Types of Innovation and how to embed them in your company

There are so many options for you to consider when you wish to innovate within an organisation; from running R&D labs or innovation workshops to using an acquisition of another organisation to bring in new skills sets and resources. However, for most of us, innovation is about making use of a set of tools in order to accomplish an objective.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Yes, innovation can be about coming up with random ideas to develop the organisation in a way you hadn’t previously considered. It can even be about inventing a new solution and implementing it. But for many of the clients I work with, innovation is about taking an area of the business that is facing some difficulties and looking for ways of improving it.

Some of the most recent areas I have been asked to look at include:

  • Finding innovative solutions to recruit and retain professional, highly qualified staff
  • Looking for innovative solutions to manage the workflow of our teams
  • Developing an innovative solution to car parking problems
  • Considering innovative solutions to bottlenecks in patient care in a hospital setting
  • Developing an innovative solution to no shows for appointments

Most of the problems I look at with clients involve working with the staff members to consider different options and coming up with a solution they feel happy to implement and deliver. One of the key points we discuss is the type of innovation they feel would be appropriate for their organisation at the present moment in time.

  • Sustaining Innovation
  • Breakthrough Innovation
  • Disruptive Innovation
  • Basic Research Innovation

Sustaining Innovation

This is the most common type of innovation within large organisations. This innovation is about improving what we are already doing to ensure we keep with the times and changing needs of the marketplace. Usually, this type of innovation is within the comfort zones of our team members, because it is in line with their skills and only needs some changes in behaviour, ability and work methods. In other words, it’s not too scary. If we discover any skills gap, it is often small, and we can fill this by recruiting for specific skills or bringing in temporary solutions.

Activities I usually use for this – Development labs, road-mapping, organisational growth workshops.

Breakthrough Innovation

Often, breakthrough innovation comes about when we least expect it. Out-of-the-blue ideas or unusual solutions which come about from unexpected conversations tend to come into this category. Usually considered more risky or best suited to smaller organisations, it can work in any organisation as long as everyone is willing to take a risk and make a big leap into what is often the unknown. This work tends to be around scientific revolutions or uses technology shifts.

Activities I usually use for this – Innovation labs, open innovation activities, working with external organisations.

Disruptive Innovation

If the practice of incremental innovation, continuous improvement and working with customers in order to adapt is too slow or not having the impact you are looking for, then this type of innovation could be for you. Disruptive innovation is more about making dramatic changes, often to the business model or to the way in which an organisation delivers its services.

Activities I usually use for this – Innovation labs, board member and senior exec away days.

Basic Research Innovation

Keeping up to date with new research and carrying out your own basic research can often reveal ideas which can be effective without huge costs. Companies, such as Google, invite some top researchers into their organisations to share their ideas and discoveries and to see if there are any synergies with the team members’ current work. Organisations with a lower budget could attend academic conferences or industry conferences where research is shared. I would also highly recommend working with university departments that have a wealth of talent and knowledge in your area of work.

Activities I usually use for this – Research workshops, mentoring team members.

Clearly, these are just four types of innovation you could consider, but there are so many nuances and activities you and your team members can participate in to enable innovation to take place within your organisation. If your innovation programmes are faltering, consider some of the activities I use, and don’t forget to be open to options, however off the wall they may sound.




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