Myths of Innovation – research accuracy

One of the promises made in The Myths of Innovation, was a commitment to research accuracy.  The book was heavily researched and footnoted, but it became clear to me how even the most heavily researched book can still have errors and mistakes.

This page is a living chronology of corrections, updates and fixes. In Sept 2010 the paperback edition of Myths was released, and all known issues, reported by readers and fans, were corrected.

Issues in Hardcover 2007 edition (Fixed in 2010 paperback)

  • Research accuracy
    • Pg 128, Dewey. John Dewey did not invent the Dewey decimal system. Melvil Dewey, no relation, did in 1876. (Confirmed error)
    • Pg 115, it is written that the Japanese invented firearms years before Europeans. However the reference to “The Evolution of Technology”, p. 189, doesn’t mention this, and on the contrary p. 188 states that firearms were introduced to the Japanese by the Portuguese in 1543. (Investigating)
  • Fixed Typos
    • Pg 12 Fennyman should be Feynman.
    • Pg 19: “the Stone is a more of” should be “The stone is more of”.
    • Pg 39 Goethe quote is possibly mis-attributed (see also).
    • Pg 43 Middle: Ray Kroc’s name is misspelled “Ray Crok”.
    • Pg 43 Craiglist should be Craigslist.
    • Pg 49 Craiglist should be Craigslist.
    • Pg 49 This well never work -> This will never work.
    • Pg 74 Bottom: Von Braun’s name is misspelled as “Van Braun”.
    • Pg 74 Bottom: Zworykin is misspelled as Zworkin.
    • (Figure 6-4) Pg 89: At bottom of chart: “mediation” should be “meditation”?
    • Pg 104 Top: “manager” is misspelled “manger”
    • Pg 114 Middle: “affects us” should be than “effects us”?
    • Pg 121 Correct Voltaire quote is “The best is the enemy of the good”
    • Pg 129 “succeed” should be “succeeded”
    • Pg 145 “a matter if time” should be “a matter of time”
    • Pg 150: “Businness” should be “Business”
    • Pg 150 Middle: “canon” is misspelled “cannon”
    • Pg 158 Middle: “Eureka” is misspelled “Eurkea”

If you have something to add, please contact me.

14 Responses to “Myths of Innovation – research accuracy”

  1. Andreas Scherer

    Hi, Scott,

    I’d like to add the following corrections for the first edition of MoI:

    Page 64: To be ahead of its time implies _that_ an idea has a time
    Page 144: everyone has different needs, values, _ideas_, and desires


  2. Andreas Scherer

    Hi, Scott,

    Please do not use the superlative in the quote of Voltaire:
    “The _better_ is the enemy of the good.”
    This gives room for further improvement.


  3. Eric Stanley

    Dewey Decimal System (also known as Dewey Decimal Classification was indeed developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876, and has been greatly modified and expanded through 22 major revisions, the most recent in 2004.

  4. Berthold

    I just found your site yesterday and enjoy reading your insights. The world definitely needs more gurus (I know you don’t like the term, but I’m at a loss as to what else to call you) in order to fix what issues corporate politics and economy have perpetuated these last centuries. I don’t think small people will ever die out, but maybe we can at least keep them from running big things.

    Now, I haven’t read any of your books and thus I can’t know the context in which you refer to Japanese firearm invention on page 115, but I thought I’d let you know that gunpowder was first invented in neighbouring China centuries before it was rediscoverd in Europe. The weapons started out predictably crude, so I can’t really say how precise the term “firearm” applies here. Also, according to Wikipedia, the Mongols used gunpowder-based weapons when conquering Japan during the Yuan Dynasty, well before the Portuguese ever set foot on the island.

    Thanks for an inspiring site.

  5. Danny Solomon

    Hi Scott – not sure you saw the below which I sent soon after I read the book. Happy to help with the revision in any way. Regards, Danny

    Sent: Thursday, 12 July, 2007 20:50:12
    Subject: The Myths of Innovation – thanks, comments, suggestion, typos


    I have just finished The Myths of Innovation. Thank you.

    I have a couple of comments, one book recommendation for you, and a couple of typos:


    The footnotes: I was distracted by the footnotes that were simply a reference to the text – but I couldn’t ignore them because lots of footnotes were worth reading – digressions, explanations, etc. So could I suggest distinguishing the “boring” ones by making the
    footnote references in the text grey or something, so I’d know I could safely ignore them and carry on reading. Sounds trivial, I know, but I found the flow interrupted.

    The last sentence on page 51 floored me – I must have read it half a dozen times but not sure I understand it yet

    On page 14 you write “the most useful way to think of epiphany…”; on page 8 you write “The best way to think of epiphany…” which I found in combination a bit dissonant

    Page 46: the order or 3M, Craigslist and Flickr does not match the order in which you go on to describe them, which was disorientating

    Page 70: Can I (highly) recommend as a great read and a possible counter-example to your description of fame accruing to those that make something effective. It’s the story of Penicillin – Fleming noticed the effect but could do nothing useful with it – it became a drug because of the work of Florey and colleagues who for various reasons escapeed the limelight. Who is remembered now? Fascinating stuff.

    Page 74: “never be made all at once” – wondering whether James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame is one such example (or have I succumbed to the hype?)

    page 85: “Comprehendible” – is this English in America? It isn’t English in England, if you get my drift :-)

    The list on Page 57 is close to the list on page 88 – could be combined or referenced

    What is IDEO? Page 4 and Page 103

    Page 121: I’d always known this as “The best is the enemy of the good” – ie know what’s good enough and get it out there rather than wait or work harder for best, or perfection.

    Typos (which I’m sure you’ll know by now but as I’m writing anyway):

    Page 49:

    Page 92: Rule #3 para “forces” => “force”

    Page 104: “manger”

    Please accept these comments/typos in the spirit in which they are offered – I greatly enjoyed the book and I thank you again.

    Regards, Danny

  6. Gary Frerking

    Working my way through the new paperback edition. Laughed out loud at the Rosetta Stone incident (mostly because it reminded me of a very similar incident involving myself and the Liberty Bell).

    Anyway… I believe your accounting of the Post-It Notes tale (page 41) may have some accuracy issues. I just happened to read a detailed accounting of the story in “The Human Side of Managing Technological Innovation: A Collection of Readings” by Ralph Katz and according to that, Spencer Silver was the inventor of the adhesive who shopped it around 3m for years and Art Fry actually was the choir singer who realized the use for it (recalling one of Spencer’s seminar talks about it). Art was also instrumental in getting the buy in @ 3m by flooding internal administrative staff with prototype versions of the notes, essentially getting them addicted to them.

  7. Eriza

    Hi Scott,

    Page 75 of the paperback edition: I believe it is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who was one of the inventors of calculus. Friedrich Leibniz was his father, a prof of moral philosophy (wikipedia).


  8. Piotr Konieczny

    In paperpback, p.4, you write: “It is disputed whether Newton ever observed an apple fall”. The reliable sources at do suggest that he did, as his contemporaries mention him speaking of it. Of course, he was never, indeed, hit by one. If the observation is disputed, well, please cite your sources. Who disputes it? [citation needed]

    1. Scott Berkun

      Simply because he spoke of it is hardly strong evidence. Gleick and others refer to how his story grew in strength as he aged, suggesting something may have happened, but that he embellished it over time.

  9. TroyW

    Scott, this may be a bit late to the party, but here goes:

    You are thinking (probably?) of Noel Perrin’s Giving Up the Gun when it comes to guns in Japan. Guns were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in 1543, who demonstrated and then sold two of them (for about $400,000 equivalent, so the legend goes) to a local lord. Within a century, Japanese gunsmiths were better than any others in the world, so much so that some of these sixteenth-century weapons were *refitted with bolt actions and used in the 1904 Russo-Japanese war*.
    The problem, if problem it was, was that after the Tokugawa dynasty ended Japan’s century-long civil wars in the late 17th century, two centuries of peace began, and the culture deliberately turned away from guns and back to more traditional weapons such as bows and swords, as these were considered more fitting to samurai and an extremely militarized culture. The fact that the elite samurai class numbered about 8% of the total population is probably one reason this “took.” (At its height, European feudal culture was at best 1% knights and other men legally allowed to possess weapons.)
    A more interesting point, perhaps, is that after the final samurai revolt (see the fictionalized account in the Cruise movie “The Last Samurai”),it only took about 30 years for the Japanese army to fully modernize and become an equal to Western forces.



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