INNOVATION CAPITAL – How to Compete and Win Like the World’s Most Innovative Leaders by Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, and Curtis Lefrandt

The smartest most innovative people aren’t necessarily guaranteed success with their ideas. Innovators must win support of others to turn their ideas into reality. The more novel, radical or risky the idea, the greater the challenge one might face acquiring resources to turn them into reality. This is the core point by the authors of this new book Innovation Capital. Having said that, they also raise expectations of would-be entrepreneurs substantially high to begin expecting some groundbreaking insights and secrets to getting there.

They make a compelling case very early in the book by comparing Tesla and Edison. The brilliant guy with tremendous ideas who died penniless, versus the moderately smart guy who used his networks and street smart to become known as the most successful innovator in history. Not to mention immensely wealthy in the process. And they share similar contrasting traits between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

As one proceeds forward, rest of the book tends to read like a cookbook on how to leverage your LinkedIn account successfully. For a working professional dreaming of being a successful Silicon Valley type entrepreneur there is certainly good advice in the book. On the other hand, to folks who are familiar the startup space this book might come across as naive, and talks about what should really be an inborn trait for an entrepreneur to begin with.

Coining a series of terms such as innovation-specific human, social capital and reputation capital helps to containerize goals that entrepreneurs need to achieve. To most they would sound like activities and behaviors most ambitious folks would do anyway in order to get ahead.

A significant chapter of the book draws on techniques Steve Jobs leveraged to build credibility about his product, and to bend perceptions of investors and influencers favorably towards it. Terms such as “reality distortion field” pioneered by Jobs feature as legitimate techniques every early stage venture should use to get ahead in the competition for investor attention and for venture capital, both within a startup or in a corporate setting.

We are also introduced to techniques used by entrepreneurs like Elon Musk that speaks to identifying a lofty vision that attracts others to your project – both investors as well as talent.

Mirosoft’s Satya Nadella, Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayan feature prominently as forward looking thinkers who used the same skills to gain access to significantly critical (and risky) projects which ultimately gave them prominence as strong leaders, and positioned them for future CEO jobs at their companies. The book provides pointers to the way to become forward thinkers.

The authors point to the importance of having a social network of close professional contacts and confidantes. However, they also provide a counterintuitive insight in that our weak extended network exists beyond our immediate close friends/associates and more often than not has potential to bring way more benefits in terms of reach and influence to get us to our goals, than our closest ties.Your weak ties are actually much stronger than you realize. The various dimensions to building a personal brand reputation is covered in a chapter as well.

Another interesting concept elaborated across an entire chapter as well is that of Personal Impression Amplifiers. On the surface, one might be forgiven for mistakenly (and uncharitably) boiling this idea down to a popular American tactic – “Fake it till you make It.” The authors however take pains to analyze many aspect of this idea and how to leverage this as a legitimate strategy to strengthen human, social and reputational capital, and attract backers to support specific ideas or projects.

One however does gather an impression that a small sampling of successful CEOs and entrepreneurs, ones who show up as reference examples in almost every chapter as examples of demonstrating the key innovation capital skills, was rather over-indexed by the authors to base their research conclusions on.

Interestingly, the book in its the closing chapter brought up what we found to be the most interesting from an academic standpoint. It examined how companies that leverage the principles of Innovation Capital at the corporate level enjoy stronger competitive advantage and a a higher premium in the marketplace, as well. They are regarded as being more innovative, create better customer and product experiences, have a stronger brand equity and enjoy higher marketplace premiums. Had the authors begun their book with what seemed an afterthought in a closing chapter before easing into how similar techniques work at the individual level, we believe the book might have turned an interesting read into a more exciting one.

About the author

Praas Chaudhuri is CEO & Principal Industry Analyst supporting Industrial Autonomy, Intelligent Cities and the broader Digital Transformation markets. The firm’s research scope covers most major equipment companies in industrial manufacturing, mining, process automation, as well as software, hardware, satellite imaging and other innovative technology players focused on building AI-enabled applications to support industrial use-cases. Based in Silicon Valley, Praas is a former strategy consultant with several additional stints in corporate planning & strategy roles at large manufacturing and technology companies. He can be reached at

About ArcInsight Research

ArcInsight Research works with leading global industrial companies involved in smart city infrastructure, process  equipment, control software and hardware, design, simulation, operations,  optimization. It is deeply plugged into the technology ecosystem – bleeding-edge startups and  the investor community.

The group was founded in 2010 by consulting firm partners and senior experienced executives with deep global experience in industrial domain research, strategy consulting, technology and  and investment banking.  The firm aims to equip senior industry leaders with tools and perspectives to view the bigger picture and longer term over-the-horizon opportunities, and also support their strategy with a tangible path to execution.

The strategy advisory approach offered by ArcInsight Partners is a valuable partnership opportunity for enterprises that may be either starting out on the digital transformation journey,  in the midst of of transformation and looking for fresh perspectives to position themselves for a highly connected algorithm driven world.

Some of our past advisory engagements have included assisting clients  –
– Validate transformation goals and its transformation journey
– Assess new target markets; Validate TAM and growth rates
– Validate drivers for new business model; Transition strategy to SaaS / Subscription models
– Design new service opportunities
– Build monetization and revenue models;
– Map in-house competencies; Sales strategy and key account coverage
– Structure appropriate partner ecosystems for effective value delivery
– Due-diligence for potential acquisition & partnership targets; Assess deal valuations