There are different types of innovation. Joseph Tidd and John Bessant describe in their books four broad categories of innovation. (Tidd & Bessant, 2009) Following these categories are referred as the 4Ps of innovation:
â€¢ 'product innovation' - changes in the things (products/services) which an organization offers
â€¢ 'process innovation' - changes in the ways in which they are created and delivered
â€¢ 'position innovation' - changes in the context in which the products/services are introduced
â€¢ 'paradigm innovation' - changes in the underlying mental models which frame what the organization does
For example, the new version of a car, a new bank account offer and a new home personnel computer are all examples of a product innovation. In comparison to a product innovation a change in the production process and machines used to manufacture the car or the home computer these examples are process innovations. Similar the example of the new bank account offer if this came up by changing procedures and sequencing in the bank office. Characteristic for services is the merge of a process and product innovation. For example a new weekend trip package could be combination of both types of innovations.
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The third type is the 'position innovation'. In this context an innovation changes the perception of the customer through repositioning of the established product or process. For example, to use shower gel also to wash and clean clothes is a good example of a 'position' innovation.
Sometimes innovation opportunities emerge when people start to think outside the box. A very good example of a paradigm innovation is Henry Ford. He fundamentally changed the way of transportation people. He archived this neither by inventing the motor car (Invention of the motor car was 1999) nor because he changed the way of manufacture and produce an automobile (also the inventor of the conveyer production). His idea was to change the underlying model for the automobile production in this time. He changed the perspective of producing automobiles from handmade specialist product to a few wealthy customers to a mass product with a price a normal household could afford. The ensuing shift from craft to mass production was nothing short of a revolution in the way cars (and later countless other products and services) were created and delivered. This example shows that a paradigm innovation also requires intensive product and process innovation - for example, in component design, in machinery building, in the layout of the factory and in the social system around which work was organized. (Edelhoff, 2009)
Not only Henry Ford changed an industry. In the last decades the shift to low-cost airlines and the increasing numbers of goods sold in the internet are recent examples of 'paradigm' innovation - changes in mental models.
From Incremental to Radical Innovation
Every Innovation is new, but the question is how new. So we can divide innovations between incremental and radical. (doing the same, better & â€¦..) For example, a new version of a car model is incremental while coming up with a completely new electric driven concept car which is made out of new light weight carbon fibre is radical. Similarly, further development of the accuracy and speed of a saw mill is not the same as replacing it with a computer-controlled laser cutting process. This example shows there are degrees of new innovation, running from minor, incremental improvements to radical changes which changes the way things are done and we use them.
These changes are often present to a particular industry, but sometimes they are so radical and extensive that they are able to change the core of society. The major steps in today's communication and information technology have affected almost every person on this planet and will continue to gain importance.
Figure : Dimension of innovation - from incremental to radical & from component- to system level
Mapping Innovation Space
In the figure below each of the 4Ps of innovation can take place along an axis. Hence the blue circle indicates the potential innovation space within a business can operate, the innovation is able to run from incremental to radical change.
Whether the innovation utilizes all the space is a question of the innovation strategy. The way day-to-day change is approached within an organization differs from the approach how to handle a radical step change in products or processes. Here it is essential to keep in mind that the perceived stage of novelty is the important part and that this novelty is in the perspective of the observer. For example, in a giant, technologically advanced organization like Volkswagen or Siemens the tracking of goods from suppliers by RFID and GPS is used and implemented in day to day business while such an expensive process might be totally new and innovative for a small car dealership or food processor. (Kern, 2006)
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Figure : Innovation space
Sustaining or Disruptive
Quite a lot of innovations involve a discontinuous shift but very few bring something completely new which changes a market conditions dramatically. Most of them usually are incremental. In recent time 'lean" thinking came up in the production and service sector, which underlines the huge possibilities of continue improvements within a firm. (Kohlstedde, 2007) However this continues improvement idea is hampered through the new approach of the platform concept or robust design. This idea bases on the development of a future general design which will dominate the market as well as used by the competitor. A good example for such a robust design is the Walkman originally developed by Sony. This first design of a portable cassette and radio player system dominated the market for the whole product lifetime of cassettes. Also car makers tend to change their development process from each single model to a platform strategy. (Wallentowitz, Freialdenhove, & Olschewski, 2009) The Volkswagen AG introduced platforms which are used for different brands of the company group. This not only saves costs but also helps them to dominate the market with faster model updates and exchanges. The platform and robust design strategy of firms is a powerful way of recover the high initial investments such as Research and Development as well as market analysis.
The Challenge of Discontinues improvement
The common innovation process happens in a set frame, following certain rules and ways of thinking. This 'game played' by competitors is to innovate by doing what has been done before like product- or process innovations or even position- and paradigm innovations, but doing it better. In this competition of 'playing the same game' some firms manage to do better than others and can gain a competitive advantage through these innovations, but the 'set of the game' is accepted and do not change.
Very rare something happens that breaks up this framework and changes how the game is played. This will not happen every day but when this arises the rules and boundaries of a market change rapidly. This will result in upcoming new opportunities and challenge the existing players in their way of working, thinking and doing business.
A discontinues improvement occurs out of a technological and conditions stable market, where is a long period of continuous improvements and variations around a basic product or service. The strategy, before the discontinues improvement was, 'doing what we do, but better'. When such an innovation happens one or more of the basic conditions like technology, markets, social, regulatory etc. change rapidly. Now the time of 'doing different' begins and the 'rules of the game' change so the opportunity space for new innovations appears. Such a rapid technology change is happening right now with the development of LED's in the light market. From the invention of the originally light bulb in the late nineteenth century by Edison and Swan the light market gets more and more restricted by the government. Furthermore the development of the LED light was a major step for the whole market and will influence our daily life in the future. With this upcoming technology new enterprises emerge in the market as well as the inventor Shuji Nakamura with the company Nichia Corporation. This discontinues improvement faces the market dominating companies very hard. Either they adapt to the new light technology or they will lose market share very rapidly.
In the process the underlying
'rules of the game' change and a new opportunity space for innovation opens up. 'Do
different' conditions of this kind occur, for example, when radical change takes place
along the technological frontier or when completely new markets emerge.
example of this could be the replacement of the incandescent light bulb originally
developed in the late nineteenth century by Edison and Swan (amongst others). This may be replaced by the solid state white light emitting diode technology patented by
Nichia Chemical. This technology is 85% more energy efficient, has 16 times the life
of a conventional bulb, is brighter, is more flexible in application and is likely to be
subject to the scale economies associated with electronic component production.
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In their pioneering work on this theme Abernathy and Utterback developed a model
describing the pattern in terms of three distinct phases. Initially, under discontinuous
conditions, there is what they term a 'fluid phase' during which there is high uncertainty
along two dimensions:
â€¢ The target - what will the new configuration be and who will want it?
â€¢ The technical - how will we harness new technological knowledge to create and
No one knows what the 'right' configuration of technological means and market
needs will be and so there is extensive experimentation (accompanied by many
failures) and fast learning by a range of players including many new entrepreneurial
Gradually these experiments begin to converge around what they call a 'dominant
design' - something which begins to set up the rules of the game. This represents a
convergence around the most popular (importantly not necessarily the most technologically
sophisticated or elegant) solution to the emerging configuration. At this point
a 'bandwagon' begins to roll and innovation options become increasingly channeled
around a core set of possibilities - what Dosi calls a 'technological trajectory'.38 It
becomes increasingly difficult to explore outside this space because entrepreneurial
interest and the resources which that brings increasingly focus on possibilities within
the dominant design corridor.
This can apply to products or processes; in both cases the key characteristics
become stabilized and experimentation moves to getting the bugs out and refining the
dominant design. For example, the nineteenth-century chemical industry moved from
making soda ash (an essential ingredient in making soap, glass and a host of other products)
from the earliest days where it was produced by burning vegetable matter through
to a sophisticated chemical reaction which was carried out on a batch process (the
Leblanc process) which was one of the drivers of the Industrial Revolution. This process
dominated for nearly a century but was in turn replaced by a new generation of continuous
processes which used electrolytic techniques and which originated in Belgium
where they were developed by the Solvay brothers. Moving to the Leblanc process or
the Solvay process did not happen overnight; it took decades of work to refine and
improve each process, and to fully understand the chemistry and engineering required
to get consistent high quality and output.
The same pattern can be seen in products. For example, the original design for
a camera is something which goes back to the early nineteenth century and - as a
visit to any science museum will show - involved all sorts of ingenious solutions. The
dominant design gradually emerged with an architecture which we would recognize -
shutter and lens arrangement, focusing principles, back plate for film or plates, etc. But
this design was then modified still further - for example, with different lenses, motorized
drives, flash technology - and, in the case of George Eastman's work, to creating
a simple and relatively 'idiot-proof' model camera (the Box Brownie) which opened up
photography to a mass market. More recent development has seen a similar fluid phase
around digital imaging devices.
The period in which the dominant design emerges and emphasis shifts to imitation
and development around it is termed the 'transitional phase' in the Abernathy and
Utterback model. Activities move from radical concept development to more focused
efforts geared around product differentiation and to delivering it reliably, cheaply, with
higher quality, extended functionality, etc.
As the concept matures still further so incremental innovation becomes more
significant and emphasis shifts to factors like cost - which means efforts within the
industries which grow up around these product areas tend to focus increasingly on
rationalization, on scale economies and on process innovation to drive out cost and
improve productivity. Product innovation is increasingly about differentiation through
customization to meet the particular needs of specific users. Abernathy and Utterback
term this the 'specific phase'.*
Finally the stage is set for change - the scope for innovation becomes smaller and
smaller whilst outside - for example, in the laboratories and imaginations of research
scientists - new possibilities are emerging. Eventually a new technology emerges which
has the potential to challenge all the by now well-established rules - and the game is
disrupted. In the camera case, for example, this is happening with the advent of digital
photography which is having an impact on cameras and the overall service package
around how we get, keep and share our photographs. In our chemical case this is happening
with biotechnology and the emergence of the possibility of no longer needing
giant chemical plants but instead moving to small-scale operations using live organisms
genetically engineered to produce what we need.
Table 1.2 sets out the main elements of this model. Although originally developed
for manufactured products the model also works for services - for example the early
days of Internet banking were characterized by a typically fluid phase with many
options and models being offered. This gradually moved to a transitional phase, build- ing a dominant design consensus on the package of services offered, the levels and
nature of security and privacy support, the interactivity of website, etc. The field has
now become mature with much of the competition shifting to marginal issues like relative
The pattern can be seen in many studies and its implications for innovation
management are important. In particular it helps us understand why established
organizations often find it hard to deal with discontinuous change. Organizations build
capabilities around a particular trajectory and those who may be strong in the later
(specific) phase of an established trajectory often find it hard to move into the new one.
(The example of the firms which successfully exploited the transistor in the early 1950s
is a good case in point - many were new ventures, sometimes started by enthusiasts in
their garage, yet they rose to challenge major players in the electronics industry like
Raytheon.39) This is partly a consequence of sunk costs and commitments to existing
technologies and markets and partly because of psychological and institutional barriers.
40 They may respond but in slow fashion - and they may make the mistake of
giving responsibility for the new development to those whose current activities would
be threatened by a shift.41
Importantly, the 'fluid' or 'ferment' phase is characterized by co-existence of old and
new technologies and by rapid improvements of both.41,42 (It is here that the so-called
'sailing ship' effect can often be observed, in which a mature technology accelerates in
its rate of improvement as a response to a competing new alternative - as was the case
with the development of sailing ships in competition with newly emerging steamship
Whilst some research suggests existing incumbents do badly, we need to be careful
here. Not all existing players do badly - many of them are able to build on the new
trajectory and deploy/leverage their accumulated knowledge, networks, skills and
financial assets to enhance their competence through building on the new opportunity.
42â€ Equally whilst it is true that new entrants - often small entrepreneurial firms -
play a strong role in this early phase we should not forget that we see only the successful
players. We need to remember that there is a strong ecological pressure on new
entrants which means only the fittest or luckiest survive.
It is more helpful to suggest that there is something about the ways in which innovation
is managed under these conditions which poses problems. Good practice of the
'steady-state' kind described above is helpful in the mature phase but can actively
militate against the entry and success in the fluid phase of a new technology.46 How do
enterprises pick up signals about changes if they take place in areas where they don't
normally do research? How do they understand the needs of a market which doesn't
exist yet but which will shape the eventual package which becomes the dominant
design? If they talk to their existing customers the likelihood is that those customers
will tend to ask for more of the same, so which new users should they talk to - and
how do they find them?
The challenge seems to be to develop ways of managing innovation not only under
'steady-state' but also under the highly uncertain, rapidly evolving and changing conditions
which result from a dislocation or discontinuity. The kinds of organizational
behaviour needed here will include things like agility, flexibility, the ability to learn fast,
the lack of preconceptions about the ways in which things might evolve, etc. - and
these are often associated with new small firms. There are ways in which large and
established players can also exhibit this kind of behaviour but it does often conflict
with their normal ways of thinking and working.
Extensive studies have shown the power of shifting technological boundaries in creating
and transforming industry structures - for example, in the case of the typewriter,
the computer and the automobile. Such transformations happen relatively often - no
industry is immune (see Box 1.3 for an example).
Worryingly the source of the technology which destabilizes an industry often comes
from outside that industry. So even those large incumbent firms which take time and
resources to carry out research to try and stay abreast of developments in their field may find that they are wrong-footed by the entry of something which has been developed
in a different field. The massive changes in insurance and financial services which
have characterized the shift to online and telephone provision were largely developed
by IT professionals often working outside the original industry.6 In extreme cases we
find what is often termed the 'not invented here' - NIH - effect, where a firm finds
out about a technology but decides against following it up because it does not fit
with their perception of the industry or the likely rate and direction of its technological
development. Famous examples of this include Kodak's rejection of the Polaroid
process or Western Union's dismissal of Bell's telephone invention. In a famous memo
dated 1876 the board commented, 'this 'telephone" has too many shortcomings to be
seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value