The Three Types of Innovation

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More than ever before, businesses need a competitive advantage in the marketplace.   They need to stand out and provide something that is truly unique from the competition.  This is why so many radical leaders are turning to innovation experts to guide them to a  competitive advantage and provide examples of innovation.  The truth is, however, innovation is a fairly simple concept when broken down appropriately.

To fully be able to innovate, it is important to understand the meaning of the word.  The terms innovation and invention often go hand-in-hand, but the two words are actually quite different.  Invention represents the very first occurrence of a product or idea, while innovation is the process of realizing a new product, service or method into a business or industry.  Innovation is the introduction of doing something in a way that is different from the standard way of doing things and can be occur within a business or within an industry.

In it's simplest form, there are three main types of innovation: 1) pioneering innovation, 2) best practice innovation, and 3) technological innovation.

1. Pioneering Innovation

Pioneering innovation is often the method most associated with the term innovation.  Pioneering innovation occurs when a brand new product, service, or way of doing something is introduced into the market.  This method, however, is the rarest form of innovation as most products or services have already been introduced into the market in one form or another.  While not every industry may have utilized each innovation, it is very rare that a new product, service, or way of doing something is completely original.

2. Best Practice Innovation

When a business or industry innovates, meaning that they do something they have not done before, they are often utilizing a method, product, or service that has been used by industries outside of their competition circles.  This process of restructuring a business from the inside by utilizing industry bench marks or other-industry best practices is called best practice innovation.  Best practice innovation is the most common form of innovation for businesses today.

3. Technological Innovation

The final form of innovation is technological innovation. This type of innovation occurs when an existing form of technology is introduced into or used in a new way.  While this type of innovation has some overlap with best practice innovation, I believe that it is important to separate technology from other forms of innovation for two main reasons.  First, technology is changing so quickly, that the introduction of a new technology into a business or industry that has not experienced this technology before can completely transform the industry or business.  On the other hand, however, a technology innovation can also be a short term competitive advantage as technologies continue to evolve and competitors continue to adopt emerging technologies.




Additional Resources on Innovation

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A Question for You

What types of innovation have you observed?