Ed Trapasso
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May 28, 2003
New Book Argues that Implementing Right Idea at the Right Time Can Propel Companies to Long-Term Success

“What’s the Big Idea?” Based on Hundreds of Interviews and Years of Research

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.; May 28, 2003 Implementing the right idea at the right time can be the difference between success or failure for even large, established companies, according to a new book by Thomas Davenport, director of the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, and Laurence Prusak, a management consultant and researcher.

Research completed for the book shows that companies that implement new management ideas remain efficient, effective and innovative, while continuously outperforming their competitors, write Davenport and Prusak in, “What’s the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking,” to be published by Harvard Business School Press on May 30.

The book, written with H. James Wilson, a researcher and writer at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, offers insights into where new ideas come from, how to evaluate which ideas are worth pursuing, and how to customize ideas to suit an organization’s unique needs.

The Unsung Idea Practitioner
While gurus frequently get the lion’s share of attention in the arena of idea generation, the real credit belongs to a largely unsung group of managers whom the authors call “idea practitioners” -- individuals who make it their unofficial responsibility to put great ideas into practice. These are the men and women who link new ideas with the people, processes and corporate culture of an organization to achieve business results.

The book notes that idea practitioners frequently take advantage of the reputations of external consultants who are adept at implementation and execution. What’s more, external consultants lend credibility to the suggestions being pushed by idea practitioners. The insights of Davenport and Prusak will help senior executives understand how to identify and support these idea practitioners throughout their organizations.

The book also features a list ranking the top 200 business gurus whose ideas influence idea practitioners. An established methodology was used to generate the list, which the authors characterize as an “objective evaluation” of the impact of business gurus.

Practitioners Interviewed
Based on interviews with more than 100 idea practitioners and decades of research on the subject of idea generation, “What’s the Big Idea?” provides a set of tools and a framework that current and blossoming idea practitioners in any organization can use to:

  •  evaluate the advice of consultants, gurus and other sources of ideas;

  • determine which ideas are worth paying attention to—and which to ignore;

  • assess the readiness of their company to embrace a promising new idea;

  • enlist others in idea-focused initiatives and win buy-in from above; and

  • track the next “Big Idea” and determine its value to their company.

In addition to fresh research, the authors illustrate their points with case studies and profiles. The book’s opening passages, for example, compare two of America’s best-known companies, which have been competing head-to-head for decades. Davenport and Prusak note that one of the companies, its innovative products and services notwithstanding, is floundering, while the other is one of the world’s most valuable corporations. The authors explain that the former was run by scientists and engineers who had little interest in business innovation, while the latter avidly pursued new business ideas, viewing them as part of the company’s fabric.

Separating Ideas from Fads
From “total quality management” to “re-engineering” to “knowledge management,” businesses are constantly bombarded with new ideas for improving performance and profits, write the authors. Yet most companies find that these ideas seldom live up to their promises. How can managers separate the good ideas from the fads? Davenport and Prusak, longtime experts in the management idea arena and co-authors of the best-selling “Working Knowledge” (Harvard Business School Press, 1998), argue, “There are no bad management ideas, only ideas managed badly.”

Refuting the aura of cynicism that has clouded the “idea industry” over the course of the last decade, the authors suggest that every management idea has potential for certain companies if implemented correctly, and that every company needs a steady influx of new ideas to remain competitive.

The Roles of Business Ideas
The authors argue that business ideas serve two basic roles for organizations -- one is to improve organizational performance, the other is to provide legitimacy. “It doesn’t always work, but improving cost, cycle time, financial performance, market share, and so forth, are what new business ideas deliver to organizations if implemented well,” they write. They provide legitimacy by demonstrating that an organization is diligently attempting to improve its business – whether they truly are or not.

“What’s the Big Idea?”provides managers in every industry an optimistic outlook on the future of new business ideas—and the practical lessons necessary to turn ideas into action.

About the Book
What’s the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking By Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak with H. James Wilson

Harvard Business School Press
Publication Date: May 30, 2003
Price: $27.50 Pages: 229 ISBN: 1-57851-931-4

Learn more about how successful idea practitioners translate ideas into results at www.accenture.com/bigidea

About Accenture
Accenture is the world’s leading management consulting and technology services company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them realize their visions and create tangible value. With deep industry expertise, broad global resources and proven experience in consulting and outsourcing, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills, alliances and technologies. With more than 75,000 people in 47 countries, the company generated net revenues of $11.6 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2002. Its home page is www.accenture.com.