Practical ideas for addressing the future

Product by:
Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll

Reviewed by:
On 26 December, 2013
Last modified:26 December, 2013


Established companies can out-innovate start-ups if they follow the right set of rules, according to the authors of this book.

The conventional wisdom, that start-ups are destined to out-innovate big established businesses, doesn’t have to be true, according to Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll in their book The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups. The problems that have stifled innovation in large companies are now known and can be avoided. Small and agile does beat big and slow, but big and agile beats anyone.

So, what is it that a large established company needs to do to be a winner in the rapidly accelerating war to define the future? The authors describe six technological innovations which will cause enormous changes in many industries over the next few years (mobile devices, social media, cameras, sensors, the cloud and emergent knowledge) and outlines eight rules to help companies unleash killer apps. The rules are grouped into three principles:

  • Think big: understand the environment including all possible threats, then design a perfect future form of your business
  • Start small: avoid speculative financial projections, build consensus and create a small number of options to pursue
  • Learn fast: keep testing and learning, and make sure the tough questions keep getting asked

Not all readers will agree with the way the authors foresee the future of  driverless cars, the insurance industry and the medical care industry, but the extent of disruptions in the recent past to the publishing and media industries clearly shows that big changes can occur very quickly. The most useful parts of the book for many readers will be the recommendations to prepare doomsday scenarios, design a perfect version of your business, write “future histories” to help imagine the factors that might lead to success or failure, design a process for extensive testing before committing to pilots and full roll-out, and hold comprehensive reviews at each step.

Anyone who has been in business for more than a decade will know that the future is extremely difficult to predict. Nonetheless that does not mean it is a good idea to ignore the future as most soon-to-be-out-of-business companies do. This book provides practical ideas for addressing the future in a low-risk way.

Established companies can out-innovate start-ups if they follow the right set of rules, according to the authors of this book.

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