1st Edition

The Innovator’s Discussion
The Conversational Skills of Entrepreneurial Teams

ISBN 9781138497917
Published July 1, 2019 by Routledge
174 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

This book describes the conversational competencies that enable innovative entrepreneurial teams to create new products and ventures, and it presents several exercises and games to help readers master these conversational moves.

Based on 6 years of detailed empirical analysis of teams at the forefront of technological breakthroughs and new venture creation, this book shows you how high-performance teams verbally accomplish their work. Through engaging examples, exercises, and descriptions, it enables entrepreneurs to develop the conversational competencies that can help them create new products and ventures. The book includes a technique for making interpretation visible that enables teams to navigate pivots in the innovation process. It also includes the materials and instructions for the Toasted Marshmallow game designed to help entrepreneurial teams fail forward.

The Innovator’s Discussion enables readers and their team mates to build a conversational advantage. The reader will gain both a practical and theoretical understanding of the role of conversation in the context of entrepreneurial work. It is invaluable for aspiring and established entrepreneurs as well as for educators and those wanting to learn more about entrepreneurship, innovation, and high-performance teams.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Defining the problem  1. Misperceptions that prevent teams from innovating successfully  2. Why popular approaches to innovation aren’t enough  Part 2. Explaining interpretive language  3. Collaborative language  4. Provisional language  5. Reflective language  Part 3. Developing conversational competencies  6. Exercises to build verbal skills  7. Making interpretation visible through documentation  Part 4. Using interpretive language in various situations  8. Interpretive language and a team’s final pivot  9. Conversational approaches for other dilemmas of founding teams  10. Organizational culture and language  Part 5. Learning beyond the book  11. Yes but… common questions  12. A community to harness the power of words

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Betsy Campbell, Ph.D., researches the practices of teams at the forefront of science and technology. As a Penn State faculty member, she leads an initiative focused on the democratization of entrepreneurship. Earlier in her career she founded Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs, Inc. and co-directed the MIT CI Lab.


"In today's society, we understand the importance of building diverse and inclusive teams to advance innovation. However, little attention has been paid to how teams engage in conversation. The Innovators' Discussion is an essential guide book for teams seeking to harness the full knowledge and experience of every team member. Primarily written for entrepreneurial teams, the insights and exercises will help diverse teams in any field build the "interpretive" conversational skills needed to build healthy and effective diverse teams capable of spurring innovation. As someone who prepares city planners, whose job always involves building teams, The Innovator's Discussion will become a mainstay in my courses." — Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Civic Design, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA