Beyond the Obvious - Book Review

Phil McKinney, the author of Beyond the Obvious, is also the creator and voice of one of my favorite podcasts, Killer Innovations.  That’s why I was excited to get this book.  I’ve just finished reading it and am pleased to say that he has done a great job of capturing the essence of the podcast, then distilling it down into a useful book. 

Beyond the Obvious summary

This book is about innovation and the system that Phil McKinney has used over the years to come up with great, marketable ideas.  The first section of the book is about preparing for innovation.  This is where the concepts of using questions to fuel the creation of new ideas is introduced.  In the first chapter he talks about what led to the development of “Killer Questions” and why they are helpful for creating new ideas.  The next two chapters talk about the challenges that make innovation difficult.  In chapter 2, he goes through a good discussion on questioning your assumptions.  He also gives 3 questions/exercises which demonstrate how to break through your assumptions.  In chapter 3, he talks about innovation in the context of your corporation and how & why it will be difficult to implement a new system.  Good advice here.

The second section of the book presents the system and shows you exactly how to do it.  Chapter 4 is a short summary introduction, followed by chapter 5 which introduces the FIRE method.  The FIRE method is an acronym for Focus, Ideation, Ranking, and Execution.  It’s a description of exactly how you can conduct a productive brainstorming session for your company or even yourself.

Chapters 6, 7, and 8 introduce the Killer Questions.  These are the questions you can pose before or during your brainstorming sessions that will theoretically lead to killer, innovative ideas.  Chapter 6 features the Who questions that will help you when you want to identify the customer group you are going for (great for cosmetic product marketers) where you might find them.  Chapter 7 focuses on the What questions which will lead to new product ideas.  Chapter 8 focuses on ideas of How things get made.  These will help with innovative ideas that will improve the way your business works.

In the final two chapters, the Phil McKinney shows exactly how you might conduct a productive brainstorming session at your corporation.  He gives a handy 6 golden rules for conducting brainstorming workshops and even gives a schedule.  This would be incredibly helpful to anyone who has to conduct these meetings.  Chapter 10 presents two case studies in how the system has been implemented in the real world.  It’s interesting to see how the system is adapted to different companies.

Overall impression

I liked the book overall and appreciated the easy writing style and useful examples.  I would have liked to see an appendix at the end which listed all the killer questions in one easy spot but I can understand why the author didn’t necessarily want to do that.

But if you are a cosmetic chemist, salesperson, entrepreneur, or anyone else who needs to generate good new product, technology or production innovations, this book provides an excellent system for doing that.  Even better, it gives a framework for how you can take those great new, innovative ideas that you’ve created and how to do something with them.

As the author says, “Ideas without execution are a hobby, and I’m not in the hobby business.”  If you are interested in coming up with product ideas that you can sell to consumers, then this system and book may be just the thing you need.


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