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"Innovation" is the hottest buzzword in business. But what if our obsession with finding the next big thing has distracted us from the work that matters most?
“The most important book I’ve read in a long time.... It explains so much about what is wrong with our technology, our economy, and the world, and gives a simple recipe for how to fix it: Focus on understanding what it takes for your products and services to last.” (Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media)
It’s hard to avoid innovation these days. Nearly every product gets marketed as being disruptive, whether it’s genuinely a new invention or just a new toothbrush. But in this manifesto on the state of American work, historians of technology Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russell argue that our way of thinking about and pursuing innovation has made us poorer, less safe, and — ironically — less innovative. Drawing on years of original research and reporting, The Innovation Delusion shows how the ideology of change for its own sake has proved a disaster.
Corporations have spent millions hiring chief innovation officers while their core businesses tank. Computer science programs have drilled their students on programming and design, even though the overwhelming majority of jobs are in IT and maintenance. In countless cities, suburban sprawl has left local governments with loads of deferred repairs that they can’t afford to fix. And sometimes innovation even kills — like in 2018 when a Miami bridge hailed for its innovative design collapsed onto a highway and killed six people.
In this provocative, deeply researched book, Vinsel and Russell tell the story of how we devalued the work that underpins modern life — and, in doing so, wrecked our economy and public infrastructure while lining the pockets of consultants who combine the ego of Silicon Valley with the worst of Wall Street’s greed.
The authors offer a compelling plan for how we can shift our focus away from the pursuit of growth at all costs, and back toward neglected activities like maintenance, care, and upkeep. For anyone concerned by the crumbling state of our roads and bridges or the direction our economy is headed, The Innovation Delusion is a deeply necessary reevaluation of a trend we can still disrupt.
What the critics say
“Vibrant, sure-footed... The authors guide readers with clear and contemporary examples of when deferred maintenance led to either slow or fast disaster.... The authors also thoroughly expose the unjust hierarchy that leaves maintenance workers at the bottom of the pay scale.... A refreshing, cogently argued book that will hopefully make the rounds at Facebook, Google, Apple et al.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“[A] resounding call for sane business growth. The Silicon Valley ethos of ‘failing faster’ can work for website and app developers, for whom profit margins are high and the costs of failure are low - but it’s terrible advice for people building tangible items.... Vinsel and Russell profile businesspeople, including Andrea Goulet, CEO of the ‘software mending’ firm Corgibytes, and Yury Izrailevsky and Ariel Tseitlin, formerly Netflix’s directors of, respectively, cloud solutions and systems architecture, whom they celebrate for being concerned with upkeep rather than invention.... Readers will come away from Vinsel and Russell’s urgent and illuminating primer with a new perspective on the importance of maintenance as well as innovation in business.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
“There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to reveal how much a society relies on maintainers. The Innovation Delusion offers a vital wake-up call. Stirring, sobering, and brilliantly composed, this book is a must-read for everyone who longs for a radical reinvestment in what matters most.” (Ruha Benjamin, professor at Princeton University and author of Race After Technology)
What listeners say about The Innovation DelusionAverage Customer Ratings
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- James S.
Good ideas, but one-sided and lacking insights
Good ideas with good support, mostly about maintenance of civil and social infrastructure, but lacking necessary counterarguments to make it useful in a real discussion. The focus of this audible is too narrow and one-sided to be of much interest. Too academic, but yet not rigorously academic enough. Too much opinion-based fluff.
- Daphne Ho
A great book and different take to innovation
Lee and Andrew are fantastic storytellers who detail out the cultural shift that has happened over the past few years in Silicon Valley and what WE can do to create a better path forward