Book Review: How Stella Saved the Farm

My colleague recommended a book to me, and I’m so glad she did. It’s a fable — about a farm ran by animals, about to go bankrupt and get bought by a human. Something drastic needed to happen, and this story quickly and succinctly captured how to make that something happen.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who may need to go against status quo, yet at the same time, the status quo cannot be completely abandoned because it is still providing that much needed lifeline.

The book is How Stella Saved the Farm: A Tale About Making Innovation Happen by Vijay Govindarajan, a leading expert on strategy and innovation.

Here are the key lessons from the book direct from the study guide that accompany the book.

Getting Started

  • In any great innovation story, the idea is only the beginning.
  • Asking one leader to “just go make it happen” is a woefully inadequate approach to moving an innovative idea forward

Building a Team

  1. Assign a dedicated team any activities that are beyond the narrow, specialized capabilities of the existing organization
  2. Build the dedicated team as though you are building a new and different organization from the ground up
  3. Conflicts between the dedicated team and the existing organization are inevitable. Nonetheless, you must nurture a healthy partnership between the two.

Planning and Assessing Progress

  1. Put learning first — learning through disciplined experimentation. If you do, you’ll make better decisions and you’ll get to profitability sooner.
  2. Gather evidence to validate each major expenditure.
  3. Evaluate the innovation leader based on whether he or she executed a disciplined experiment.

While the lessons here may seem obvious, they are actually really insightful. The fable really bring these lessons to life, and showcases the nuances of managing your everyday business while challenging the status quo. Because the story is so well-crafted, the book can easily be finished in one sitting (I did!). While the book is an easy read, it is built upon years of research. The lessons have wide implications in a variety of settings. This book belongs on the bookshelves along with Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life and Our Iceberg Is Melting.

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About Jeannie Chan

Jeannie Chan founded Curious. She is a brand strategist who takes on business problems big or small. She inspires organizations to raise the questions no one dared to ask or thought to ask. She has ignited new thinking and delivered growth to Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits. Jeannie loves espressos, and lives in New York City with her two cats and her beloved. Learn more about Jeannie at JeannieChan.com.
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