Book Review: Extreme Innovation

While at Social Media Marketing World 2017, I had the opportunity to watch Sandy Carter as part of a panel discussion talking about artificial intelligence and its impact on social media marketing. From what I could get from the conversation, she was very forward-thinking and was very keen on innovation. So I picked up her book, Extreme Innovation: 3 Superpowers for Purpose and Profit*. Carter points out that companies need to be highly innovative and adapt to change or they will not exist in the next decade. At my work, we are talking about innovation, but I wonder if we are innovative enough. Let’s see what Carter says are the essential elements to being extremely innovative.

Carter began her book by talking about Elon Musk and Tesla . She finds this company extremely innovative and highlighted how quickly they could bring a product to market. She highlighted this article.

Extreme Innovation is 256 pages long and spread over 17 chapters. It also includes two forewords, an epilogue, an extreme glossary, and a robust set of end notes. Here are the chapter titles:

  • Extreme Innovation
  • Shhhh! Secrets from the Bay Area
  • The New Superpowers
  • Super Intelligence: Cutting Edge Explorer
  • Super Intelligence: Data Hunger Driven by IoT and Social Media
  • Super Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence and Bots
  • Super Intelligence with VR/AR as Innovation Accelerators
  • Super Intelligence Using Blockchain
  • Super Speed: Cognitive Diversity
  • Super Speed: Continuous Learning Culture of Mentoring
  • Super Synergy: Customer Obsession
  • Super Synergy: Ecosystems
  • Super Synergy: The Connections between Marketing, Sales, and Service
  • Extreme Innovator Traits
  • The Superpower Assessment
  • Opening the Way for Female Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs
  • Super Powerful Advice

Extreme innovation

As you look at the chapter headings, you will notice that there are three elements that Carter emphasized as part of extreme innovation. Those are super intelligence, super speed, and super synergy. One of the things that she believes is essential as part of your business is using technology and artificial intelligence to help with decision-making.

“For innovation to be real in your culture, it needs to be built on a foundation of the basics: people, process, and continually upgraded technology” (Carter, 2017, p. 14).

In my work, two of the elements that I focus on include processes and technology. These two elements have help our team do more with less and take on more because we have done a lot of things very smartly.

One of the things Carter emphasized is that innovation is not iteration. She said iteration can get in the way of innovation. You need to be bold and go to places that you have not been. In my work, I see a lot of iteration. I think we can be bolder than we are. “All too often, businesses default to risk-aversion and wind up confusing iteration with innovation” (Carter, 2017, p. 18).

Throughout the book, she highlighted various companies she believes are extremely innovative. I already noted Tesla. She also includes Google and a number of companies in Silicon Valley. One of the things she emphasized about companies in Silicon Valley is that a great number of them have strategic plans for innovation. It is part of their company’s DNA. That is a concern I have regarding where I work. Innovation seems to be an add-on and employees are too reserved to try something radically new. This is not an unusual according to research, “the biggest hindrance to an innovation program wasn’t technology—it was the resistance from internal culture” (Carter, 2017, page 35).

Super Intelligence

Super intelligence is about using technology and using technology smartly to make business decisions. It is about rapidly collecting data to help identify new directions to go. One of the keys is that “data trumps opinions.” There are key elements necessary for someone who wants to be extremely innovative. Those elements include data collection, data exploration, data cleansing, data analytics, and most importantly sharing data and results.

Artificial intelligence is on its way. I have read a number of books recently that have highlighted the fact that artificial intelligence is daily becoming more mainstream. According to Carter, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is simply leveraging software to simulate tasks and processes that humans do today” (Carter, 2017, p. 86). If you want to continue to be successful with your business, you have to figure out what tasks you can automate. AI will be a key factor in automation. Here are some presentations and books I consumed dealing with AI:

Throughout Extreme Innovation, as Carter looked at various innovation,s she discussed them as they relate to business processes, products, operations, and the customer experience. This was useful in getting to understand how these different innovations would apply to me.

Another set of innovations we have to keep an eye on are augmented reality and virtual reality. They will significantly impact how we do business.

Super Speed

One of the areas that I found most fascinating was this idea of super speed. The first chapter where she discussed this focused on cognitive diversity. One of the areas that I think we can do better with at the place where I work is with cognitive diversity. Carter related that

“Cognitive diversity is about the diversity of ideas and experiences of people from diverse backgrounds, and the value this brings into a team within a company. Gender and ethnicity are usually the two areas that spring to mind when talking about diversity, but cognitive diversity is much broader. Cognitive diversity could mean choosing team members from very different educational and social backgrounds, different worldviews, sexual orientation, and so forth.” (Carter, 2017, p. 121).

Throughout the book, she backed up a lot what she outlined with research. The research around this idea of cognitive diversity points to the fact that more diverse teams are yielding better results than homogenous teams. She looked at the impact that gender, age, and different educational groups had on diversity and innovation.

Other key areas of super speed are mentoring and lifelong learning. There’s a lot of good research in this section on the impact of mentoring on millennials, specifically. If we want to have a truly innovative organization or company, then mentoring has to be a key factor.

Super Synergy

One of the things I heard on a number of occasions at Social Media Marketing World, especially during Joey Coleman’s presentation, but also from others was the importance of the customer experience. Highly innovative companies focus on the customer experience. There are a number of examples where Carter highlighted different businesses and how they raised customer experiences to the next level.

“Position yourself, your employees, your brand, and your product or service as the trusted advisor customers can count on. Begin with the end in mind. Instead of being obsessed with your own brand, product, or service, think instead about what problem you are solving for your customers.” (Carter, 2017, p. 167).

Another area in super synergy that Carter emphasized was that of connected teams. As I understand connected teams, I see it as enhancing communication so that there is more transparency and awareness of what is happening across the organization. We need to have everyone aware of what our customers are saying, be able to communicate that to the right people, and generate a solution as quick as possible.

Throughout Extreme Innovation, Carter highlighted a number of other books that I need read. The books look like they will help to expand upon ideas found in this book.

Carter also included an assessment that you can take individually and with your team to determine how innovative your organization is. I found the questions to be quite illuminating.

I found Extreme Innovation to be right on time for what we are going through in our organization. We have an increased emphasis on innovation. That is another reason I picked up this book. I wanted to better understand what I could do to be more innovative. I believe that there a lot of great ideas and things to think about in terms of innovation. I would definitely recommend Extreme Innovation for any organization or any business that wants to be here in the next decade.


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