While the authors stubbornly dispute former Harvard President Larry Summers’s (reasonable) assertion that 'a great nation can walk and chew gum at the same time'—can both innovate and maintain—they do manage to make at least a few encouraging observations ... Impassioned do-it-yourself advocates, the authors applaud the proliferation of repair-focused websites and instructional videos. Their affectionate description of the zen of home repair will connect with many readers. They celebrate community skill-sharing clinics, where tools and advice are exchanged, and criticize tech companies like Apple for making product repair difficult and expensive. They even find some kind words for venture-backed startups that tackle maintenance, even if these companies couch their mission in the language of disruption ... While the authors’ emphasis on maintenance resonates, and their take-down of innovation theater feels well-deserved, they may be preaching to the choir. Leading technology companies may talk innovation, but they already compete (as the writers themselves acknowledge) on reliability and uptime ... The authors describe three phases to innovation cycles—invention, maintenance and decay—but they omit perhaps the most important step: implementation, the process of figuring out how a raw but promising advance might be put to use. New technologies really can make the world better, though how they will deliver their benefits can be hard for the originator to perceive.
Vinsel and Russell’s observations make a compelling counterpoint to the innovation mania that has dominated this decade. Will appeal to innovation skeptics and fans of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
... [a] resounding call for sane business growth ... Readers will come away from Vinsel and Russell’s urgent and illuminating primer with a new perspective on the importance of maintenance as well as innovation in business.