Innovation Complexity Curve

26 09 2008

 

About a month ago I got asked by a colleague if I thought that there was some sort of maturity model for how are clients address and utilize innovation tools and it got me thinking on.  What I came up with is a model based on how I’ve observed our clients taking innovation as a new concept and tool and how that usage has grown over time:

When addressing a new concept, the first stage is to see if you can use it for Cost Reduction Purposes. It’s low risk, easy to do, can generate some marginal value that you wouldn’t have otherwise achieved and if you fail, no one will notice. 

Having achieved success at that, you then start looking at finding ways in which to improve your existing processes to become more efficient and to start adding some original value to the company. 

Success in that area leads you to look at how you can begin to use the concept/tool to gain some sort of competitive advantage with your product line – at first by looking at Incremental changes to your existing product line, and then by looking for alternative adjacent offerings you can develop to complement your existing product line.

Finally you start looking to the future – first by envisioning what your product line will look like in future generations and then ultimately by opening your mind to what sort of blue sky / breakthrough opportunities the company could capitalize on in the future. 

The further up the complexity curve you go, the more potential impact on your business a project will have. However, as the complexity is rising so does the risk of failure (naturally – if it was easy everyone would do it well!) and so your attitude towards failure needs to be likewise massaged and toughened if you desire to reach the top. 

I’ve seen many companies follow this curve – it offers a balanced way to try out the new concept/tool whilst all the time building credibility and tolerance to risk in exchange for reward. 

I’d be interested in any thoughts people have – so feel free to leave them!

Oh – and yes, I realise the “curve” isn’t actually a curve – but somehow “The Innovation Complexity Straight Line” didn’t have the same ring to me as I was writing this – and I vaguely remember an A-level maths professor say something to me about how even a straight line is a curve of sorts mathematically (although I could be wrong)… 








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