Reading List: How to Kill a Unicorn

Innovation consultancy Fahrenheit 212’s mission is to find ways to “turn breakthrough innovation from a hopeful hit-and-miss… into a more predictable growth engine,” writes Mark Payne, the firm’s co-founder and president. To illustrate how Fahrenheit’s underlying principle plays out, he opens with a lively anecdote about a meeting with the team tasked with figuring out future applications of Samsung’s then-novel translucent LCD technology. The question posed to the assembled team: “It’s cool, but so what?” According to Payne, answering the “so what” is “what separates innovations that work—those that successfully make it to market and make good money—from those that don’t.”

Fahrenheit’s method marries the creative (magic) to the commercial (money), a blended approach crucial to company success, Payne boasts. As ideas are fielded, the team evaluates what must be true for that idea to work. If the list of “trues” is too long and “laden with monumental barriers,” the idea is a unicorn: lovely to ponder but not sustainable in the real world.

Some readers may find the author’s laser-focus on Fahrenheit’s process wearing. Others will enjoy the fly-on-the-wall view as Payne recounts brainstorming sessions—reminding readers that not every pearl needs to be polished—and work done for clients such as Nature’s Variety pet foods and Tuthilltown Spirits. Despite the sometimes-uneven prose and convoluted explanations (plus relentless self-promotion), Payne infuses How to Kill a Unicorn with fresh insights and worthwhile lessons, whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, a newbie or an ambitious backyard tinkerer eager to channel your imagination into the next great product or business.

by Mark Payne

October
Crown Business; $28

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