The Game-Changer

My initial impression about ‘The Game-Changer’ was that of a corporate serenade by a top honcho to his employer. The first few chapters almost validated my hunch. The rest of the book dispelled my doubts nevertheless. Yes, A.G. Lafley, then CEO – P&G, is a co-author along with the formidable corporate consultant Dr. Ram Charan, but ‘The Game-Changer’ is hardly a book about the conquests of P&G. Instead, it’s a book about ‘Innovation Leadership‘ – a concept on how to integrate innovation into everyday work life in order to sustain an organic growth.

What I liked the most about the book is the impeccable delivery and style. Both Lafley and Charan take turns putting forth their respective viewpoints on innovation and injecting heavy doses of wisdom into the text. It’s an acknowledged fact that most books on innovation are high on fluff and rhetoric; this one comes as an exception. I was fortunate to have read this book in tandem with Gary Hamel’s ‘The future of management’. These two books combined, arguably, are the best combo available on corporate innovation this year.

Lafley, in the second chapter, points out how an invention is different from an innovation, explaining that unless an invention can be tied to revenue and profit, it can’t be branded an innovation. Lafley later mentions that he had realized quite early in his career that the company that builds a culture of innovation is on a path to growth. There are some ideas and lessons in the book that are reiterated many a time and really form the meaty part. Some of them are as follows:

  1. The authors emphasize the importance of failure in the world of innovation. Lafley-Charan strongly assert that every failure is a chance to improve and avoid making the same mistake again. Every failure produces insights.
  2. Lafley-Charan underline the importance of identifying doomed projects well in time. Just as it’s important to direct the right resources to the right projects, so is it pin down bad projects and at times, accept their painful termination.
  3. Managing an innovation portfolio is not unlike managing an investment portfolio. Just like an investment manager who would always take the performance of the whole portfolio than that of individual stocks into account, an innovation-portfolio manager should also walk the same road.
  4. Lafley-Charan point out that measuring an innovation or its progress has always been an arduous task since in most cases, there is no precedent. Nevertheless, by hooking innovation projects to future revenues and profits, their progress can be tracked.
  5. Authors accentuate the fact that innovation leaders are quite different from operational leaders. The mindset required for innovation leadership is entirely different. It requires 4Cs and an O, according to the authors: Courage, Connectivity, Collaboration, Curiosity and Openness.
  6. Lafley-Charan stress that innovation is a team sport unlike productivity, which is an individual’s backyard. They also profess that innovation and organic growth are inextricably interlinked.
  7. Last but not the least, author duo highlights the importance of building a pipeline of innovation leaders. The authors firmly believe that innovation leaders are not born, they are made.

Game-Changer, undoubtedly, is a C-suite book. Its relevance for anyone who wants to be more than a cog in the machine can’t be further amplified. As far as reading time is concerned, this book would definitely consume more than a couple of weekends. But then, it’s worth spending time on.