Innovation takes many forms and can encompass everything from a new approach to problem solving and improvements in organisational efficiency to inventing the iPhone’s successor. While the latter may be rarer, this doesn’t mean that radical innovation doesn’t have a place and cannot yield great results when pursued. Here are a few things you should know if you’re considering a radical innovation strategy.
WHAT IS RADICAL INNOVATION?
Danish business development firm Innovaders explains that radical innovation involves new, drastic advances in technology and knowledge which result in a new product or idea. This new invention often renders its predecessors obsolete or uncompetitive, thereby altering the very marketplace in which it operates. Unlike incremental innovation, which seeks to gradually improve an already existing product or concept, radical innovation undermines and challenges the status quo in a sweeping way.
However, while this broad definition outlined above gives a staple answer to the question of what is radical innovation, an article by Inc.com suggests that radical innovation should have a radical definition. The article points to the work of Professor Gary Hamel, founder of Strategos Consulting Firm and a visiting professor at Harvard and London Business Schools. Hamel reportedly said during a briefing back in 1998 that ‘those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.’ Inc.com suggests that by altering the traditional biblical saying:
‘Hamel celebrated radical innovators. Those who do not play by the rules. Those who do not innovate incrementally by creating "a better mouse trap", but rather inventing something completely different, and changing the behavior of the market, completely disregarding "the rules of the game".’
SO HOW CAN YOU ADOPT RADICAL INNOVATION?
Innovation Excellence claims that radical innovation requires a distinctly different approach to incremental innovation. Much of this comes down to the ability to recognise a gap or space in the market, and time your innovation correctly.
Innovation Excellence points to the strategies of Blockbuster and P&G to illustrate the point. Blockbuster failed to recognise the changing film rental market and was swiftly put out of business by the likes of Netflix who embraced radical change. P&G on the other hand regularly devote whole teams to looking for ‘white-space opportunities’ and suggesting creative ways the firm can fill these gaps. While not every organisation has the financial or manpower resources to follow in P&G’s footsteps, the constantly curious and exploratory approach they adopt should be the focus of any radical innovation strategy.
Another interesting example is Virgin. As an article by incrementalinnovation.com noted, Virgin followed a radical diversification strategy to specialise in everything from holidays and music to wine and space travel. This kind of ‘blue ocean strategy,’ in which an innovation is radical enough to side step competition and create an alternative market it dominates, can produce phenomenal results in terms of development, growth and profit.
Of course, the risks inherent in undertaking such a wide portfolio of innovations can be high. Yet while this approach may not have the safety that incremental innovation can bring, sometimes radical innovation is necessary to challenge existing norms and create new, exciting avenues that can transform your organisation into a global behemoth.
WHERE TO START
The difficulty of radical innovation often lies in starting out. Selecting the right idea to follow through and building a cohesive strategy to get there can be a challenge for many organisations. Contact us using the link below to find out how think can be the reassurance you need to embrace radical innovation in your organisation.
As global innovation specialists we aim to help and encourage people and organizations to become more nimble, boosting their ability to generate ideas. We bring pace and focus to your innovation initiatives using our unique innovation techniques, which are constantly being developed by our professional licensees. If you’re interested in becoming a licensee for the think team, contact us here.