Book Review – "The Silver Lining" by Scott Anthony

by Braden Kelley

A couple of weeks ago I received “The Silver Lining” by Scott Anthony in the mail. “The Silver Lining” is a relatively short, easy, and pleasant read. Scott introduces several different concepts in the book in addition to the main thesis – which seems to be that companies must prune their innovation portfolios, refeature their products to meet ever-changing customer requirements, and re-tool their organizations to better deal with the constant change that is becoming the norm in the world today.

The first concept that Scott introduces is a term to refer to the current economic dis-equilibrium – ‘The Great Disruption’ – and the rapid change that organizations face. Here is a great quote from the first chapter:

  • “The biggest silver lining for innovation is that the scarcity that is sure to result from the current economic climate is actually a good thing for innovation. Abundance is actually the root cause of many corporate struggles with innovation.”

Another key focus of the book is detailing the importance of pruning your innovation portfolio. This a great analogy for re-evaluating your innovation investments, as often in cutting back selected branches you make the overall plant or tree healthier and allow it to grow stronger upwards. With innovation portfolios it is the same. Often many organizations allow too many projects to continue consuming resources that should really be ‘pruned’ so that those project resources can be re-deployed to help the remaining projects become more successful and complete faster.

At the same time, Scott Anthony makes the point that opportunities may exist for organizations to refeature products in ways that both reduces costs and increases sales. Pursuing this strategy can also reduce options available to potential disruptive competitors seeking to enter the market.

Smart companies will also use ‘The Great Disruption’ as an opportunity to re-tool their innovation capabilities and processes while also utilizing their potentially reduced innovation budget to conduct smart strategic experiments that could include exploring open innovation or low end opportunities (‘learning to love the low end’).

After describing how to love the low end (which is very similar to how companies should approach any disruptive innovation), Scott Anthony concludes the book with his thoughts on personal reinvention and his views on what’s next for innovation.

Another favorite quote from the book (which I’ve heard elsewhere) suggests that you should staff up a disruptive innovation project or a strategic experiment with the best people you can find for each element (not the people that have been successful in the mainline business):

  • “Good entrepreneurs don’t take risk, they manage risk.”

Overall, Scott makes some good points about pruning the innovation portfolio, retooling the organization for better innovation success, and addressing the low end of the market that make the book a worthwhile read.

My interview with “The Silver Lining” author Scott Anthony can be found here.


Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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