What are the main types of Innovation?

After ‘what is innovation’ and after appreciating that different types of innovation can be said to exist, a common question that I am asked is ‘what are the key types of innovation?

Like the first question there is no answer that everyone will agree on 100% but several really clever people have tried to answer this question by classifying different types of innovation over the years. I was keen to give an easy to understand answer that is easy to remember and can be easily explained. My thinking is that the key types of innovation are as follows:

1. Discovery via Blue Sky/Academic Research (aka Basic Research)

2. Incremental Innovation

3. Breakthrough Innovation

4. Disruptive Innovation

5. Service Design/Business Model Innovation (aka Marketing Innovation)

The different types can of course occur alongside the other types (for example iTunes).

Innovation Types explained

In trying to find an easy way to understand the different types I have discussed the impact they might have on a market sector (or sectors).

1. Blue Sky Research aka Academic or Basic Research

This is very much as it says on the tin and is essentially the discovery of new things without reference to any particular market sector. So in reference to the ‘market sector’ it will have no immediate impact on the sector as it tends to be very disconnected from it but may be a portent of things to come in the future.

2. Incremental Innovation

This type of progressive improvement is of a type that takes the general market offering in the sector forward. New products or services, for example new models or extra benefits created, generally, by the current players.

3. Breakthrough Innovation

This type of innovation has the scope to radically change market sector(s).

4. Disruptive Innovation

This type of innovation creates or moves sectors. Disruptive innovation effectively ‘ignores’ market sectors and can render it irrelevant or scrabbling to find its place within the new order of things.

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