Breaking boundaries: There’s no “standard” form of innovation

Innovation is one of those terms that everyone “seems” to know about, but if one delves deeper into the subject it soon becomes clear that it’s an absolute minefield.

In actual fact, it arrives in umpteen forms. There’s not a “standard” type of innovation, there are many. For the purposes of simplicity we’ve compiled the list to four for this guide, but it should hopefully highlight why some companies focus heavily in innovation management nowadays.

Therefore, if you are in the market to “innovate” (or just simply want to read more on the subject), here’s the lowdown on the four types of innovation which make the world go round.

Basic research

Let start with one of the simplest forms of research or, as the name suggests, the most “basic” type.

One only has to cast their mind back over the years to see how effective basic research has been. This is the type of research which tends to start out at universities, or even research and development departments at companies. The main thing that differentiates this form of research is that there isn’t a clearly defined outcome – the research is being conducted to grasp a better idea on how something works. It means that a lot of the time it probably won’t result in a new, industry-changing product hitting the shelves – but on some occasions it just might.

To hone an example, you only have to look towards Albert Einstein. He may not have been officially classed as an innovator, but his work most certainly was innovative and did cause a never-ending list of inventions later down the line.

Disruptive innovation

The next form is perhaps a little more interesting; the type of innovation that results in a change to a product that already exists.

You don’t have to look far to find such an example – disruptive innovation happens with pretty much every gadget out there. It’s innovation which changes a market for good – usually through a new feature to an existing product.

Breakthrough innovation

This is another interesting form of innovation and is perhaps a combination of several of the types we have already spoken about.

As the name suggests, it involves a breakthrough being made. The problem has existed for some time, but nobody has quite known how to get around it and release a solution.

Eventually, a breakthrough is made – and this form of innovation occurs.

Sustaining innovation

This last type of innovation is the one that a lot of people will be able to resonate with, as the common example surrounds one of the most popular companies in the world; Apple.

It’s in these cases where there is a problem which is obvious to all. In the case of Apple, the company even stated at the time of the launch of the iPod that they had developed a way to put thousands of songs in your pocket. When Apple conceived the iPod idea, they knew exactly what the problem was (giving users a large selection of songs) and how to solve it.