Innovation. The buzzword that’s been making the rounds for what feels like forever. But let me take you on a trip down memory lane. Early in my career, I found myself in the plush corner office of a friend, Joe. Both of us, fairly young with a penchant for big dreams. Between sips of overpriced coffee, we chuckled over a Rubik’s cube on his table. Joe, with a smirk, said, “Isn’t innovation just like this? Looks easy, but darn hard to crack.”

It was colorful, compelling, yet, no matter how many times you twisted and turned, it felt impossible to align. And here’s the kicker: Joe and I aren’t alone. A bunch of us have been there, done that, got the startup t-shirt and are still scratching our heads, looking for that edge. What was once a challenge of aligning a simple cube’s colors is now about aligning strategy, technology, and human experience.

Two decades on, Joe’s metaphor still resonates. But here’s the tea: While the puzzle remains as tantalizing as ever, I’ve picked up a trick or two from the trenches. I’ve hustled, fallen, learned, and, most importantly, innovated. Through countless boardroom meetings, fireside chats, and caffeine-driven all-nighters, I’ve begun to discern the patterns and paths that lead to that all-elusive innovation magic. Ready to dive in with me? Because, my friends, there’s a whole world of innovation goodness just waiting to be unlocked.

What is Innovation?

Alright, friends. Let’s get this party started. But, before we dive deep into innovation’s ocean, let’s first get a grip on what we’re even talking about. What is innovation anyway?

Have you ever tried nailing jelly to a wall? That’s what trying to pin down a definitive meaning for innovation feels like. On the surface, innovation sounds like just creating something new. But, whoa there, it’s not just about the “new.” It’s also about delivering value. It’s about changing the game in a way that matters, in a way that accelerates growth. That’s right, we’re talking about the growth velocity imperative. It’s that race where you’re not just running to keep up, but to leave everyone else panting in your dust.

If we’re scouting around for a solid, reliable definition, we could turn to big shots like the OECD. They frame innovation as the “implementation of a new or significantly improved product, process, marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization, or external relations.” In layman’s? Making stuff better or introducing new, cool stuff that makes an impact.

And then there’s Apple, our poster child for making us perceive the new as magical. Remember the first time you touched an iPhone? It felt like the future, didn’t it? But was it entirely new? Or was it about Apple’s genius in blending existing tech with flawless design and unbeatable marketing? It’s about perception versus reality. Apple didn’t just throw tech our way; they weaved a story, an experience that felt different. They knew it wasn’t just about the “what” of innovation but the “how.”

Innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel. It’s about making the wheel cooler, more efficient, maybe even turning it into a hoverboard (still waiting on that one, science). It’s about spotting the gaps, the nuances, and jumping in with both feet, ready to make waves.

So, while Joe and I might’ve once thought of innovation as that elusive Rubik’s cube solution, the reality is more multifaceted. It’s not about aligning colors but understanding that every twist, every turn, and every realignment has its purpose in the bigger picture.

Innovation – A Quick Dive

Now that we’ve established a kinda-sorta understanding of the big ‘I’, let’s break it down a bit more. Innovation isn’t just one-size-fits-all. Nope, it’s like those jeans you have – you’ve got the comfy ones, the flashy ones, the old reliables, and the daring ones. Each serves a purpose. So, let’s sift through some of the labels folks have slapped on different innovation types, and see what fits best for your hustle.

First up, the godfather of economics, Mr. Joseph Schumpeter. He identified five types of innovation: new products, new methods of production, new sources of supply, the exploitation of new markets, and new ways to organize business. Sounds a bit formal, right? But it’s a robust framework to start with.

Next, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) keeps it simple with four categories: product, process, marketing, and organizational. Kinda self-explanatory, but think of these as the foundational pillars on which innovation often stands.

You then have Jay Doblin, who seems like he was trying to one-up everyone with his ten types of innovation. These range from networking and brand to offering, process, and more. A comprehensive look, but maybe overkill for some.

And then there’s the intriguing “Jugaad Innovation.” Originating from India, this approach is all about finding clever solutions in the face of limited resources. It’s like MacGyvering your way out of a problem. It’s innovation on a budget, and it’s impressive.

Here’s the deal: while it’s great (and a tad overwhelming) to know all these types of innovation, what you gotta figure out is what’s right for you and your strategy. Think of it like a buffet. You don’t pile every dish on your plate just because it’s there (unless you’re me at a sushi buffet). You pick what aligns with your hunger and taste.

The same goes for innovation. Are you aiming to enhance what you already offer? Maybe incremental innovation’s your jam. Trying to step into an adjacent industry or market? Look towards adjacent innovation. Planning on bulldozing the status quo and setting a new gold standard? Disruptive innovation’s got your name written all over it. And if you’re dreaming of creating that next big thing, something no one has even thought of yet, radical innovation is your playground.

To put it plainly: understand the landscape, know where you want to go, and pick the innovation type that’ll rev up your engines and get you there. The key? Being deliberate and not just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

The Four Types of Innovation

Let’s crack into this and dive deep into the rockstars of innovation. You know, if innovation had a band, these would be the members.

Incremental Innovation

Alright, first up, the quiet rhythm guitarist of the group – Incremental Innovation. This dude’s not here to steal the show but rather keeps the whole gig groovy. So, what’s the deal? Incremental innovation is all about making small, step-by-step improvements to your current products, services, or processes. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but more like pimping out your ride.

Take Apple’s iPhone series. Every year, they drop a new model, and sure, while the changes aren’t Earth-shattering, you can bet your boots they’ve tweaked a thing or two to make it slicker, faster, better. And the real magic? It’s in collaboration, baby! Tools like Idea Management Platforms help teams bounce around ideas, refining that product until it shines.

Adjacent Innovation

On to our bassist – Adjacent Innovation. This is where you take what you’re good at and apply it to a new area. It’s like, “Hey, I’m dope at playing the guitar. How about I try the ukulele?” But in the business world, think about acquisition as a strategy. You’ve got skills in one sector, and you see a chance in another. So, you merge, partner, or buy your way in, and boom! You’re rockin’ a new stage.

Disruptive Innovation

Enter the lead guitarist – Disruptive Innovation. This bad boy’s got some serious swagger. It’s when a new entrant comes from seemingly nowhere and takes the crown. It’s the garage band that suddenly tops the charts, leaving established bands wondering what just happened.

Remember Netflix? These guys went from mailing DVDs to being the prime reason many of us chill on our couches for hours on end. They went digital, streaming their content, and soon enough, traditional TV and rental shops were left in the dust. The lesson? Being the underdog doesn’t mean you can’t lead the pack. You’ve just gotta play a different tune.

Radical Innovation

And last, but by no means least, the charismatic frontman – Radical Innovation. This is all about bringing something entirely new to the stage. The unexpected game changers that make everyone’s jaws drop. Remember the first time touch screens hit the market? Yep, that’s radical.

But here’s the kicker: measuring this innovation, especially in big corporations, is tricky. The Oslo manual approach gives some clues, but it’s like trying to measure the cultural impact of The Beatles – not straightforward. But if you’re aiming for radical territory, remember two crucial ingredients: Vision and Guts. You’ve gotta see the unseen and have the cojones to chase it.


Remember that Rubik’s cube I talked about at the start? Yeah, the dazzling yet daunting puzzle. In today’s hyper-competitive, crazier-than-a-roller-coaster-at-midnight marketplace, innovation isn’t just a fancy buzzword you throw around in board meetings while munching on overpriced croissants. It’s THE ticket to staying relevant.

Now, before you go down the rabbit hole thinking that only those silicon-valley-unicorn-hunters have cracked this nut, let me tell you, it’s a myth. They’re just like you and me (okay, maybe with a tad more caffeine and a penchant for hoodies). The real deal is embracing a mindset – a relentless drive to keep moving, morphing, and mastering the game. Stay curious, my friends.

Chares Darwin wasn’t chatting about business when he talked about survival of the fittest, but damn, was he onto something! In the biz world, adaptability is the name of the game. Think of it as your company’s workout regime. If you aren’t flexing those innovation muscles, you’re bound to get flabby and, well, forgotten.

And nope, you don’t need to be the next Elon or Oprah, but you do need to keep your ear to the ground, eyes on the prize, and fingers on the pulse. Innovate or evaporate.

Equip yourself with the right tools and team. The world’s your oyster, but only if you’ve got the right knife to crack it open. Surround yourself with thinkers, doers, dreamers, and, occasionally, the devil’s advocates. They’ll keep you on your toes.

Evolve, because staying static in this dynamo world is a straight-up recipe for disaster. Remember Blockbuster? Exactly.

And lastly, innovate! Take risks. Be brave. Learn from failures and celebrate those small victories. Remember, every skyscraper started as a blueprint. Every symphony, a single note. And every journey, a simple step.

So, here’s to the innovators, the game-changers, and the dreamers. The world’s waiting for your next move. Go make waves, paint the town red, or, you know, just find a better way to peel that banana. Whatever floats your boat. Just don’t stand still.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.