Thursday, November 5, 2015

How to Classify Innovation

The innovation classification is not just based on the required investments, or on the potential market, but on its evolution abilities.

For many, innovation is still a serendipity, for others, it is a buzzword, and it has many definitions. One of the good definitions of innovation is, "intentional novelty bringing sustainable benefit." Innovation is a theme studied in several fields since social applied sciences (like business administration) to engineering. In this way, there’s a vast terminology (types of innovation) in what some researchers call incremental (improvement, continuous, modular, component, etc.) and others call radical (breakthrough, disruptive, system, paradigmatic) innovation.


Radical Innovation vs. Incremental Innovation: Radical innovation brings something that was not existing before at all, by creating or gathering technologies or process, in order to bring new steps which can open to other innovations and enhancement. The radical innovation creates a chain of innovation, meaning it necessarily leads to new innovation and enhancements. Enhancement gathers existing process and technologies to solve a precise problem. It cannot lead to other enhancement except for itself. What happens is that there’s not a ruler or scale that say how much an innovation is incremental (small) or radical (big)! Either an innovation is small (incremental) or big (radical) it can still be called innovation because both are important types of innovation.


The innovation classification is based on the position of the concept in the evolution tree. Generally speaking, one small innovation needs fewer resources compared to big innovation (but it’s not absolute). Not only time and money but also how to persuade the decision makers to let the idea through stage-gate. Mostly because of the level of uncertainty and pertinent risk. This is an important issue to know when categorizing ideas as big/medium/small innovation. Analogically, the innovation classification is based on the position of the concept in the evolution tree: An innovation would be like a big branch, enhancement is like a small branch, the application is like a leaf. We understand with this image that more radical innovation should support other innovation / enhancement / application while enhancement could support only other enhancements or applications. The classification is not based on the required investments, or on the potential market, but on its evolution abilities.


Innovation is a question of ambition, and imagination, not a question of investment only. Without ideas that break the mind walls, any innovation department and all its process and investments will innovate in nothing. Either an innovation is small (incremental) or big (radical), it can still be called innovation because both are important types of innovation. A company should invest part its money in each one of these types to diversify the risks. While a radical innovation doesn’t appear on the horizon, incremental innovations are the continuous journey, it is fundamental to improve products, services, and processes to compete in the today’s dynamic market. A company should invest part its money in each of these types of innovation to diversify the risks.

Innovation is about having new knowledge and new processes. Innovation is the specific phenomenon and strategic imperative of the knowledge-based economy. Innovation is about too much knowledge in terms of too many good creative ideas, and too little available resources. Innovation is about prioritization - a system that can "smell" the right idea at the right time and place. And innovation is an important component of business strategy.






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