Book Review – “Inside Project Red Stripe”

by Braden Kelley

“Inside Project Red Stripe – Incubating Innovation and Teamwork at the Economist”
by Andrew Carey
Published by Triarchy Press

I’ve been reading the innovation tome “Inside Project Red Stripe” off and on for some time now and I must say that it is unlike any other book on innovation that I have read to date. Instead of espousing a single innovation theory and taking 300 pages to do so, the book attempts to provide a neutral, anthropological look behind-the-scenes into the journey of Project Red Stripe.

Project Red Stripe was the code name for a discreet innovation effort at The Economist that brought together six team members for six months to research, select, and develop an internet-related innovation project for The Economist on a budget of £100,000. The project’s aspiration was to deliver the organization’s next big thing.

I found the book to be very well-written, interesting, and definitely worth the read if you are an innovation practioner or are fascinated by important project deconstructions. There are a couple of things you should be aware of before you begin:

  • The book is written in an engaging research observation style, not your typical narrative or essay styles.
  • The book is organized unlike most books and often feels more like a web site as you select a topic to follow and then jump around to read the installments relevant to that topic.

It was fascinating for me to see the human behavior challenges the group went through in gathering, selecting, and developing their ideas, and the downsides of conducting their project in such a public way.

If you are currently planning an innovation project or culture change at your organization, this book is an essential read to help remind you of the potential pitfalls that await you in such an undertaking. It also serves as a reminder of the potential disconnects between innovation theory and practice.

I won’t spoil the ending and tell you whether Project Red Stripe was a success or a failure. You’ll have to buy the book and read it in order to draw your own conclusion.

If you’ve already read it, what did you think?

@innovate

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