Comment permalink

Jeff Davidson, "The 60-Second Innovator"

This book, sub-titled "Sixty solid techniques for creative and profitable ideas at work," opens with an introduction that's straight from an ad in a comic book.  "Just watch your coworkers' jaws drop when you are able to come up with one innovative solution after another on the job!"  It's kinda hard to take something seriously when it starts out like this.

True enough, the more he uses the word "innovate" and all its permutations, the less I understand what he means by it.  I picked a page at random, and counted 12 occurrences on a page with a total of 280 words.  This suggests that 1 in every 23 words in the book is a form of "innovate," and to tell you the truth, that may not be too far off.

Buried within this book is a lot of good advice on basic problem solving techniques.  Identify the problem, learn as much as you can about the industry, follow your curiosity, and so forth.  Being the straightforward, data-loving person that I am, I would have loved a book that just focused on this nuts and bolts advice.

Unfortunately it frequently veers off into language that's born of either starry-eyed optimism or cynical use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming NLP.  If you're unfamiliar with the term, NLP basically means leading and influencing people based on your word choices.  

A good example of this can be found in the way the grocery store doesn't want its clerks' time tied up with carrying your groceries out to the car.  So checkout clerks are deliberately instructed to use the word "help."  "Can we help you to your car with these?"  Well I'm an able-bodied person, I don't need "help"!  Of course I'll say no.  Now if they said "Can we offer to carry these to your car," they would get more responses.  But by using the word "help" they manipulate you into puffing yourself up and insisting that you're not helpless.  And thus saving them countless employee hours.

A less cynical take would be that Davidson is using "the power of positive imagery" to help you reach your goals.  It amounts to the same thing.  Phrases like "Others [will] admire you for what seems to them to be a mystical capacity."

When not engaging in this sort of random low-level circus fakery, Davidson's language often serves to obscure his point.  Not since Thomas L. Friedman have I seen such bizarrely mixed metaphors.  "Your head is not so buried in the data that you can't see the forest for the trees."  If that phrase was meant to be a Yogi Berra-style joke, the text didn't signal it.  But hey, we're talking about someone who was so offended and distressed by the phrase "Big Ass Bus" on a bus wrapper ad that he called the radio station to complain.  So there's really no telling.

The thing about this book and others like it is that we are problem-solving animals.  If anything, this book simply fires people up so that they care enough to bother to look for solutions.  Once you start looking for solutions, you'll find them.  I strongly suspect this book is meant to be bought by bosses for their employees.