Revolutionary Ideas and Innovation

This week, I spoke with Joshua Cooper Ramo, managing director at Kissinger Associates and author of the new book The Age of the Unthinkable. The slim, elegantly written volume isn’t a business book, per se (although it features anecdotes on figures such as venture capitalist Mike Moritz amidst chapters on a variety of characters from Gertrude Stein to a spymaster in Israel). But Ramo’s analyses offer interesting lessons for executives, especially during a recession.

He talks about how revolutionary, nearly counter-intuitive ideas often spark the greatest inventions. Probably the most resonant example is the phenomenon of Nintendo’s Wii. As he explains it, who would ever think a video game console that offers poor graphics and no joystick would completely overtake sales of powerful consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation? But the radical idea—and risk—of it paid off. During times of great transition, such as our current global economic downturn, companies—as well as individuals and nations— could be wise to experiment wildly, according to Ramo. Here’s a link to our discussion.

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