Innovation has long been accepted as an important driver of modern economic development. For some companies, innovation is seen as a mysterious process, or perhaps a distraction from their core business. For the more adventurous, innovation involves feeding investments in creative minds with free license to explore concepts and follow their muse. Still others tend to pursue innovation that’s highly engineered. They create programs to solicit ideas from across the organization, explore those ideas that seem to have potential, expose promising candidates to the market, fail fast and scale soon.
Any of these approaches, as absolutes, are flawed. That’s why an alternative model of “measured innovation” is gaining traction today. This “measured” approach recognizes that there are several different kinds of innovation. Sustaining innovations, for example, are advances in an existing business model that improve operations and processes, drive efficiency gains, add new products and features and contribute incremental value. Disruptive innovations are fundamentally different. They require creating a completely new business model. Disruptive innovations can be used to enter new markets or to defend an existing business. They can even be launched as preemptive strikes against emerging players posing viable threats.
CIOs should be leading the charge toward innovation through emerging solutions and technologies. The magnitude of needed change is likely to shift over time, but a mixture of incremental and breakthrough advances across sustaining and disruptive innovations will likely be needed to advance the organization toward a more competitive – and more profitable – position.
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