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Types of innovation

Innovation has many faces. The bike, the hammer, the tube computer and the smartphone are just a few. And not all types of innovation are technical.

Why should we differentiate between types of innovation?

Differentiating between types of innovation helps to reduce complexity. For each type of innovation, there are tried and tested procedures and methods for successfully developing innovations. It has proven useful to distinguish between:

Technology innovation

Touchscreens, continuously variable automatic transmissions and OLEDs are classic technological innovations. They are innovative, technical solution concepts, but not independent, directly usable products. Novel, as they were neither known nor used in this form before.

Product innovation

Cleaning robots, capsule coffee machines and self-driving cars are product innovations. Some of them already combine common functionalities to create a well-rounded product. In very few cases is the product itself patented. It doesn’t even have to be a physical product

Business model innovations

Renting toys, ad-financed music streaming, passenger transportation by private individuals and crowdfunding platforms are innovative business models. Business models combine added value for the customer with sustainable income for the provider.

Service and process innovation

Self-service checkouts and payment by smartphone are service innovations. Additive manufacturing processes and digitalized insurance contracts are process innovations. What they have in common is the series of, sometimes complex, work steps with numerous interactions.

Do types of innovation limit the scope for innovation?

Every specification is a restriction. Restricting too early is not good. But sometimes it is already clear what needs to be done. And sooner or later it will be clear which type of innovation you are working in anyway.

Then the innovation type is helpful to apply the appropriate tools and to know the patterns shown. If you want patents and inventions, business model patterns are of little help. And vice versa.