I am overstating only slightly when I talk about ten secret types of innovation. Two of them are well known but the other eight are so unknown, you may as well call them secret. When asked for types of innovation most people come up with “product innovation” and “service innovation.” After that … crickets.
That makes the other eight particularly valuable to those who know them.
The two known and eight secret types of innovation
If you are struggling to come up with an innovation idea that others in your company did not already have, then this could be because you are looking at the same spots as everyone else. If everyone reduces innovation to product or service innovation then this explains why everybody fights over the same type of ideas.
Knowing more about all 10 types of innovation gives you better chances to come up with unique ideas. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
Ten types of innovation (aka innovation strategies):
- Profit model innovation
- Network innovation
- Structure innovation
- Process innovation
- Product performance innovation
- Product system innovation
- Service innovation
- Channel innovation
- Brand innovation
- Customer engagement innovation
In my mind, some of the best innovation ideas right now are not products. Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Google, Alibaba, Facebook! None of them has a product in the traditional sense at the heart of their success. And yet these are some of the most successful innovators around.
Where do the ten types of innovation come from?
There are thousands of books on innovation and probably millions of articles and scholarly publications. They focus on many different aspects of innovation. Yes, many are valuable in their own rights. But only a few have tried to categorise innovation into types. The one that stands out in my mind is Larry Keeley’s [et al.] “Ten Types of Innovation”.
Are there other ways of categorising innovation? There sure are, e.g. by the magnitude (“incremental”, “breakthrough”). These are of course also valid ways of categorising innovation, among many other ways of doing this.
What do I like about innovation tactics? Larry Keeley’s system has been practically applied for two decades by the Doblin/Deloitte consultancy (don’t worry, I am not affiliated with them in any way or form).
You can see that other consultancies (i.e. practically oriented fellows) come to similar conclusions. Check out this categorisation from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
As you can see it is quite similar. You can find this figure in their report here. Since I am aiming to give you practical knowledge, I have decided to use Larry Keeley’s system on these pages.
Could you categorise Larry Keeley’s innovation strategies differently? You sure could. And for a short while, I was tempted to come up with something different. But I realised it would add more confusion than value. So, I decided to stay with the types of innovation listed further above.
Now that we got the types sorted out, let’s look to the next level. Each strategy contains a number of innovation tactics. Here is where innovation tactics come into play. Yes, this is where we got the inspiration for our domain name from!
Let’s dive into the “Channel” innovation strategy. This type of innovation is about “How your offerings are delivered to customers and users.” The innovation tactics associated with this strategy are:
- Context Specific
- Experience Center
- Flagship Store
- Go Direct
- Indirect Distribution
- Multi-level Marketing
- Non-Traditional Channels
- Pop-up Presence
The level below exists for all other types of innovation. It is already a great reservoir to draw from, but the beauty is that you can add to these tactics. While I have encouraged to stick with the innovation strategies, I highly recommend you to add new innovation tactics as you discover them. That is certainly what I am doing. You can allocate the tactic to the strategy it most belongs to. Sometimes you will be torn between two but it is not worth to ruminate over it too much. It’s more important to take action.
I will also give you more background on the other categorisation systems when it fits well. But the focus of our pages is and will be on innovation tactics & strategies.
But avoid being one of them!
Take action now & boost your innovation skills:
Uber and Airbnb are two great examples for companies that have no tangible products as such and yet they are superb innovators. The articles below are the most comprehensive of their kind, have pdf downloads and are top-ranking on Google. A must-read for any aspiring innovator:
This article by Murat Uenlue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.