Book Review: The New Killer Apps by Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui


Several years back, Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll had published a not entirely prophetic, but a wonderful, insightful and a hugely successful book, Unleashing The Killer App. The book was one of the front runners in establishing the disrupting impact the digital revolution was going to have on businesses. There were threads that a lot of us understand and remember, like Kodak. And there were futuristic implications, some of which came true while some did not.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easier to be critical or defensive about your own earlier thoughts and theories. Thankfully, in their new book, Chunka and Paul move on from where they left, and build upon some of the principles they believe will shape the nature of disruptive innovation going forward.

In this book, they remodel the notion of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) , a much abused acronym these days by technology solution providers, and identify six different mega trends (and bring in the notion of cameras and sensors). They pick a running case study, of Google’s driverless car, to highlight the multi-industry multidimensional impact such disruptive innovation can have. And they create a template of sorts for businesses to emulate, assuming they are serious about disruptive innovation.

And that’s where you as a reader have to take a call on how you see your own organization.

To push the point further, would you agree that while most businesses continue to look at incremental avenues, at the same time, in almost every business, the last few years have seen forces of disruption largely led by technology driven innovators. For instance, retail has started moving towards integrated online offline models of best buy, or the continuously pushing one’s imagination Amazon. In banking, direct banking, mobile banking, mobile payments and NFCs have transformed transactions. In insurance, a policybazaar suddenly offers you multiple choices at your fingertips or on a portal. And in the middle of all this, there are organizations which are hoping to grow at breakneck pace by using incremental methods only.

NKA busts the discussion in the middle, by asking you to focus on what can really and truly be considered a killer app. It implores you to focus on a battery of ideas while choosing your investments wisely. It urges you to stay close to your DNA, because “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. And it emphasizes the need to do away with conventionalism, by asking you to “kill all the finance guys” when you undertake the quest for a NKA.

An immensely enjoyable book, with dollops of case studies, unfortunately primarily from USA, relatable challenge scenarios that businesses struggled against, overcame, or failed to work around, and a breezy narration make it a worthwhile buy. However, the real value of this book would be to convert it into a template of sorts that you can go back to your own whiteboard with, and start re-examining your investments critically against. You may realize soon that some of your strategic investments are misplaced, some are overambitious, some have not been evaluated, and some lack the planned design that even innovation needs to have. Probably, the biggest reason I enjoyed the book is because it gives one a way of structurally nurturing creativity and imagination inside a large organization.

I have already posted a short review on amazon, which is here.

I would go in with a 8 on 10 on this book, primarily because its one of those rare business books which is not bloated, pedantic or preachy, despite being immensely insightful. And its a quick read.

About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

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