Innovation is key to growth, as without innovation we do not get disruption. Without disruption, we do not get change, and without change we do not see businesses expanding. A definition of innovation can be viewed in the embedded PDF.

Innovation is by definition something unique, yet most types of innovation can be broadly classified into one of four main categories, each of which serves a different purpose or resolves a different challenge. You can learn more about my own background in business innovation by visiting the Ahmed Dahab Twitter page.

Experienced innovators know that, while there are many ways to approach any problem, it often helps to be able to categorise the type of innovation required and any restrictions or constraints that may be in place before beginning to brainstorm ideas.

Breakthrough Innovation

Breakthrough innovation refers to the type of innovation that most people expect when they hear the term. Breakthrough innovations are those that bring something that is, or at least seems, to be completely new to the table. A breakthrough innovation may utilise products, systems or processes that are already around as part of the solution, but it will bring things together in a way that has never been done before to create something brand new.

A good example of a breakthrough innovation that fits this description would be the Apple iPhone. Apple was by no means the first company to develop phones that could perform tasks such as playing music or movies and surfing the internet as well as making phone calls. However, it was the first company to bring all these different aspects together in one place with great functionality and a smooth user experience.

Sustaining Innovation

Sustaining innovation builds on previous successes by creating and implementing new generations of products, systems, services or processes that improve on what is already available by adding value. Sustaining innovation may not seem quite as exciting or glamorous as breakthrough innovation, but these types of innovation can be invaluable. Creating new and better versions of products that customers are already proven to like results in extending the lifespan of that product in a relatively affordable way, perhaps by adding new features or making the product or accessories cheaper. Sustainable innovation also provides funding that can then be used to pursue more breakthrough innovations.

Radical Innovation

Radical innovation involves not so much creating a new product or system as creating a whole new market, usually through the introduction of a never before seen technology. Radical innovation is perhaps the riskiest of the four categories as carving out an entirely new market means that there are no past performance metrics that can be used to analyse risk. However, if it works, radical innovation can lead to big things.

The infographic attachment has some statistics about the impact of innovation gleaned from surveyed senior business executives.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation is more about simplification and about solving problems for consumers in the easiest and most cost-effective way. Disruptive innovation is most often used by smaller companies who can see that some of the products offered by their competitors are over-complicated and over-priced. By offering products that solve the same problems for the consumer but are easier and simpler to use and cheaper to purchase, these companies often end up taking the lion’s share of the market, as they focus on creating the very best solution without overcomplicating matters.

The origins of disruption can be seen in the short video attachment.