Creativity Counts!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Expand Your Innovation Horizons

by Richard Watson
Fast Company contributing writer

Companies must think more radically while still pursuing incremental innovations. Too many companies emphasize low-risk innovations that aim to incrementally extend their existing businesses.

Most innovations fail and it’s easy to see why. They are expected. They are unimaginative, boring, and fail to excite or fill any real need. Indeed, most so-called innovations aren’t innovative. They are mundane line extensions to existing products and services that have no currency with cynical, time-starved customers. So why do companies keep churning out me-too innovations that have no magic or address problems that have been adequately met elsewhere?
I think part of the problem is that most companies put most of their innovation effort into what I’d call horizon-one type innovations. These are low-risk innovations that aim to incrementally extend the existing business. They usually make sense internally but most customers can do without marginal innovations, especially if switching from one product to another costs valuable time or money.

A few companies look beyond this activity to horizon-two type innovations. These are new products or services that aim to create entirely new categories within an existing market. This type of blockbuster innovation is difficult, but there are big rewards for any company that’s smart enough and persistent enough to try.

The third area of activity is horizon-three type innovation. But outside of technology this is as rare as a red carpet no show by Paris Hilton. Horizon-three type innovations seek to disrupt existing markets through the use of new business models, processes, or technology. This is an area where old industries are remodelled and where emerging science and technology is harnessed to address demand that does not seem to exist. It is an area at the very edge of what’s possible where comments like ‘ridiculous’ are often a favorable response because few companies have the imagination or the courage to follow such bold moves.

Read this insightful article on innovation. Create the Future you desire.