Ten Shades of Innovation



Innovation drives progress, stretches possibilities, expands thinking and revenues – it is the antithesis of complacency. The quest for innovation keeps people and companies current and vibrant. Pushing the innovation envelop keeps staff and customers alike engaged.

But how do you continue the quest for innovation when it’s so much easier to remain complacent and do what’s-worked-in-the-past? What kinds of innovation are there and how do you lobby for innovations that matter? Below are some things to consider in leading innovative thinking and acting.

Incremental Innovations

1. Faster – It’s a given that when an innovation takes off, like a personal computer or a cell phone, there will be innovations which would make the solution faster (with memory and broadband for example), more versatile and robust (with applications and storage for example), leading to increased adoption and markets for complementary products (like accessories) and services (security and access).

  • The iconic example of this type of innovation is around Moore’s Law: over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.
  • Chance favors the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur

Which pervasive innovations continue to rise in adoption and what solutions could be sold to those markets?

2. More Cost Effective – The technological and design innovations around materials, design, integration and development will make it increasingly more cost effective to adopt these tech innovations by a larger target customer base.

  • An increased knowledge of semiconductor materials and manufacturing processes has led to efficiencies for design and production and distribution, making technological solutions more widely available for lower costs.
  • Don’t confuse the art of the possible with the art of the profitable. David Tansley

If products in your market have become a commodity (like solar panels), what tech or process innovations would set your product line apart?

3. More Complex – Along those same lines, with the advancements of technologies and processes, more complex, integrated solutions become available and desirable.

  • We went from room-fuls of servers for (comparatively) miniscule amounts of data to gigabytes on a stick. Our cell phones can do more in complexity and processing than the Hubble telescope was designed to do.!
  • Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? Some men dream of things that are not and ask why not? Robert Kennedy

Think not about complexity for complexity’s sake, but about how being able to do complex things can help solve problems, even ones we didn’t know we had.

Process Innovations

4. More Streamlined Processes – Manufacturing and operational innovations supporting the design, production and distribution to those innovations are additional ways to innovate to gain market share.

  • While not the sexy original innovations that entice entrepreneurs and execs, focusing on this will drive revenues and market share.
  • Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure. Albert Einstein

What’s blocking your company from more efficiently executing and what can you and your team do about it? How would you better and more quickly serve the customer if you did so?

5. More collaboration – Collaborating with partners of all ilks, from distribution to development to advertising, will help innovators better understand and serve the ecosystem of partners, and get products and services into the hands of customers.

  • The Japanese define a keiretsu as a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings, an informal business group and loose collaborative alliance.
  • To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. Theodore H. White

If we were to map our ecosystem of stakeholders, how could we each better and more collaboratively work with each other to better serve each other?

6. More Comprehensive – Moreover, deeper partnerships with a larger range of partners can facilitate the delivery of more comprehensive solutions to a broader range of stakeholders.

  • Service management has expanded and evolved from isolated fixes to comprehensive solutions which address deeper problems and systemic and infrastructure issues. The evolution of end-to-end IT services is an example of this and is impacting the traditional boundaries of IT, applications, groups and even organizational issues including governance, management, cross-group collaborations, etc.,
  • Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress. Ted Levitt

If we embrace a systemic, collaborative approach, how could companies better focus on delivering their core competencies while ensuring that the customer’s needs are addressed end-to-end?

Orthogonal Innovations

7. New markets – Another way to facilitate innovation is to open up new market opportunities for proven innovations widely embraced in specific geographies, within specific audiences to solve specific problems.

  • The more adoption there is, the easier it is to expand market share to current and new geographical and profile markets. However, the more difficult it might be to see those other new markets and opportunities, as the current ones are still doing so well.
  • Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

There may be policy and technical hurdles, and of course the inevitable communication hurdles obstructing this adoption into new markets, but the opportunities will be there for those who are persistent, should there also be a need and a pain in that new market.

8. New Purpose – Proven innovations in one market may serve a new and original, or the same purpose in another market.

  • Consider how process innovations in the semiconductor market may impact development innovations in the clean tech or healthcare sector for example, or how IT can revolutionize healthcare.
  • Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport. Robert Wieder

What old solutions can be applied in a whole new way and change the way we all look at things and do things?

Original Innovations 

9. New Technology and Application – The telephone, the personal computer, the horseless carriage are all touted for being original innovations, far different than what-existed-before.

  • If your quest is for that original innovation, consider the detailed profile of your target customer and the painful need which your solution would serve. Get that funding behind the customer validation and design to the requirements of your target audience.
  • All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them. Galileo Galilei

Keep a log of what-you-wish-you-had. Read and experience much. And consider how your thoughts and ideas might come together so that you see the same thing in new ways.

10. Accidental Innovations – Most people dismiss the accidental innovations as they are difficult to plan, but note that innovations such as the chopsticks were designed based on necessary (it was too hot to eat something from the file so a man used two sticks), Botox was intended as a heart medication, Kevlar was originally meant for tires, Nylon quickly went from toothbrushes to stockings, and the list goes on.

  • Embrace the purposeful innovations while encouraging the accidental ones.
  • We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

What do you use every day and what other purposes could it serve?

Many leaders think that innovation is only about one shade of innovation, only the new-new. So we hope that this article helps you consider other options and methods for thinking about what innovation is and how it can impact your company. We close this month’s blog a final thought: Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future. James Bertrand Happy Innovating!


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