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Debunking the “Types of Innovation” & Focusing on Innovation Made Practical

By Dave Root on December 12, 2017

Innovation is a process for making something better by doing it in a new or different way. Depending on the type of business, these improvements might occur to a product, service, or process. When discussing innovation, it’s important to remember that it requires more than just coming up with original or new ideas. Innovation is a two-part process that depends on thinking of creative new ideas and implementing them.

However, according to research presented in the Harvard Business Review, “Innovation models in global companies across diverse sectors fail between 70% and 90% of the time.” The ideas are there, but the implementation is not. Our experience has shown that, like any other type of process, innovation can be taught, and it can change and be improved over time.  

Typical Types of Innovation Models

Innovation models are conceptual frameworks for identifying and advancing new ideas that support organizational objectives. These models have been developed over time, often to address specific challenges or opportunities. Some types of innovation include:

Linear Innovation

Linear innovation, which was primarily developed for technological or scientific innovation, is one of the oldest models. The general concept is:

Basic Research → Applied Research → Development → Production and Diffusion

This model is still used today because it is a time-tested approach with which both academics and investors are familiar. Although it remains a popular method, critics of the linear innovation model question whether the most effective process is actually linear. Another possible disadvantage to some organizations might be the emphasis on a scientific approach over direct contributions from team members.

Red Ocean Innovation

This innovation model focuses on making changes or improvements within the existing marketplace to gain a competitive advantage. For example, a mouthwash manufacturer might focus on adding new and interesting flavors to stand out from the competition. The main disadvantage to this model is that its emphasis on beating the competition creates tunnel vision. When the focus is so narrow, other valuable ideas might be stifled or ignored because they don’t address the specific objective of the innovation process.

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Blue Ocean Innovation

The goal of this innovation model is to create a new market space. While an organization may already be a well-established player in its current market, through blue ocean innovation they create an entirely new market by taking an innovative approach. This is the type of innovation that many forward-thinking organizations strive to achieve. However, with the exception of well-funded entrepreneurial startups and large organizations with significant resources, this approach is not always practical for many companies.

Incremental Innovation

This model is familiar to the many organizations that focus on making or doing something better, faster, or cheaper. Making incremental improvements to a product or service is often necessary to stay competitive, and this type of innovation enables a continuous cycle of refinement. One potential disadvantage of this model is that the focus is so narrow that it might ignore possible “leapfrog” ideas that lead to more significant advancements.   

Market Pull

This model relies on innovation in response to consumer demand. The typical flow of the process is:

Market Need → Development → Production → Sales

One of the main advantages of this type of innovation is that it demonstrates that an organization is listening to its customers and responding to their wants and needs. A potential disadvantage is that a strong emphasis on external factors does not foster independent internal ideas.

Overcoming Barriers to Innovation

Regardless of the types of innovation models used in your organization, ideation and implementation are essential steps in the process. Understanding the various innovation killers and enhancers is critical to supporting the generation of new ideas and ensuring that they are brought to fruition.

Innovation Killers

Any type of innovation process can come to a screeching halt with any one of these common innovation killers:

  • Cost
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Practicality
  • Fear of change
  • Being contrary

Avoiding negative language such as “It’s too expensive” or “just to play devil’s advocate ...” is essential for keeping the creative juices flowing.

Innovation Enhancers

On the other hand, focusing on the positive and fostering creativity can help spark the ideation process with innovation enhancers such as:

  • Exploring possibilities
  • Building on ideas
  • Reshaping concepts
  • Gaining buy-in
  • Sparking new ideas

Encouraging the flow of ideas with language such as “How can we make that work?” and “Let’s come up with more good ideas like this one” will lead to new concepts and more effective innovation.

Innovation Made Practical

Use the combination of innovation models that makes the most sense for your organization and the issues or challenges at hand. Remember that you might need different approaches for different types of solutions, and that you need more than just a model to make innovation work.

In addition to the right model(s), you must also promote a culture of innovation that pervades the entire organization. Every individual must live and breathe the culture not just by talking the talk, but also by walking the walk. The behaviors that support a culture of innovation can be taught. Remove the barriers to the process and provide ongoing training to create an environment that supports innovation.

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Dave joined Eagle’s Flight in 1991 after having spent a number of years with a Toronto-based accounting firm. Since that time, he has held a number of posts within the company, primarily in the areas of Operations, Finance, Legal, and IT. In his current role as both Chief Financial Officer and President, Global Business, Dave is focused on ensuring the company’s ongoing financial health as well as growing its global market share. In pursuing the latter, Dave’s wealth of experience and extensive business knowledge has made him a valued partner and trusted advisor to both our global licensees and multinational clientele.

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Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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