Book Review: Market Rebels

How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovation” Princeton University press, 2009 Hexagram Raw is a published author, scientist and professor in Princeton University. He has conducted research and provided guidance for companies like MOM, General Electric and British Petroleum, as well as not-for-profit organizations including the American Cancer Society, FBI and CIA. The majority of Aras’s works are in the fields of management and sociology, focusing on the role of collective action as a drive of organizational change.

The main theme of the book is a critical analysis of the nature of innovations in our society and their implications for the economy. Nevertheless, I would not say that the analysis is systematic throughout – only in the first part Raw briefly touches upon his theoretical framework. He suggests that the success of any innovation depends on the social movement associated with this, introducing the important concepts of “hot asses” and “cool manipulation”. A “hot cause” is crucial because it provokes emotions and creates an identity by bringing the members of community together.

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It is not enough by itself, and “cool manipulation” acts as a support tool for the spark “engaging audiences in new behaviors and new experiences that are improvisational and insurgent”. After introducing these notions, the author pursues with six different case studies to support his argument, united by the idea of “Joined hands of activists” that create, diffuse or block innovations. Even though providing such an extensive range of empirical evidence should be enough to convince a reader, the case studies are quite unbalanced.

Some provide a huge amount of detail while others Jump to conclusions without much explanation. It is interesting how the case of the successful cultural acceptance of a car is opposed to the failure of Seaway. Both products could be described as “hot causes” because of their originality at the time. The important difference is that a car was made popular by the clubs of automobile enthusiasts and giggly publicized reliability races, while there was no infrastructure or a “cool manipulation” in place for the establishment of a Seaway.

One striking case study also demonstrated how the lack of social engagement could undermine a product’s launch: the deaf rights movement slowed adoption of the cochlear implant. It was Book Review: Market Rebels By Colleague to deaf culture and the sign language. Another case is telling the story about the American microbrewery who brought diversity back to beer after decades of secretly renewing the beverage at hobbyists’ homes.

They represented the “cool manipulation”, while the bad taste of mass produced industrial beer was a “hot cause”. To summarize the series of these real life examples, the main point that Raw wants to show is that the social movements have an influence that cannot be ignored and deserve a place in any serious look at institutions that shape social change. I find it surprising that the author does not mention the Internet and digital innovation, as it is a big part of the modern society.

But thanks to his arguments, one can assume that projects like Wisped have a limited lifespan. I suppose that its rebellion nature is a “hot cause” which will become irrelevant after a few years and a “cool manipulation” should appear in order to maintain involvement. Overall I find the book interesting, with all the industry background that the author provides. Even though one may say that his arguments are sometimes flawed and unjustified, it offers a different angle on the links between economics the society.