Breakthrough – Stories and Strategies of Radical Innovation
by Mark Stefik and Barbara Stefik
[MIT Press £19.95]
A breakthrough creates something new or satisfies a previously undiscovered need. That, at least, is the definition offered by Mark and Barbara Stefik who believe our capacity for creating breakthroughs depends on a combination of science, imagination and business.
Divided into three distinct sections, Breakthrough begins by asking two questions, which form the focus of the book and are at the core of radical research: ‘What is possible?’ and ‘What is needed?’ Further chapters focus on invention and the experiences of creative researchers and inventors at work, before finally looking at the challenges and opportunities for innovation in the new century.
Such ideas are backed up by illustrative case studies – a notable example is the account of George de Mestral’s discovery of Velcro in 1948, after a stroll in the Swiss Alps led him to observe the action of burrs on his clothes.
The book examines the kind of observers that inventors must be to find a breakthrough idea and follow it through to a widely used technology.
Breakthrough is aimed at readers who want to know how inventors do their work, how people become inventors and how businesses can create powerful cultures of innovation.