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The Eye For Innovation

by Robert M. Price

Yale University Press © 2005, 329 pages, $30.00 (ISBN 0-300-10877-X).

Recognizing Possibilities And Managing the Creative Enterprise

Robert M. Price took innovation to a higher level while he was the CEO and chairman of Control Data Corp., a company renowned for years as a hotbed of creativity. It was also an organization that defined the computer revolution while excelling in electronic digital technology; management practices; employee and community relations; and the innovative use of business techniques, products and services. In The Eye for Innovation, Price draws on his nearly 30 years of experience at Control Data as well as his later work to describe the principles that generate and support innovation.

He explains that Control Data prized freedom of thought and action. “From the start, we well understood that it would be impossible to thrive if we weren’t creative,” he writes, “and that we would remain creative only if we tried.” Innovation was an active process as well as a way of thinking at the company, he adds.

The Eye for Innovation turns the experiences of a brilliant technology pioneer, who spent 40 years developing and practicing the innovation principles that his company forged in the crucible of the computer industry, into a valuable guide for leaders and entrepreneurs in both large and small organizations.

Technology Is Know-How

Although technology is often misunderstood and avoided by many who fear its complexity, Price points out that technology is simply “the know-how we apply to basic science or to already existing products, tools, processes, and services to fashion a solution to some problem.” Looking at technology in this way, it becomes clear that the lessons learned from a technology pioneer can be applied to any problem in any industry.

Similarly, innovation is nothing more than problem solving. Price writes that creating an innovative company begins with a belief system that embraces the following seven principles:

1. Innovators are made, not born.

2. Strategy is a journey of sequential steps toward an objective. Each step involves innovation in some combination of process, product, and targeted market.

3. Strategy must co-evolve with technological change and the changing nature of the world it addresses.

4. Technology is the strategic manager’s best friend.

5. Collaboration, especially technological collaboration, is a powerful strategic tool.

6. Crisis is inevitable. Crisis can result in chaos, Price explains, but innovative leaders can use crises to galvanize people for positive change.

7. Public-private partnerships present important but frequently overlooked strategic possibilities.

Price writes, “The thread of innovation should be cohesively entwined in all that constitutes the corporate infrastructure in a manner that is consistent with the corporate strategy.” At Control Data, he adds, infrastructure meant values, human resource policies, compensation and benefits, employment practices and governance.


While the first half of The Eye for Innovation focuses on innovation and the ways it was nurtured at Control Data, its second half looks at the strategies that can help it succeed. Price points out that strategy is simply a commonsense process of solving the problem of how to reach an objective with a defined set of resources.

Price writes that strategy is a step-by-step journey of innovation in processes, products, and targeted markets. He adds that it must co-evolve with technological change and the changing nature of the world it addresses.

The final two parts of The Eye for Innovation address the details that must be studied on a strategic journey toward greater innovation. Price explains that each strategic move that is made entails choosing among three choices: Make, buy or collaborate. Through the lessons that were learned at Control Data, Price describes how strategic alliances, acquisitions and internal growth can be used to increase the effectiveness of any organization. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

Competitive advantage relies on innovation, and Price presents an extended case study that shows how a company on the cutting edge of innovation put solutions into action and helped to change the world. By presenting its lessons in broad terms and universal basics, Price transforms the experiences of a startup that challenged the likes of IBM and other industry leaders into action items that can be applied by any company in any industry. ~

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