentive-planning.
New technology allows for new product innovations. New ideas allow for new service innovations.
Unfortunately, many frontline employees are paid to do a job instead of being paid to do a job well. These employees are in position to identify customers’ needs or frustrations, but, there is little incentive to innovate above expectation.
Creating incentives for employees starts with identifying their needs. And, as we know…that’s the first step toward innovation. Nobody is more in need, dissatisfied, or frustrated than the underdog. For those on the bottom rung of the ladder, it is certainly a way to get a leg up on the ladder. After all, everyone can innovate!Fascinating Informative Read From Inventor of the Firewallby James -Amazon Customer Review:This is a fascinating book -- truly informative and fun to read. It is one that brings to life real-world examples that illuminate how something is transformed from an idea into a reality in the marketplace. More importantly, Pensak has the credentials to back him up -- as the inventor of the firewall which was the world's most important invention to transform computer security, he was also the Chief Scientist at Dupont for many years, and has taught at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.Never boring and always interesting - readers begin to understand how innovation begins with the smallest ideas (ie; making drugs that only need to be taken once a day versus 5 times) to something as large as making an international conglomerate compete effectively in today's global marketplace.The book expounds on everything innovation-related: from processes to products, from near-catastrophe to capital.A nice plus that is different from other books on innovation, Pensak gives hope to the entrepreneur and inventor -- teaching them "how to think" about innovation and how to make peace with the dozens of ideas many have at once, in order to get one to marketplace successfully. He chronicles what can go wrong and how to avoid it, and ends one of the last few chapters with one of the most pressing issues of our time, global warming and clean energy. Included is an insightful chapter on financing the venture, as well as historical perspective on the world's earliest innovators. An insightful read and page-turner.A great inspiration for the pent up inventor...by Richard BermanAmazon Customer ReviewI am delighted that I discovered this book after Dr. Pensak's latest revisions have been included. This book has set loose the pent up inventor in me. There are a number of ideas that I have had over the years that I have kept under wraps simply for fear I would not succeed in bringing them to market. Having read this book I now understand that the process of innovation itself is invigorating and that, of course, there is no way to succeed without trying. I have read many "self help" books and it was hard to stay focused on them due to the simplicity and lack of originality. Dr. Pensak's book is above all a great read. Imagine sitting in your sandbox and being encouraged to innovate by non other than Albert Einstein!! That is just one of the remarkable stories in this book. Frankly, I read it cover to cover and it kept me up all night.This is no dog of a book.by Philomathean Society Member, the oldest literary society in the U.S.Amazon Customer ReviewGreat book written by the inventor of the first commercial firewall for the internet. Dr. Pensak is extremely interesting and has many fascinating as well as humorous points to make regarding innovation. As a former "Innovator of The Year" at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pensak could teach Donald Trump a few things :)Every forward thinking person in the world should read this bookby Louis ThomasonAmazon Customer ReviewThis is a book every forward thinking person in this world should read and use as their guidance. Instead of analyzing history, traditional political and religious concepts, and social dogma it engages the reader in the incredible creative possibilities of the mind... and the future.... anchored in some of the most important creativity of our time and validated by a continuing stream of creative ideas and thought. I have ordered copies for my son and grandsons ...
I was especially pleased to find the changes Dr. Pensak made recently included my copy. It would be helpful if the publisher could indicate the new editions in some way
- "Innovation is not invention, which is the discovery of something completely new; innovations make new out of what already exists, and so showing appreciation of the creative world of the past allows you to see the value it has for the future." D. Pensak
- Available NowThe Second Edition of Innovation for Underdogs with all new chapters.Cheer for Underdog as he reforms Education, is elected President, takes a serious bite out of crime, fights the never ending battle for truth, puts a bone in every dish and innovates solutions Congress is afraid to hear - because they might work.Preview Chapter 15: Underdog for President- and We All WinUnderdog had never had any interest in politics. To him, the word meant "poly" as in "many," and "ticks" as in "blood-sucking creatures." He had no plans to be proactive in any aspect of governance.
It was a bright, crisp fall day. Underdog was at the dog park with his closest friends. They were congregated around the central fire hydrant, discussing the implications of trickle down economics. It was only a matter of time before the topic veered to the chaotic and overtly obstructionist budgetary policies (and anti-policies) that had consumed the United States Congress.Roger, an Old English Bulldog with a face quite reminiscent of Sir Winston Churchill, put his rawhide chew stick down, drew himself up to an almost sitting position and exclaimed, "The whole damn government is going to the dogs. The humans can't agree on anything except to disagree." Myriad barks of agreement were heard and tails wagged. "Here, here" echoed throughout the park. "If I were President, there are lots of things which I would do immediately. Just look around at the humans sitting on the benches having nothing to do except count clouds and reminisce about the good old days when money was made by building things, not just moving funds around in complicated circles -like a game of ring around the rosy - until the bottom 99 percent all fall down and the fat cats get even richer.Don't they understand that there is an incredible amount of wisdom still floating around in these humans' heads? But, as they get older, they need more services like medical care and they forget more and more. I've head rumors that Congress is considering creating a Pound, where they can send stray humans, just like they used to with us dogs before they realized we have hearts, brains, and - something they seem to lack - loyalty to our pack and our neighbors."
Underdog snuffled in Agreement. "But what's a dog to do?" Everyone went silent. After what seemed like hours, a frisky little Chihuahua yapped up, "Let's run Underdog for President. He is loyal, faithful, and honest and he will never ignore those in need. He can't be bribed (except perhaps by a nicely grilled steak)." More ...