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3 ways to innovate without focusing on the product

September 27, 2017 By: Greg Dubejsky

To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

To the company with a shiny new product technology, everything looks like innovation.

It’s hard to break the mental bias that innovation must equal a new product. In our lives as consumers we are exposed to countless new adaptations of existing products every day, which are often sold as “new and improved” flavours/scents/features and more.

We’re conditioned into believing that innovation results in some physical new thing, whether that’s a state-of-the-art juice machine or the latest tooth whitening formula.

What’s an innovator to do?

There have been well-documented accounts of the different types of innovation. One of the most well-known is Doblin’s 10 Types of Innovation. This is an excellent framework you can use to expand your thinking around the topic. It identifies how you can combine different forms of innovation to build a fundamentally stronger idea that is more likely to be both durable and scalable.

Here are three that are very powerful, yet often overlooked:

1. Business model innovation

In my mind, this represents the ultimate innovation opportunity. It can be complex, messy, and difficult to enact, but business model innovation ultimately entails a leap from one business architecture to another, by reconfiguring a series of the levers that drive your overall value proposition.

You might change who you’re selling to, what you’re actually offering them, how it’s delivered/experienced by the end user, or what your profit model looks like. There are a lot of opportunities for flexibility.

2. Process innovation

On the surface, process innovation seems far less sexy than bringing a new product to market. However, finding ways to improve internal activities, processes and standards can often result in significantly improved end benefits for your user.

3. Brand and/or customer experience (CX) innovation

Consumers don’t buy products — they buy solutions to their problems. Any brand that provides these solutions has a unique opportunity to create a user experience that consumers will remember, by making it both holistic and brand centric.

This is about more than just logos — think about how it “feels” to use an Apple product, or what you expect from any interaction with a Disney product or service. Innovating across your overall brand and CX leads to long-term success.

As you consider your innovation portfolio and the opportunities ahead, think about how you can innovate beyond the product.

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