Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the big dreams and grand visions of my distant relative, Robert Fair DeGraff—a publishing innovator who co-founded Pocket Books in 1939. His idea was a simple but game-changing one: reprint bestsellers and classics in small paperback editions and sell them for just 25 cents apiece. The success was instant and lasting. Twenty-five years later, in 1964, Pocket Books sold around 300 million volumes annually.

But Robert DeGraff didn’t start Pocket Books because he wanted to make money. What drove him was a much deeper and larger cultural ambition: he thought that by making classic books so easily and cheaply available to masses of people, Pocket Books would eliminate illiteracy. Of course, this didn’t happen. The proliferation of accessible and low-price books did not change American literacy rates. (more…)

Imagine-creativity-16636424-400-300Narratological Creativity: Have you ever heard a child try to get its story straight? Or maybe you have dear friend who always blows the punch line of a good joke. Both are examples of how hard to tell a coherent, meaningful and compelling tale. Stories are a complex mash up of characters, actions, plots, description, grammar and sequence. Most importantly, they have a narrative voice – our voice – authentic or personified. How we tell the tale can either energize the most mundane anecdote or dampened even the most rousing spellbinder. The philosopher Plato understood the persuasive power of the storyteller and was so concerned that he banished them from his Republic and urged Athenians to restrict the teaching of rhetoric because it covers up an individual’s lack of knowledge. What would he think of political ads or commercials for beauty products? (more…)

Pull out the list of the “most innovative companies” from your favorite business magazine. With the exception of their brand recognition, which is the entry fee for these beauty pageants, they have few innovation practices in common that would distinguish them from the rest of the rabble, whether it’s unique strategies, unusual financing, or novel ways of hiring and staffing.

The fact is that one size never fits all. What makes innovation companies unique is, well, unique. They are highly adapted for their specific situation. (more…)