Three Types of Innovation

How many types of innovation are there? Well, the answer depends on which book we’re reading!

I have no doubt that if we combine all the books on the topic of innovation, there would be at least 1,683,276,951 types of innovation!

That said, for practical purposes – I like the model presented in the book Making Innovation Work. This book lists a mere 3 types of innovation (actually 4, but we’re going to ignore the 4th one for now). What are these 3 types of innovation, you ask? Let us dive right in…

Business Model vs. Technology Matrix – and 3 Types of Innovation

This book uses a matrix (shown below, hand-drawn by yours truly!) to help us think about the different types of innovations.

Types of Innovation

As you can see, the X-axis represents Business Model and the Y-axis represents Technology.

For each axis – we consider whether a new innovation being considered is “Near Existing” or “New”. And thus, we end up with 3 types of innovation:

  1. Incremental
  2. Semi-Radical
  3. Radical

Some of you may say “But this is all based on mere judgment”. And, you would be correct! Despite this shortcoming, I believe this gives us an excellent mental model to understand and manage innovation.

In fact, this mental model will form one of the foundations for many of our future blog posts. Until next time…

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan. I've worked at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades - and helped innovate 5 market-leading products. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa - we make IdeaGlow, a cloud based idea management software.

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