Innovation in action: 5 types of innovation you must know

types of innovation

Patents are synonymous with innovation because innovation is what patents protect. There are several types of innovation that can be distinguished based on the extent to which they change existing technologies (prior art) and the scope of the innovation. Following are 5 common types of innovation:

1. Incremental innovation:

This type of innovation involves making small improvements to an existing product or process. Incremental innovations are often made in response to customer feedback or to address specific problems. Following are some real-world examples of incremental innovation.

  • Upgrading the camera on a smartphone
  • Improving the fuel efficiency of a car by adding aerodynamic features
  • Adding new features or functionality to a software application
  • Improving the durability or lifespan of a product through changes to the materials or manufacturing process
  • Adding new flavors to a food or beverage product
  • Enhancing the design or ergonomics of a product to make it more user-friendly
  • Improving the energy usage of a home appliance
  • Adding new features or services to a subscription-based product or service
  • Improving the performance or speed of a product through changes to the hardware or software

2. Radical innovation:

This type of innovation involves a significant change or breakthrough that creates a new product or service. This innovation may also be referred to as breakthrough innovation. Radical innovations often involve new technologies or processes and can lead to significant changes in an industry or market. Following are some examples:

  • The introduction of the smartphone or a laptop
  • The development of the internet
  • The creation of electric vehicles
  • The development of gene therapy
  • The introduction of streaming services for music, video, and other media
  • The development of renewable energy technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines
  • The creation of artificial intelligence systems
  • The development of virtual reality technology
  • The creation of new medical treatments or procedures, such as laparoscopic surgery or stem cell therapies.

3. Disruptive innovation:

This type of innovation creates a new market by introducing a product or service that is significantly better or cheaper than existing products or services. Disruptive innovations often start by targeting a small group of customers and then expand to a larger market. Following are some examples:

  • The development of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, which have disrupted the traditional taxi industry.
  • The introduction of online shopping and e-commerce platforms like Amazon, which have disrupted traditional retail businesses.
  • The development of streaming video services like Netflix, which have disrupted the traditional cable and satellite television industries.
  • The introduction of renewable energy technologies like solar panels and wind turbines, which have the potential to disrupt traditional energy sources like fossil fuels.
  • The development of electric vehicles, which have the potential to disrupt the traditional automotive industry.
  • The introduction of virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, which have disrupted the traditional personal assistant market.
  • The development of online education platforms like Coursera and edX, which have disrupted traditional education models.
  • The introduction of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, which have disrupted the traditional hotel industry.

How is disruptive innovation different from radical innovation?

Disruptive innovation and radical innovation are both types of innovation that involve significant change, but they differ in the way they affect the market.

Disruptive innovation creates a new market by introducing a product or service that is significantly better or cheaper than existing products or services. It often starts by targeting a small group of customers and then expands to a larger market. Disruptive innovations are often initially ignored or dismissed by established companies because they do not fit with their current business models, but they can eventually become mainstream and disrupt the industry.

Radical innovation, on the other hand, involves a significant change or breakthrough that creates a new product or service. Radical innovations often involve new technologies or processes and can lead to significant changes in an industry or market. However, they may not necessarily disrupt the existing market or industry in the same way that disruptive innovations do. Instead, they may create entirely new markets or industries.

In summary, both disruptive and radical innovation involve significant change, but disruptive innovation disrupts an existing market or industry, while radical innovation creates a new market or industry.

4. Open innovation:

This type of innovation involves sourcing ideas or technology from outside an organization, rather than relying solely on internal research and development. Open innovation can involve partnerships, licensing, or crowdsourcing, among other approaches. Here are some examples:

  • Partnering with other companies or organizations to jointly develop new products or technologies
  • Licensing technology or intellectual property from other companies or organizations
  • Crowdsourcing ideas or solutions from a large group of external people or organizations
  • Participating in open source software development communities
  • Collaborating with universities or research institutions on research and development projects
  • Acquiring smaller companies or startups that have developed innovative technologies or products
  • Conducting hackathons or other events to gather ideas and solutions from external people or organizations.

5. Social innovation:

This innovation involves creating new products, services, or business models that address social or environmental problems. Social innovations can be designed to benefit individuals, communities, or society as a whole. Below are some examples:

  • Microfinance initiatives that provide small loans and other financial services to low-income individuals or communities
  • Social enterprise businesses that use their profits to fund social or environmental causes
  • Community-supported agriculture programs that connect small farmers with consumers in local areas
  • Programs that provide access to education or training for disadvantaged groups
  • Solutions that address environmental problems, such as renewable energy technologies or water purification systems
  • Programs that provide healthcare services or support to underserved communities
  • Initiatives that promote social inclusion or diversity, such as disability rights programs or LGBTQ+ support services
  • Business models that use a “pay what you can” or “pay it forward” model to make products or services accessible to a wider range of people.

Do comment below any other types of innovation strategies that you use in your business!

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