Innovation is the hottest buzzword in business. But what if its benefits have been exaggerated, and our obsession with finding the next big thing has distracted us from the work that matters most?
Available September 8, 2020, in Hardcover, Ebook, and Audio formats
Purchase: Penguin Random House || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Bookshop.org
It’s hard to avoid innovation these days. Nearly every product gets marketed as being disruptive, whether it’s genuinely a new invention or just a new toothbrush. But in this manifesto on the state of American work, historians of technology Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russell argue that our way of thinking about and pursuing innovation has made us poorer, less safe, and—ironically—less innovative.
Drawing on years of original research and reporting,The Innovation Delusion shows how the ideology of change for its own sake has proved a disaster. Corporations have spent millions hiring chief innovation officers while their core businesses tank. Computer science programs have drilled their students on programming and design, even though the overwhelming majority of jobs are in IT and maintenance. In countless cities, suburban sprawl has left local governments with loads of deferred repairs that they can’t afford to fix. And sometimes innovation even kills—like in 2018 when a Miami bridge hailed for its innovative design collapsed onto a highway and killed six people.
In this provocative, deeply researched book, Vinsel and Russell tell the story of how we devalued the work that underpins modern life—and, in doing so, wrecked our economy and public infrastructure while lining the pockets of consultants who combine the ego of Silicon Valley with the worst of Wall Street’s greed. The authors offer a compelling plan for how we can shift our focus away from the pursuit of growth at all costs, and back toward neglected activities like maintenance, care, and upkeep.
For anyone concerned by the crumbling state of our roads and bridges or the direction our economy is headed, The Innovation Delusionis a deeply necessary reevaluation of a trend we can still disrupt.
“The most important book I’ve read in a long time. It explains so much about what is wrong with our technology, our economy, and the world, and gives a simple recipe for how to fix it: Focus on understanding what it takes for your products and services to last.”
—Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media
“There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to reveal how much a society relies on maintainers. The Innovation Delusion offers a vital wake-up call. Stirring, sobering, and brilliantly composed, this book is a must read for everyone who longs for a radical reinvestment in what matters most.”
—Ruha Benjamin, professor at Princeton University, author of Race After Technology
“Vinsel and Russell have taken on one of the tech industry’s sacred cows, showing how the chase for the next big thing has harmed countless businesses, left our roads and bridges in a state of neglect, and drained support for the essential workers who keep society going. Equal turns alarming and empowering, The Innovation Delusion is a sendup of Silicon Valley’s empty promises and a much-needed plea for sanity in how we think about technology, profit, and work.”
—Dan Lyons, bestselling author of Disrupted and Lab Rats
“In this caring ode to the ordinary grit of maintenance, Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell light a brilliant bonfire of the vanities from carefree innovation-speak. We should upkeep their message, and repair our corporations, communities, and consciousness. This book is more than a conversation starter, it’s a course correction.”
—Guru Madhavan, senior scholar and director of programs, National Academy of Engineering, author of Applied Minds: How Engineers Think
“[A] resounding call for sane business growth . . . Readers will come away from Vinsel and Russell’s urgent and illuminating primer with a new perspective on the importance of maintenance as well as innovation in business.”
—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)