10 Take Aways from The Power of Pull

May 25th, 2010

images8It’s rare that a book so squares with your world-view that you think the authors have taken up residence in your head.  Henceforth The Power of Pull shall be known as my new playbook. The alignment is uncanny. It is a must read for all innovation junkies and anyone who is trying to sort out the possibilities of the 21st century.  Many have tried to help us understand and navigate the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy.  Few get below the buzzwords.  The Power of Pull not only captures the essence of the transformation under way it provides an actionable framework for individuals, institutions, and social systems.  It is a call to action reminding us of the opportunity and responsibility to remake our world in a way that deeply honors the potential of those around us.

I expected the book to be great. Just look at two of its authors.  John Seely Brown (JSB) and John Hagel are on my short innovation hero list.  JSB (How cool is it to be known by your initials?) was the Director of Xerox PARC with a front row seat in Silicon Valley before it became a household name in innovation circles.  JSB was one of the first people to encourage me when I was launching the Business Innovation Factory (BIF).  We both gave presentations at a conference in 2004 at Brown University.  After my talk, Innovation @ Scale; The Imperative to Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast, JSB told me the idea for BIF to create a real world laboratory to enable R&D for new business models and systems was compelling. He asked how we would deliver on the proposition and we haven’t looked back since.

I visited with JSB at his home in Palo Alto (pinch me) and joined him on a field trip to see Michael Crow, the President of Arizona State, who is transforming the university around a trans-disciplinary philosophy. Michael is a dynamic visionary.  JSB provided me with encouragement and input and connected me with others in his network including Ellen Levy who is highlighted in The Power of Pull. Ellen is also a dynamic visionary and now a member of BIF’s Research Advisory Council.  JSB co-hosted BIF-1 our first Collaborative Innovation Summit.  I am grateful that JSB taught me the power of pull before coining the phrase.  I haven’t met John Hagel but have read all his great stuff about the edge and we have exchanged tweets (@Jhagel).  I am excited that John has agreed to be a storyteller at BIF-6 in September.  I can’t wait to meet John in person and to hear his story.

The Power of Pull is loaded with insights that are both thought provoking and energizing.  Here are my top ten take aways:

1)   Strategic advantage goes to those positioned to surf high value knowledge flows at the edge where the need to get better faster is most urgent.

2)   Rationale of the firm is shifting from scalable efficiency to scalable learning. From push to pull.

3)   Pull is about harnessing platforms, configurable resources to serve a broad set of needs.

4)   We are becoming hunter-gatherers again because the knowledge stocks in our silos have been over tilled.

5)   Innovation requires a questing disposition. Try more stuff.

6)   Collaboration curves are a reversal of the diminishing-return dynamics of experience curves.

7)   Innovation is an inherently human activity. If you want to innovate faster, you have to learn faster.

8)   Those holding institutional power won’t relinquish it easily or willingly. Power must be “pulled” from their hands.

9)   Serendipity doesn’t just happen in a serendipitous way. You have to work for it.

10) Shaping views are the catalyst for a flow of participation that can change the world.

My friend Helen Walters, Bloomberg BusinessWeek Innovation and Design Editor, has it exactly right in saying that The Power of Pull is this year’s must-read book on innovation. I am energized having read it and committed to doing my part to accelerate the shift from push to pull.

6 Responses to “10 Take Aways from The Power of Pull”

  1. fred brown says:

    Hi Saul

    I will take a look at The Power of Pull. I think we are moving in this direction strategically at Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy to serve each patient individually with personalization technology to support personalized medicine as a way to differentiate ourselves from the big box PBMs.

    Would be good to talk when you have a chance – shoot me a line!

    All the best,


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  3. Rotkapchen says:

    The learnings look brilliant. Sadly the theme is flawed. The picture cover itself tells the story. Metal filings attracted to something magnetized is an action of ‘draw’ not pull. The two entities both play a role for the ‘draw’ to engage.

    In physics, both push and pull expend the same energy. Draw, on the other hand, uses considerably less energy. The goal is not ‘pull’ at all.

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