Book Review: The First Mile by Scott D. Anthony
The First Mile by Scott D. Anthony focuses on a critical aspect of the innovation pipeline, which often gets minimized or downright ignored (at the innovator’s peril). This phase is, of course, the process of taking an idea or a concept and turning it into a viable, sustainable business.
We are often reminded (or hit over the head) with Thomas Edison’s famous adage that “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”. And while plenty of attention has been paid to the process of idea creation, (i.e. Design Thinking or Creating an “innovation culture”), it is the perspiration of turning an idea into reality that just doesn’t get the headlines or the attention of the masses.
Anthony steps into this vacuum from his perspective as an organization leader, innovation consultant and venture capitalist through his role of Managing Partner at Innosight, “a global strategic innovation consulting and investment firm”. (Innosight is perhaps most well-known as the consulting firm founded by renowned author, teacher and business leader, Clayton M. Christensen.) I believe this diverse perspective is fundamental to mastering the innovation life-cycle—One must be able to create and deliver (innovator perspective), ensure that leadership is “all-in” (management perspective) and pitch and win deals for financing (VC perspective). So with that in mind, what do we learn in The First Mile?
Using an extended driving metaphor as a structure for the book, Anthony delivers a practical and extremely useful how-to guide for anyone who strives to innovate effectively, whether you are an entrepreneur just starting out, a seasoned product manager or an outside consultant. The examples, many stemming from his time as an investor in the developing world, are usually quite interesting and useful, if not clouded at times by the location-specific cultural challenges found in the case studies.
The power of this book really lies in Anthony’s uncanny ability to make the complex simple and provide useful and powerful tools that can be applied to every phase of development and execution. From his four-step outline of the First Mile Toolkit, called DEFT (Acronym for Document, Evaluate, Focus, Test) to his systematic checklists and assessments, there is a useful tool, process or technique for you to implement into your work right now. That, I would say, is incredible value delivered in this quick read.
For me, as I seek to facilitate the development of new ideas for my clients through intensive innovation workshops, I can already visualize how these insights and tools will work their way into my sessions. I plan to put some of these valuable gems to work right away, which I hope will give a speed boost to those new ideas so that they have a head-start down the road on their way to launch.