The Innovator’s Spirit by Chuck Swoboda

The Innovator’s Spirit: Discover the Mindset to Pursue the Impossible is Chuck Swoboda’s first book and over three decades in the making. The book is the end product, in a sense, of Swoboda’s extensive time working as Chairman and CEO of Cree Inc., one of the industry leaders in LED lighting. Swoboda harnesses the full gamut of the knowledge he accumulated over the course of his time in a leadership position within the technology industry to impart what he believes makes an innovator and provides ample examples of innovation in action, both from his own life and the historical record. He’s an Innovator-in-Residence at Marquette University and heads Cape Point Advisors as its President, but can now add author to his list of accomplishments.


The Innovator’s Spirit isn’t a brief book, but it isn’t an epic either. Swoboda demonstrates instincts for managing his material far beyond what we would expect from a first time author in the way he condenses his experiences and observations down into digestible fragments that focus on significant details and nothing else. He leads off each chapter of the book with an epigram quote from individuals that obviously helped form and reinforce his own innovative spirit and they invariably are tired into the contents of that particular chapter. Swoboda, likewise, concludes each chapter with a brief list of key insights covered in that section of the book, His talent for structure is evident throughout the entirety of The Innovator’s Spirit.

The writing lets his message down from time to time. He never bungles things beyond the point of repair, but perceptive readers will detect Swoboda’s inexperience at scattered points throughout the course of The Innovator’s Spirit. Swoboda, in his eagerness to convey the message underlying this book, sometimes builds his sentences in poor fashion, but you never lose the full import of what he is trying to say. It is impressive that a first time author chooses to rely on his voice alone throughout the course of his first book; you will find no illustrations or graphics included with this book, only Swoboda’s voice carrying the day.


It is difficult, if not impossible, to find much fault with Swoboda’s conclusions in this book. He doesn’t take any controversial positions and refrains from lecturing his readers in anyway. His understanding of what makes people tick underlies much of the book; not only was Swoboda pushing boundaries in technology, he was also watching, listening, and noting what makes people tick during those many years he worked for Cree Inc. These ingredients mix together to make a potent non-fiction confection for readers. Chuck Swoboda’s The Innovator’s Spirit: Discover the Mindset to Pursue the Impossible is, in my opinion, one of the most important non-fiction books in recent memory and its relevancy will likely endure for many years to come. Let’s hope that Swoboda writes again and offers up his insights about what it is like for an onetime groundbreaker to recover their innovative spirit late in life. I totally believe he has more stories to tell.

Clay Burton