Over the past year I've encountered dozens of solutions, technologies, sales vendors, advertisers, marketers and futurists, all claiming to embody a single phrase - innovative. Yet to be totally honest, I haven't seen all that much that really blew my mind. Is this because innovation has been stifled by realism, near term ROI concerns, a lack of vision, or is this a symptom of something greater?
Everyone claims to be pushing ahead, innovating, bringing forth new solutions that are "groundbreaking".
But most of what I've seen looks like everything I've been seeing for the past 5 years, just ported into a new channel.
As I see it, there are two types of innovation:
A) Incremental Innovation
B) Disruptive Innovation
Incremental Innovation is where much of the business world feels most comfortable. This type of innovation is often referred to as, "the lowest hanging fruit". This is innovation that takes a process or a concept that is already established and familiar, and builds on it. It's not about reinventing the wheel, but adding a new feature to the wheel, making them somehow incrementally better. Think of mobile OLA: it's nearly identical to regular OLA, just on a phone. It's innovative, but not yet a game changer. Nearly all of the innovation I have seen over the past year falls into this bucket.
Disruptive Innovation is far more difficult that incremental innovation, yet the payout is far greater. Disruptive Innovators are game changers. They reinvent the wheel. They are visionaries and big thinkers. Disruptive Innovation is both risky and difficult, yet the end game payout is tremendous. Think Facebook and social connections, the iPhone and user experience design and pervasive digital connectivity, Gigya and the widget, YouTube and UGC, Twitter and instant messaging, or BitTorrent and content distribution. Without these innovators, 2008 would be a markedly different.
Key Takeaway: Most of us are putting the finishing touches on our '07 business and beginning to plan for '08. If you don't have an innovation strategy or an innovation roadmap already in the books, it's time to do so. You won't be successful tomorrow if you don't have a plan for preparing for tomorrow, today.
Dedicating all of your efforts to incremental innovation may satisfy the bottom line, but won't make you into a category leader. This is true no matter regardless of the business you're in. The time to begin planning for the future is now.
If you've got any questions around innovation planning, PLEASE feel free to reach out to me via email or by commenting on this blog. Karl Long just posted a great piece around the challenges and costs of getting innovation in-market. If you'd like to learn more about innovation in business, check out any of the many fantastic blogs in reading list to the left of this post.
Thanks for reading and as always, looking forward to your comments!