Innovation Types

There is a lot of energy around innovation as we struggle between old economic structures and systems and new ones. Are we really talking about the same kinds of innovation or not? In working with a coaching client who catalyzes innovation, I developed the following chart and typing (borrowing from a dozen models I found in various domains and with the help of several practicing innovators including my collaborator Herman Wagter).

Let’s explore, across these types, where innovators focus their attention, what is required, the timelines usually involved in implementation and adoption, and some examples within business model, marketing, product/service, and process.

Disruptive Innovation

Here, we are looking at game-changing innovation. These innovations offer an unexpected new value proposition. This type of innovations requires: deep creativity, long term market building, and has trouble creating market (because people don’t even know they want it yet).

To be disruptive is deep creativity – coming up with something that no one else is doing or knows they need. They aren’t inward facing: “how do we do what we do better?” They aren’t outward facing: “how do we do something better than what others do?” They involve lots of random play in a nonlinear process. Attention focuses on where there is complacency or “accepted wisdom” that no one else is questioning in the market. Highly emergent, networking is everything. To be disruptive, you must see a striking new perspective on a existing problem. To win the market by being disruptive you need to execute on a bold plan. To be successful, you have to invite people to make a trade off in what they think is valuable. You create a different value proposition where that market validates the trade off as an improvement.

Combinatory Innovation

Welcome the the world of mashup innovation. These innovations take something that is working in some other domain and transport it into a new domain or they take existing offers and bundle them in better ways. This type of innovation requires: broad awareness outside market zone and short-term market building.

To be combinatory, innovators look outside their domain of known expertise for ideas that work. Partly emergent, you have to be able to see what is not there yet. This is a world of allegory. Find systems like your system and use what works there. Alternately, take several things that work and combine them in new and more effective ways. The value proposition is enhanced: more, wider attributes.

Efficiency Innovation

These innovations focus on refinement. They offer iterative improvement on existing technologies by reducing waste. These types of innovation require: engineering creativity and competitive market building.

To be efficiency innovators, look for ways to refine what is. This is about control and limitation. What about what is there now is not critical? What about what exists really matters and what can be left behind? Remove what is not highest value adding. What would a simpler way to do it be? The value proposition stays the same, it is offered with better speed/cost/options.

What form of innovation are you doing? What type do you want to be doing? How are you going about achieving that?

What examples would you add?

4 thoughts on “Innovation Types

  • I can’t claim anything remotely disruptive although I have done a bit of work that I see people using every day. Most of my inventions are based on either allegory to the physical world (how do animals or plants do it?) or historical allegory (if X was useful in some current or outdated technology, what would it look like embedded in a new technology).

    Most of the good ahas! are obvious when they finally arrive and are the product of having puzzled over the problem for some time along with sets of other problems in different areas. Having a group of people of diverse backgrounds with some common overlap is extremely useful for this.

    It can’t be forced and it also does work in a vaccum either. It also has to occur at the right time. Sometimes supporting technologies move much more slowly than you wish and at other times they move swiftly and new work by others quickly renders your ideas obsolete.

    It is really hard work so it has to be fun and the organization has to support it.

    all of this is either at the product or process level in my case. I have zero clue about marketing and business models.

  • What’s the difference between “effiency innovation” and “efficiency improvements?” It seems we no longer talk about “improvements” today. Everything seems to be about “innovation.”

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