Don’t stop me now. The innovator’s bookshelf

‘Creative People Must Be Stopped!’ is the cornerstone book for a MOOC I’m doing from Vanderbilt University & (US) National Arts Strategies, ‘Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture’ via Coursera

Creative People Must Be Stopped! offers a general framework for thinking about innovation (and what constrains it).  Each chapter of the book examines one of six dominant perspectives that most writers on innovation will adopt. 

This is the recommended reading list for the book, not the course: from Innovator’s Bookshelf

I’ve bolded the authors where I have read the books previously, but some are due a re-visit, not to mention the new ones!


Book Title
(Amazon Page Link)


Individual Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 2)

Steve Jobs Isaacson, Walter
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Tufte, Edward
Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas Adams, James L.
The Design of Everyday Things Norman, Donald
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly
Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences Gardner, Howard E.

Group Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 3)

Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company Sutton, Robert I.
The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm Kelley, Tom
Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst Sutton, Robert I.
The Social Life of Information Brown, John Seely & P. Duguid
The Deep Dive at IDEO Nightline Video (ABC News)

Organizational Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 4)

Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate Schrage, Michael
The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage Martin, Roger
The Soul of A New Machine Kidder, Tracy
Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer Smith, Douglas K. & R. Alexander
Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration Bennis, Warren, & W. Biederman
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization Senge, Peter M.

Industry Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 5)

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business Christensen, Clayton M.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Kuhn, Thomas S.
Managing The Professional Service Firm Maister, David
Crossing the Chasm Moore, Geoffrey
Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age Knopper, Steve
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors Porter, Michael E.

Societal Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 6)

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Chip & Dan Heath
The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor Abbott, Andrew
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition Bornstein, David
The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World Schwartz, Peter
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things McDonough and Braungart
Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition Rogers, Everett

Technological Innovation Constraints

(Chapter 7)

Innovation Tournaments: Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities Terwiesch, C. & K. Ulrich
Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation Burgelman, Christensen, & Wheelwright
How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate Hargadon, Andrew
Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating And Profiting from Technology Chesbrough, Henry W.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature Benyus, Janine M.

Urban spaceman. Modulor


According to Wikipedia, the Modulor is an anthropometric scale of proportions devised by the architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965), as a visual bridge between the imperial and the metric systems. It is based on the height of a man with his arm raised.

Described as the ‘functionalist Modernist man of the six-foot Corbusian detective’ in the Architectural Review in their discussion of Jos Boys’ Doing Disability Differently, Modular represents the dead white male school of architectural perspective. Le Corbusier picked six feet arbitrarily, basing it on the notional height of British detectives in the novels he was fond of using.

This Modulor Man is segmented according the “golden section”, a ratio of approximately 1.61; so the ratio of the total height of the figure to the height to the figure’s navel is 1.61. These proportions can be scaled up or down to infinity using a Fibonacci progression. In devising this system, Corbusier was joining a 2000-year-old hunt for the mathematical architecture of the universe, a search that had obsessed Pythagoras, Vitruvius and Leonardo Da Vinci

…’What’s really important is that the Modulor puts the human form back at the centre of design. In the present architectural climate of post-modern free-for-all, driven by computer processors and buoyed by parametric ideology, biomorphism runs riot, but human proportions are out of the picture.’

William Wiles. ICON.






I can see for miles. Koolhaas houselife

Disability Door.jpg

One the themes of Doing Disability Differently is, of course, is to see dis/ability from a different perspective. Koolhaas Houselife is a documentary where a cleaner is seen having to haul her vacuum up a tight and enclosed spiral staircase, in a villa in Bordeaux designed for a wheelchair user, and pointedly aimed at getting the attention of the ‘able-bodied’ visitor.

As noted in the Architectural ReviewThis house needs celebrating, because it goes beyond assuming disability is only about accessibility and compliance, treating it instead as a central design generator. But it is also troubling. Despite making a powerful commentary on disability, the project both reproduces disability and ability stereotypically as an unequal binary relationship (albeit reversed) and treats it as a ‘one-off’ − as an issue specific to this building because of its client − rather than building on any wider understanding or more general design approach.’

Excerpt of Koolhaas Houselife on Vimeo

See me, feel me. Doing disability differently


I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Jos Boys on building better universities (29 May 2015, actually). I bought a copy of her book on the day – for obvious reasons – and by chance, I discovered another title that chimed with some work I was doing to assist the University Digital Accessibility Plan (DAP). The book is difficult to read and absorb (for me) but the gist of it is that building with dis/ability ‘front of mind’ can re-frame the design process so the built environment (or online space) can be better for everyone.

My (pretty second rate) take-outs from the chapter on Strategies and tactics:

  • Seek ambition AND subtlety
  • Aim for clarity (echoes of why, how, what)
  • Look for choices (e.g. seats, close to doors; walls as seats)
  • Look at the space holistically, and use design thinking in specific contexts
  • Think how children, artists, film makers, sculptors might think about the space
  • Access is always possible and it can be beautiful, theatrical and dignified
  • Act naturally, get away from learned behaviour
  • Aim for circular and open forms (maluma) rather than rectilinear and closed (takete)
  • Maluma and takete might be concepts to explore another day

This think-piece in the Architectural Review is quite a lot more accessible than my own comprehension and it also raised another couple of (new to me) fascinating ideas: Koolhaas Houselife and Le Corbusier’s Modulor Man.


Rebel in me. When managers rebel

When managers rebel

This is a book review I did for a Law journal back in 2010. It presages an interest in different modes of engagement and variations on organisational hierarchy.

When Managers Rebel by David Courpasson and Jean-Claude Thoenig (Translated to English by Matthew Cush) Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 181 pages

The authors, two French sociologists, have worked with a range of organisations for over 20 years, carrying out surveys and running training programmes. They only recently became interested in exploring executive rebellion thematically, having previously considered individual accounts as random aberrant behaviours.

Reviewing two decades worth of notes, Courpasson and Thoenig have examined over 40 instances of managers saying ‘I’ve had enough!’ (or its French equivalent). The authors have analysed these stories to understand and consider if it’s possible to harness the creative energy of office rebellions and if organisations can benefit from structural changes, especially in decision-making.

The accounts come from banking, building, construction, engineering, manufacturing, steel milling and other industries. The narratives focus on the boundaries between individuals and the organization and the points of friction between top management and the plans they seek to implement on middle management and the organisation below. They feel authentic, are engaging and compelling and are written in a clear flowing form.

The closing chapters link the narratives to the need for more evolved organisational forms, proposing concepts and definitions including adhocracy (relatively informal structures favoured by professionals), post-bureaucracy (informed consensus through shared goals) heterarchy (self-managing non-hierarchical networks) and polyarchy (essentially, majority rule).

This a fascinating work, in the ongoing tradition of French philosophical review. The language of rebellion and revolt echoes the Gallic experience and adds energy to the bureaucratic back-room behaviours described in the case studies.
As a reader, I was left with an impression of the wasted potential in organisations, through flawed communication primarily, that left people shaken, disheartened and ‘walking out the door.’

This book is highly readable but I feel the ideas need be liberated from the language of the social scientists and translated, for the rest of us. Not just in words but in models for action. This is a work for business schools, current and future business leaders, HR and organizational development specialists and anyone else interested in making workplaces less wasteful and more humane places to work to engage with.

We need to act, to take these emerging forms and patterns and make them happen to establish and build vital post-hierarchical organisations that support creativity and innovation as well as perform key functions better, faster, cheaper and sustainably.

When Managers Rebel