by Sean Sevy
April 9, 2018
In her new book The New Science of Radical Innovation, Dr. Sunnie Giles gives us the science behind what it takes to be an extremely successful business leader. So what sets this book apart from the countless libraries of books dedicated to business management and leadership? In this article, I will outline how this book truly is unprecedented in its approach to leadership.
I studied Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Entrepreneurship, so it should be no surprise that a book with “science” and “innovation” in the title caught my eye. Like many other books, The New Science of Radical Innovation cites statistics from successful companies and their leaders. Unlike other books, it uses quantum physics, neuroscience, and systemic psychology to lay the foundation for the making of what Dr. Giles calls a quantum leader. But don’t let the complex science scare you off if you’re not a science wiz (or engineer nerd like me). In fact, since Dr. Giles is a coach for business executives, she has become an expert of making her message perfectly relevant for any business manager. So why does she need science to describe a quantum leader? Here’s an example from the book that uses neuroscience to explain something that she believes all leaders should know.
“The most evolutionarily primitive part of our brains is the brain stem, which is in charge of keeping us safe by recognizing even subliminal signals of threat within milliseconds. If the incoming signal is deemed safe, then it proceeds to the limbic system, which is in charge of providing emotional saliency to what we experience, through which we experience connection. Once we feel connected, the signal can be processed in the next, most evolved part of our brains, the cortex, which is in charge of learning and adapting based on feedback. These three layers of our brains are hierarchical, meaning the safety needs of the brain stem trump the connection needs of the limbic system, which in turn trump the learning and innovation needs of the cortex brain. The responses of leaders all around the world confirm neuroscience! We cannot learn and create radical innovation before we feel safe and attached.”
The book is chock-full of lessons from nature that apply to being a quantum leader. As another example, successful companies can learn much from termites because of their ability to accomplish highly complex tasks (such as maintaining a constant temperature of 86° F) using very simple rules at the lower level. Dr. Giles does not cite these scientific phenomena as mere analogies to quantum leadership. Rather, she argues that these are in very fact laws of nature that govern all living things.
But science aside, how does the leadership advice in this book differ from the rest of the books in the business management library? Allow me to compare this book to the book I read for my Management class: Jim Collins’ Good to Great. This book is a business school classic. It cites several examples of companies that have progressed from good to great and outlines why they were so successful. But in The New Science of Radical Innovation, Dr. Giles makes it clear that what once was deemed as conventional business wisdom has become obsolete with the rise of the digital revolution. For example, Circuit City was put on a pedestal in Good to Great, but it quickly fails the test in The New Science of Radical Innovation. As we all know, Circuit City went out of business a decade ago because they lacked innovation, and that’s when Amazon and Best Buy stole the show. Being a Good to Great company is no longer all that great. In contrast, Dr. Giles boldly declares that in our new business era, “variability is the essence of the game, not a noise to be eliminated.”
In conclusion, The New Science of Radical Innovation truly provides a much-needed new science to respond to our new business world of change and volatility. The reader can expect to go through an amusing journey of science while being equipped with tools to become a quantum leader.
Listen to an interview with Sean Sevy and Dr. Sunnie Giles here.
Purchase The New Science of Radical Innovation by clicking here.