What We Can Learn From Great Book Editors And Authors

You may have been wondering that I frequently read Shawn Coyne's great blog The Story Grid. Ok, I read quite a lot fiction books, but the motivation here is inspiration. I want to get out of my comfort zone of innovation assessment.

Shawn's work brought me into another world of thoughts related to creative work description. What is called "genres" in arts, I call "types" in innovation. And of course, the subtypes fit better to soft innovations than hard innovation.


Let me go back a little: beginning in 1946 in Russia a tool has been developed on a foundation of extensive research covering hundreds of thousands inventions (patents). TRIZ - in English it would be called "the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving".  The theory includes a methodology, a tool set, a knowledge base and a model base. TRIZ was applied to create and improve products, services and systems. Quite a lot "old" firms: Ford, Boeing, Xerox, Kodak, Proctor…used it in some projects.

One of the principles was "aggregate state change" - like, if something is broadcasted via cable, why not through the air…or the other way around.

But this is a technical view. I believe, an innovation does not exist, before it is built and used.

I often hear product-, process- and marketing-innovation. But does this say much?

Types should be foundations of innovation to wrap its users (buyers!) minds around (Shawn's words).

Let me again fall back a little: the school of strategic marketing


When I was part of an expert pool assessing innovation projects of the European Commission under its framework programs, I tried to convince us reviewers to not only assess innovativeness, project issues…but look through the lens of CATWOE

Clients - possible buyers
Actors - possible users
Transformation - knowledge, methodologies, technologies…(hopefully) into margins
Worldview - arming the leaders or small market participants…provide systems or know-how packages…
Owners - who owns the innovation
Environment - economic, political, competitive arena..

(I assessed about 500 projects in 10 years)

But there's a better way

Five Innovation Types

It starts with Genre's Five Leaf Clover. And surprisingly enough they inspired me to a similar "Typology Clover".

TIME TYPES - related to the runtime
REALITY TYPES - from factual replication to speculative simulation
STYLE TYPES - the ways we experience a quantitative systems…referring to front-end styles, interaction patterns...
STRUCTURE TYPES - related to the workflows…from linearly sequenced to complexly nested
MATTER TYPES - divided into Purpose and Realization Types

I emphasize on quantitative theories and innovations. The types fit well, because quantitative systems often provide instantiated computational objects, but also a programming environment to manipulate them. Actors write...

I will use the type building as methodology to understand the opportunities better. And I give it a name

The Innovation Mesh

In quant theories a mesh is often built to discretize a parameter space for better quantification of properties. A Finite Element Mesh is for calculating stress, heat, diffusion…

Consequently, I called it "mesh".

I am fully aware that I will not be able to quantify over all types. But the picture will help me to assess project values better.  And I want economic feasibility.

I've "backtested" the type tool in previous projects, where I know the great, but also bad values. It fits well.

Thanks, Shawn!

BTW, there is something else that we can learn from great editors and authors. They make things that let feel the other person engaged. And they do not compete - they do not eliminate others books from the shelf. They know: more reading is better. It's the genres that distinguishes…

Why I like this tool so much: it sells while it describes.