LEARNING OBJECTIVES When you have completed this chapter you will be able to:
Distinguish the different forms that innovation can take, such as product, process and service innovation
Differentiate and distinguish between the different types of innovation, such as radical and incremental innovation
Describe each type of innovation Analyse different types of innovation in terms of their impact on human behaviour, business activity and society as a whole.
The notion that innovation is essentially about the commercialisation of ideas and inventions suggests that it is relatively straightforward and simple. Far from it, not only is the step from invention to commercially successful innovation often a large one that takes much effort and time, innovations can and do vary enormously. In addition the term ‘innovation’ is widely used, probably because it frequently has very positive associations, and is often applied to things that really have little to do with innovation, certainly in the sense of technological innovation. The purpose of this
chapter is to try and produce some sort of order from the apparent chaos and confusion surrounding innovation.
MAKING SENSE OF INNOVATION
If innovation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and is used by different people to mean different things then making coherent sense of the subject is not an easy task. Grouping innovations into categories can help. Essentially by putting innovations in groups it should make it easier to make sense of innovation as a whole simply because one can then take each group in turn and subject it to detailed scrutiny. If it is easier to make sense of a small group than large one then we should be on the way to making sense of innovation.
Two kinds of categorization are attempted. The first centres on different forms of innovation. Form in the sense in which the term is used here applies to the use or application of the innovation. Three applications are considered: product, service and process innovations.
The second categorization is based on the degree of novelty associated with the innovation. It implies that there are different degrees of novelty associated with innovation. As a result, one sometimes finds that things described as innovations actually involve little or no novelty. Take the case of a new wrapper for a chocolate bar. For the people marketing the product, the new wrapper may well appear to be a significant innovation, hence justifying the use of words like innovation and innovative in promotional campaigns. But the reality is that if the same type of
wrapper is already in use on other similar products there really is very little innovation. On the other hand one can have innovations such as television, developed by John Logie Baird, which not only transformed the nature of leisure time, created a new creative industry and provided employment for thousands, but also went on to transform a whole host of other aspects of our society including politics, advertising, the provision of information and sport. Recognising different degrees of novelty, this categorization considers four types: radical, architectural, modular and incremental.
FORMS OF INNOVATION
This categorization is based on the idea of applications or uses for innovation. By this we mean areas or fields where innovations are used. It is possible to differentiate three principal applications for innovation: products, services and processes.
Product innovations loom large in the public imagination. Products, especially consumer products are probably the most obvious innovation application. The Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner is an example of a product innovation. James Dyson developed what he terms ‘dual cyclone’ technology (Dyson, 1997) and used it to create a new more efficient vacuum cleaner. As a vacuum cleaner it is a consumer product and what...