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March 05, 1987|ROSELLE M. LEWIS

Winning the Innovation Game by Denis E. Waitley and Robert B. Tucker (Fleming H. Revell: $15.95).

Denis E. Waitley and Robert B. Tucker, award-winning authors of many books and articles about business trends, have produced a first-rate collaboration in the best spirit of American capitalism. "For millions of Americans, the future has arrived too soon," they begin, citing the loss of 2.2 million jobs in "corporate America" during the first half of this decade alone.

And as America evolves from a "rusting" industrial society into a highly technical one, people will have to do some fast footwork in creating new businesses, goods and services. The rules of innovating, though simply stated, might be difficult to put into action.

More interested in the psychological mind-set and motivating forces of successful people, rather than the new and improved mousetraps they make, the authors, basing their book on 50 interviews, use the exemplar method in showing how innovators are "trail blazers, the pioneers, the popularizers and . . . the paradigm shifters."

Though the familiar story of Henry Ford and his cloning affordable "wheels" might have been deleted, other examples prove highly instructive.

Stuart Karl, a publisher of trade magazines, took the advice of his wife and adapted Jane Fonda's "Workout Book" to VCR, resulting in a series of all-time best-selling educational tapes.

Todd Bernstein, at 18, learned the rudiments of telephone installation by reading manuals General Telephone had thrown in the trash; anticipating the need for customized business phone services resulting from the breakup of AT&T, he founded Van Nuys-based Telecomm.

Then there's Marva Collins, a Chicago schoolteacher who, dissatisfied with the prescribed method of teaching the discouraged and truant, established her own private school to meet these students' needs.

The innovators portrayed here are neither hard-headed capitalists nor lonely rugged individualists. Teamwork, often involving family and friends, prudent risk-taking (Fred Smith used his entire inheritance to start Federal Express) and the ability to accept both success and failure are important.

We see how innovators seize the day, from Peter Ueberroth's oft-cited use of volunteers and corporations to make the 1984 Olympics both peaceful and highly profitable, to Sandy Gooch, whose life-threatening reaction to foods with additives inspired the founding of her chain of natural health food stores.

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