2 – distinguishing types of innovation

The purpose of this exercise is to learn to distinguish between
different types of innovation, and to learn to see innovation as the search for new opportunities to create value.

see page 25 of BDI

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  1. Team EFCOM

    Levels of innovation

    Categorizing the concept of innovation is always subjective. The various innovations could be placed on different locations on the scale, depending on the arguments and the context sketched. As product designers, most of the innovation we had brought with us were incremental product innovations. The most interesting were the discussions on transformation; an innovation can only be called transformational if it changes the way people perceive the world. Therefore the penetration of the offering should be very deep and can only be evaluated afterwards. In other words transformation can’t be predicted.

    A huge technological breakthrough does not have to mean a transformational change, because innovation is a process that happens behind the scenes and only if widely accepted by consumers can an innovation grow out to be a transformation. The penetration gives meaning to the innovation.

    The level of innovation is not necessarily related to economic success; an incremental change can deliver heaps of money, while a radical innovation might flop. However, as innovation is relative, missing the trend can be a huge mistake. After the walkman transformation, Sony should have taken the lead in music carriers. As is true for Polaroid and digital cameras. Even though for these companies these innovations would have been incremental, they would have resulted in a transformational social effect.

    Sep 26, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  2. Team Synergize&Co

    Every group member collected 5 pictures of innovative products, services or businesses. We discussed the drivers behind the innovations and categorized the different types and levels of innovations. The categorization was based on the model of Bettina von Stamm, 2003.

    Some of the innovations were easy to place in the matrix while others caused discussion among the team members. This was mostly based in problems in categorization. Some innovations can be placed in multiple categories; like Facebook. Facebook is an interesting example because it can be placed as both a transformational business model and a radical new service. This because, facebook started of as a service which delivered a new social experience. In time it transformed also to succesful and innovative business model.

    Another example is Senseo. We decided not to place it in the product category, even though it was quite an interesting new product at the time. However, we found the business model behind it the most important factor in this case. The co-operation between Philips and Douwe Egberts was the driving force behind the product and therefor (after long debate) the main focus for us in this model.

    After finishing the Von Stamm matrix, we have looked a bit further. How do we change products into services? We will highlight some specific products.
    The GoPro HD camera for example is placed in the matrix, to Bettina’s delight, as an incremental product. However, this could be transformed into a radical service quite easily. The Go Pro is designed as a buddy for adventurers. A new service could easily be included by adding a GPS tracker and possibly an instant connection with the web, making it a live log including location and images streamed directly to the web. This way, we would create a service that allows people to look over your shoulder whenever you are doing something great. But which will also create a minute to minute memory of your greatest moments.
    This in the end has not only changed the products position in the matrix from product to service, but has also increased the innovation level from incremental to radical.

    Just changing a product’s innovation level is off course also possible. This is for example possible with the quechua tent. This self opening and settling tent is an incremental innovation. This could be radicalized by changing it into a deposable and biodegradable tent for festivals etcetera.

    When looking at extreme changes, we try to move products to either the upper right corner (transformational business model), or to the lower left corner (incremental product). An example is Carglass. They have created a radical new service in which they fix car windows on the spot, without using garages or heavy machinery. On the other hand, Carglass has also created a new product to simply fix carglass with a self hardening resin. This existed already but was perfectionized by carglass. A good example of this exercise.
    An example the other way around is the Wall-E vacuum clean robot. This robot can be seen as an incremental product, but in the (slightly futuristic) case of a total neighbourhood robotic clean service, this could be seen as a completely new service or a transformational business model, when you would change the house cleaning business into a citywide program that turns it into a public good.

    Oct 04, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Paradox 20


    In the top picture you can see how our group placed the innovations in the chart.
    It is interesting to see that most of them are products or services. This is probably because innovative processes are often not visible for us consumers. Innovative business models are, but we not necessarily get to know it is innovative, since there is only a little attention on business models in advertising.

    Besides that, we noticed that we tend to label low-tech innovations as incremental, although they can attach radical new meanings to simple products, as for example the microphone shaped shower sponge does (see bottom picture).

    By discussion, we tried to move products towards the upper-right corner, which is not always easy. Some possibilities we found as an example (see bottom picture):
    – the Polaroid PoGo camera (or any digital camera for that matter) could be turned in a product-service combination by creating an online community to share your photos.
    – the message-toaster could be used in a very innovative business model, by serving advertising messages in breakfast restaurants.

    Oct 05, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  4. 6MINUS1


    During this exercise we discovered that there is no textbook method to define the type and level of innovation for every product. Subjectivity in defining innovation prevents the possibility of a step-by-step manual. However, discussing the different opinions on this field, gave us a feel for the tensions fields within the concept of innovation. The following areas yielded so much tension that we felt the need to mention them.

    “Defining the type and the level of innovation is highly dependent on your perspective.”

    For most of the innovations we collected, a black-and-white opinion on where to place them could not be formed. For example in the case of the One Laptop per Child project, our opinions differed widely on what aspects constitute the innovation. For the product type the innovation is incremental, because the concept of the laptop is not changed, only the price tag. For the business-model type (if we can speak of a business model when discussing a non-profit organizations) the level of innovation is radical, because the laptop are being sold to governments and NGO’s to distribute to the people.

    Another example of an innovation where the placement within the map is highly dependent on your perspective is the chopped vegetable package of the Dutch Albert Heijn. The product cannot be called radically innovative, because pre-chopped vegetables were already available. However, the combination of different kinds of vegetable within one package means that small to medium sized household can prepare meals with a great diversity of vegetables without having to spend much on buying all the different kinds of whole vegetables. On the other hand, we can argue that this product is a radical innovation of the business model-, or service- type. The service increased the value for consumers and the business model changed from selling vegetables to selling small portions of a diversity of vegetables and the service of chopping them.

    Our approach to forming a common opinion and placing the innovations in the map was identifying the type of the innovation where the level of innovation was the highest. The differences in opinion illustrate that background and viewpoint greatly influence the perception of the concept of innovation. When working in a professional context, discussing and understanding these differences of perception may lead to greater innovating power and ultimately success.

    “The fine border of success in innovation”

    The previous insight brought us to discuss the success of the innovations. Some of the products on our map were very successful, while others didn’t catch on. In our understanding, the success of an innovation is dictated by the ability of the innovation to balance on the border of human nature’s inherent resistance to radical change.
    For example the product-type innovation of the CD-I (the predecessor of the DVD) was unsuccessful and our view is that this originated from the giant leap from the VHS to the CD-I. There were too many new features and the interaction with the product was too new and complex for the time. Also the price was too high and the offer too diverse. People did not see it as a game console nor as a learning device.
    This consequently decreased the consumers’ value perception of the innovation and ultimately led to the failure of the innovation.

    However, this view on the requirements of success of innovations may be too simple, because some radical technological innovations do succeed.
    Hmm… we are floating from the subject of defining innovation. Let’s stop for now and see where the book takes us.



    Oct 06, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  5. The TwentyONEs

    2 – Distinguishing types of innovation
    During the discussions and practices we think it is also important to consider the different levels the innovation took place. On product/service [outcome level] or on internal level [process/structure/business model]. You can look at innovation on what you get delivered or how it got to you.
    Innovations have mixed character; elements are incremental and some are totally new. For example the internet from a user point of view a website could be new service [but we know many websites and online services by now]. However for a company’s perspective it could be a radically new business model.
    Nowadays this mixed character is much more prominent also because new innovations have much more touch points. It is not just a technology, product or service anymore. Now products often need complementary services and it is harder to say on what level the innovation took place. This is partly due the fact the worlds gets connected in every aspect; and the focus is much more on experiences and transformations
    (see graph page37).
    In the previous comment we talked about people being part of different context and this influences their opinions and definitions. This is also very much related to the way people distinguish types of innovation.If you would add the same specific innovation to the different contexts it could be recognized as different type of innovation. This also has to do with the previous experiences the context incorporates.
    For example connecting all dutch people to highspeed glasfiber internet might be to many an innovation but for students living on the TU Campus this is nothing new.
    Changing the context of an innovation might also create a new meaning. For example a brand establishes a certain innovative portfolio and in the current country (context) new products seem incremental innovations while introducing the products in another country, part of the world the products are typed as radical innovations.
    It might now be clear we think the way innovations are typed is influenced by the context you are in. Additionally also by the way the innovation is perceived. Do you only consider the facade of the new thing (which might not so new to you) or do you also consider the changing processes, structures and business models the company had to make in order to deliver you this innovation. You can type innovations differently by putting it in different contexts. As you are subject to different opinions and meanings in different contexts as well.

    by The TwentyONEs – who get it done

    Oct 13, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  6. Group 13 - Paper Planes

    All the innovations that we’ve discussed in our group are in this chart, sorted by the different types of innovation and the ‘radicalness’ of each innovation.

    our chart

    If we think of adapting innovations to make them move to different categories, we could move for example the Starbucks business model to the left to make it a service. Starbucks can offer a service where coffee is being delivered to people’s homes or to offices. That way the position of Starbucks in this chart will change to the left from ‘just’ being a good business model (fast food for coffee) to an actual service.

    You could also argue that that there is not an awful lot of difference between the categories ‘business model’ and ‘service’ in this chart. For example , as mentioned in the book as example of a business model, is offering the innovative (back then) service of delivering books you order online to your house. Surely not every service is a business model, but all good business models are based on either an innovative service, product or process.

    Oct 16, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  7. LeCON7

    Innovation, as mentioned before, is when a company does things in a new way to add value. Therefore the perception of innovations can vary among people, e.g., laggards in the television market might experience 3D television a radical innovation whilst the forefront of the market, the early adaptors might already own one for a while and regard it as an incremental change. However, we found that when sorting innovations there was little disagreement on placing the cards, e.g., we all found Spotify to belong to the category of radical business models. In some cases however, we found it difficult to keep a clear separation between radical and incremental products, e.g., Sony’s bike navigation can be labeled as an incremental innovation being that the device is very similar to known car-navigation devices. On the other hand the fact that it allows bikers to go without a pre-tracked GPS or without maps has a significant impact on the bike experience.
    Having a textual title was necessary for determining whether something would fit within a product, service or process range. For example, biofuel-powered commercial flights can be labeled as a service, with the engines on the product-side of this innovation. In the same way, Resomation as an environmentally friendly alternative to incinerative cremation belongs to process, with the module being the product to enable the new process to function.
    We noticed that we had little process innovations, this is probably due to the fact that process innovations are not directly visible from the outside; radical process innovations might even be kept secret to sustain the competitive advantage from the innovation.

    Oct 18, 2011 @ 8:53 am

  8. Group 11

    Clear distinguishing between types of innovations turned out to be hardly impossible. Some innovations seem to overlap. In particular service and business model have things in common; the new type of service can be in fact a new way of doing business and earning money. An example is Spotify; the offer you a free (online) music database, but in between the songs you will have to listen to commercials. If you become a paid member, you can listen to the music without interruptions and limitations.

    Furthermore, it is hard to judge whether innovations are considered to be more incremental, radical or transformational. In particular the difference between radical and transformational was not clear. Therefore we first discussed their definitions; we agreed that radical is new-to-the-world (something that did not exist before), while transformational is as well a complete new way of doing something. E-readers are an example of the latter. The perspective from which you look also influences how you define a certain innovation. It is from the company’s point of view (internal) or from the customer’s (external)? The OV-fiets, a bike rental service of the NS, is new to the company, while the customer is already familiar with hiring bikes. So from the external perspective it is considered as incremental, whereas internally it can be a radical innovation.

    Deciding what the drivers (internal vs. external) were behind the innovations isn’t black-and-white either. It is hard to go back to the origin of the innovation; the process prior to the launch is not always clear from the end-result. For example the Dyson Air Multiplier; did the development of this product originated from a customer’s need for a silent fan or did an invention of technology lead to this product? Despite it is very interesting to know, we felt like we were missing some background knowledge or history on the innovations to give a good judgement on this.

    Here is a link to the overview of types of innovations we made: http://i56.tinypic.com/2vwd8k6.jpg

    Oct 18, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  9. Group 15

    types of innovation

    We have definitely seen that there are different levels of innovation, only we think it is not as black and white as this figure shows e.g. some products could also be in business models.
    This made the chart very subjective.

    Regarding the business model, we found that a lot of things would be able to fit there, because it depends on how you look at it. The pizza-burger (now placed as an incremental business model) could also be placed as a product, but we saw it as a new business model of the company that created it. This was mainly because the burger can now be shared with friends, which is a totally new experience and a new reason for buying the product.

    It was remarkable how it was possible to move e.g. products to services by adding some features. Usually you do not think about this possibility, since you are designing a product and not the entourage around it. However, we think that it would be very interesting to always look at this possibility since service design is becoming more and more important.

    What also was noticeable was the ability to make things less or more radical. Sometimes we found that products/services were too radical for the public at this moment (e.g. the Superbus). To solve this, you could for example introduce a product in phases (e.g. Apple business model) to let the customer get used to the radical product idea.

    Oct 30, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  10. Four

    As a general conclusion one could say that, especially strong brands can be easily shifted within the table and can help generate new ideas. It seem to be a good tool to help brands/companies to broaden their scope and horizon of what they can do to innovate. An innovation can be shifted from a transformation level to an incremental level.

    Ryanair can shift from a transformation (a cheap airline service), an existing product settled in a new environment, to an incremental service when selling more services, (which ryanair already does).

    Vitra is the top of the best furniture company. The businessmodel transformation introduced by vitra has an unique and strong portfolio: Different and good designers resembled in one fitting portfolio of furniture. This businessmodel can be used in for example the shoe-market, vitra can start selling the top of the best shoes designed by the best designers. It would be a incremental innovation using an old innovation in an existing market.

    Bic uses it’s” low involvement products”- process to introduce it for an high involvement product, a cell-phone. A radical change caused by time, 30 years ago you wouldn’t have thought of a throw away telephone.

    A good brand is able to shift easily inside the different levels and has also the possibility to shift between different types of innovation. The tool gives a direction, it doesn’t work for every innovation and is strongly dependent on the brand connected to it. It confirms, again, that there’s a relation between design, innovation and brand, they are strongly connected and influence each other.
    image for assignment 2

    Nov 08, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

  11. peer2peer

    our chart can be viewed here.

    Nov 09, 2011 @ 11:56 pm


5 − = three

about this blog
this is Erik Roscam Abbing's blog on topics relating to the synergy between branding, innovation and design. Erik is a consultant (www.zilverinnovation.com), teacher (www.io.tudelft.nl), and frequent speaker on the topic of Brand Driven Innovation. He is also the author of the book by the same title, to appear in autumn 2010 at www.avabooks.ch. For inquiries, contact erik at erik at zilverinnovation.com
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