How Stella Saved the Farm: A Tale about Making Innovation Happen is a delightful foray into the challenge of innovation in organizations. From two of business’s prominent thought leaders, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, this short read tells a compelling story, a la Orwell’s Animal Farm, about a once successful farm that needs to reinvent itself in the face of intense competitive threats. Sounds like an everyman’s story these days, doesn’t it?
The authors touch on the common and key challenges that any new product or service effort faces in an organization. Resistance to new ideas, territorial behavior, departmental feelings of superiority, premature judgments, and so on. In a very simple way, they manage to paint a vivid picture of a treacherous innovation landscape using dry humor to keep the story light and fast paced. It’s refreshing to see a pair of serious academics present their research and experience in a genre akin to a children’s story.
At the end of the book the authors provide a useful set of questions that help you draw broader and deeper conclusions about your own innovation efforts and challenges. And then they offer their important lessons. These lessons are based on the authors’ deep research and experience and lead-in nicely to their in-depth leadership book, The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Executive Challenge.
Proactive leaders will resonate with the context and subtext of How Stella Saved the Farm. Reading between the lines, you’ll gain a greater appreciation as to why a pragmatic, disciplined focus on execution and getting things done is at the core of successful innovation. The book shows that by managing the micro-politics and diverse relationships within an organization can be the difference between “betting the farm” and “saving the farm.” As the authors say, “in any great innovation story, the idea is only the beginning.”
Don’t expect this book to solve all your innovation problems. Think about it as an innovation story that everyone in your organization can understand and follow. You don’t need an MBA, nor would you even need to have majored in business to understand the challenges and situation that Windsor Farm faces. Use it exactly as what it is — a metaphor for helping people in your organization understand the challenges of innovation and to understand the different perspectives that exist in a changing environment.