IDEASCALE BLOG

Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Is There Such a Thing As a Bad Idea in Innovation?

Is there ever such a thing as a truly bad idea?

Does anybody really believe that there are no bad ideas? After all, the Darwin Awards feature, for example, a thief who thinks nothing of resting a metal ladder on power cables before attaching jumper cables to them to try and restore power to his house: Don’t worry, he survived somehow. But at the same time, we live a world with molecular air filters and microbicidal paint, as the Edison Awards show us.

On a practical level with innovation, the issue isn’t the quality of the ideas, but the perspective on them. No employee is deliberately bringing you bad ideas, perhaps just ideas with a flawed perspective.

Bad Ideas Are A Matter Of Perspective

To understand this, we might look at Google as an innovator because it is. The company has driven everything from internet advertising to wider smartphone adoption. That makes its failures all the more fascinating, and no failure is more interesting than Google Glass.

Glass, on paper, was an interesting idea. The device linked with your phone and offered a second screen right in front of your eye. The problem was the execution. Anybody could reel off a dozen brilliant ways for everyone from factory workers to emergency responders to make use of Glass. But Google wanted it to be a consumer product. They were convinced a $1,500 screen you put on your face would be the next hot trendy tech item and spent millions trying to make it happen. It failed miserably.

Glass has returned to being a good idea for industrial work. Glass didn’t fail because of the technology, but the perspective and execution. This is where ideas often go bad: not in the conception, but the implementation.

You’ll find this happens again and again. A brilliant idea is rejected, or a bad idea is embraced all because of how a company or person views the world. So how do we maintain a more perceptive perspective?

The choice is yours!

A Better Perspective On Innovation

First, let’s dispose of “bad ideas” as a concept. It’s unlikely your employees will be so lacking in perspective they’ll present you with, say, a hat with a roll of toilet paper on it when you ask for ideas about stopping hay fever. What we can do is address perspective on ideas, and how we view them.

We need to step away from our fear of uncertainty. Even good ideas have an inherent edge of uncertainty about them and we have a biological bias against anything uncertain, be it real or imagined. We need to set that bias aside when approaching ideas and judging whether they will work. Try to look at the idea purely from the perspective of “Does this solve the problem?”

Most ideas, even those that are good or even great, need refining. For example, with the idea as it stands, ask yourself, “Would our customers make use of this? Is this what they’ve been asking for?” Consider what it would take to implement the idea. What challenges have to be overcome to implement the idea, and are these challenges worth overcoming on their own merit?

Remember that all some ideas need is time. Always consider refining rather than rejecting. Let ideas grow. Some just need time to fully ripen.

Need a better view on innovation, or a stronger innovation strategy? Create an IdeaScale community

Do You Know How to Identify and Nurture Innovation Talent?

Nurture Innovation TalentMany companies today are experiencing an accelerated pace of change. As the world around us changes, how do successful companies drive change internally? After all, most of your workforce was probably hired for their functional skills, such as sales, accounting or production. Now we find that a new set of skills is necessary, and many companies aren’t sure how to identify and cultivate these skills.

Here are some common approaches to this problem:

Look for Creative Employees Creativity is most definitely a component of innovation, but only one component. It turns out there are seven other skills that drive innovation business results. Mistaking creativity for innovation has two consequences:

  1. When we overly glorify creativity, we minimize the importance of the other seven skills in the innovation process.
  2. We may over-look employees with the other equally essential innovation skills, making innovation a very exclusive club indeed.

These consequences put innovation at greater risk of failure.

Try to Make Everyone Innovative On the other hand, there is a precious belief out there that we can all be innovative. In our observation, this belief can create a certain tension, a sense of dread, even anger, among those who are not wired for change.  One CINO reported that she was asked, “When is all of this innovation stuff going to be over?” We all have seen the way such resistors can sabotage innovation efforts. According to Swarm research, about half of humanity really prefers that things stay the same. Why not let them focus on maintaining the current business and continuous improvement? They will be much happier.

Assume Diverse Teams are Strong Teams In 30 years of research on innovation teams, a slight correlation was found between diversity and innovation team results. But not all diversity. Diverse functional skills do help teams develop holistic innovations and de-risk them from many perspectives. But a functionally diverse team with weak coverage of the 8 innovation skills will still struggle. These are the 8 instrinsic skills required for success in innovation.

Now companies have the tools to identify innovation talent in their workforce. We can identify incremental to disruptive talent and martial it where needed. We can drill down to the 8 skills correlated with business results, and the 26 sub-clusters to diagnose teams, and build a culture of innovation on data, not guesswork.

To learn more about identifying and nurturing innovation talent, download the infographic here.

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This is a guest post authored by Suzan Briganti, CEO and Founder of Swarm Vision. Suzan brings 25 years of experience in research, strategy and innovation. Suzan has patents pending in innovation software. She has grown Swarm Vision from a garage start-up to a trusted solution provider to global Fortune 500 clients. Suzan leads Swarm Vision with a focus on building great products and teams. Suzan has an MBA summa cum laude from Boston University and a design degree from Italy.

Customers We Love

Customers We Love

One of the best things about working at IdeaScale is the variety of customers, use cases, and success stories that you hear about. But recently, our work with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation reminded us of some of our favorite types of customers. Here are some of the reasons that CEC embodies these qualities.

Socially-Responsible. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation fosters conservation, protection and enhancement of the North American environment for the benefit of present and future generations. We feel really gratified when customers care about making the world a better place. That’s why we’ve loved working with customers like the Department of Energy’s Sunshot initiative and the DREAMS Challenge.

Creative. CEC didn’t limit their outreach to the standard playbook. In addition to press releases, videos, emails, and social media promotion, they also placed phone calls to universities and innovation hubs to garner interest. That’s why we’re excited by companies that find new ways to connect, evaluate, and nurture great ideas.

Forward Thinking. The winners of the CEC innovation challenge had some truly novel ideas like using food waste to create high protein foods and convert plastic into sustainable concrete. Without idea management solutions, these ideas sometimes go unsaid and undiscovered and they make the team at IdeaScale truly excited when those dreams get realized.

Great Networkers. There were multiple opportunities to connect with the CEC challenge, including an in-person mentoring part of the process.  Teams that combine online and offline connection generally have the richest sets of results. That’s why Scentsy always invites engagement at their annual event and Dick’s Sporting Goods had an in-person component as part of their launch.

Don’t get me wrong: we love all our customers and most of them are great at all these things. But it’s really awesome to see one story encapsulate some of those values that define our work.

To learn more about the CEC Youth Innovation Challenge, download the case study here.

Incremental or Radical Innovation?

Are you inside or outside the box? Why not both at once?

Is incremental or disruptive innovation better? That’s a tough question to answer. It depends on where your business is and what you want to archive. In your approach to innovation, you should weigh them both.

What Is Disruptive Innovation?

“Disruptive” boils down to a drastic shift in how your business or your entire industry changes. Think, for example, of how the Toyota Prius suddenly changed how we talked about ecology, or how Amazon is changing retail as you read this. It gives one company an enormous advantage.

That said, disruptive innovation is a gamble. Companies can spend decades and billions of dollars chasing a moonshot that never comes together. Google Glass is a case in point. Google conceived Glass as an attempt to shift the smartphone from our hands and pockets to our faces. However, as a consumer product, people couldn’t find a reason to own a pair. Google had to quietly wind down the consumer version of Glass before relaunching it as an industrial product.

What Is Incremental Innovation?

Instead of an industry-changing innovation, with incremental innovation, you step your product or company forward with a new idea that fits with what you’ve done before. Compare, for example, the changes between models of smartphone. The smartphone itself was disruptive, but the upgrades and shifts from year-to-year are incremental. It’s more about maintaining competitive parity than gaining competitive advantage.

The problem with incremental innovation is that it feels safe and means you can be blindsided by disruptions. Automakers dismissed the electric vehicle for decades as unprofitable and unwanted until Tesla showed up and put them behind in a field where they desperately need to be competitive.

Sometimes you have to go against the current.

Which Works For You?

We’d all like to have an industry-defining moment that catapults our company to the forefront. Surely, we should work towards that, but that doesn’t mean incremental innovation should, or can, be ignored. Your company must always be innovating. It’s simply a question of where the balance lies.

Keep in mind, disruptive innovation is rarely the lightning bolt from the blue it is portrayed as. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the DVD seemed brilliant, but it was really the culmination of seventy years of experiments and failed products, from Laserdisc to the Phonovision. It took years of incremental innovation across a dozen fields for the DVD to exist and become commercially viable.

Incremental innovation is necessary and, often, can make a difference. If customers have been asking for a feature, you should build it. It’s just good business. But it can also be a source of timidity, especially if you watch others take a swing and miss.

The trick is to balance long-term and short term goals. Consider what incremental innovations your customers and industry are leaning towards and ask yourself how you can step beyond it. Ask for ambitious ideas and run pilots or test-runs of them. With every innovation or failure, large or small, analyze them closely for lessons learned and opportunities they’ve created.

Innovation begets innovation. Sometimes, a bolt from the blue can appear when you least expect it. Ready to innovate? Contact us.

Crowdfunding Efforts in the Wake of Harvey, Irma, Maria and the Earthquake

Crowdsourcing covers a number of activities. It could be used to engage people in action like in micro-tasking as you do on Amazon’s MechanicalTurk. It could be used to share knowledge as you do on Quora or Wikipedia. Obviously, you can collect ideas and collaborate on their development using a tool like IdeaScale, but crowdsourcing can also be used to gather funds from the public and when that happens, it’s called crowdfunding. Sort of like fundraising on a mass scale. And it’s become more and more common to see compassionate crowdfunding campaigns arise after a dramatic incident like some of the super storms that we’ve been seeing. Because after an event like this there are tons of problems to solve, here are just a few ways that crowdfunding has been used to help in disaster recovery.

After the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, some small business owners were able to start rebuilding their brands and businesses with the help of the crowd. They reached out to friends and family and that helped them recover their materials, open new stores, and get started again.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, lots of neighborhoods turned to crowdfunding to help them replace materials that they lost in the storm: clothes, household goods, and damaged streets and basements. Of course, many who donated were friends and relations, but some were total strangers.

After the 2014 mudslides in Washington, crowdfunding was even used to help individuals recover the things they had lost, with donations totaling more than $300,000 in just four weeks.

Luckily, IdeaScale also partners with the United Way and we’re proud to promote their efforts to contribute to the recovery following Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the earthquake. They have separate funds for each of the disasters, but IdeaScale decided to donate to each of them as we have clients in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and we wanted to find a way to help all of them even from afar and now we want to take the opportunity to invite you to join us and do the same. The United Way is actively responding to each of the different incidents and is looking for both short and long-term assistance. Thanks for doing that work! And thanks for giving us the opportunity to support our customer family everywhere.

Be the Ken Burns of your Innovation Movie and Other Innovation Advice

innovation movieAs I was trying to decide on a topic for my third submission in the IdeaScale employee blog series, I kept getting these little nuggets of ideas that could possibly be flushed out into a separate blog posts on their own. I had a decision to make: pick one topic or just try to incorporate most of these nuggets into one post and of course I went with the latter option to see how much punch I can pack in one post.

In this post, I’ll try to address a handful of tips that could hopefully give new or even seasoned innovation managers a fresh perspective on how to optimize engagement. I’ll do my best to not let this get out of hand like a Buzzfeed style listicle full of memes and gifs but I’m sure it’d probably get more clicks if it were titled “10 innovation hacks your company needs. I’m guessing I’m not the only who’s had enough of seeing every low level MacGyver move be labeled a ‘life-hack’ but I digress…

Innovation managers could have a considerable influence on the success or failure of a campaign depending on how they approach their role. Here are some examples of what to consider when planning a campaign.

1) Address pent up needs:

If your organization is using IdeaScale (or any innovation management tool for the first time), it’s important to make sure to give your users opportunity to submit any low hanging fruit ideas that can be addressed before they start sharing ideas on high-level innovation initiatives.

A health care provider client that I have managed in the past had a perfect demonstration of this when they first started using IdeaScale. They piloted it by deploying a time-limited campaign to six thousand employees in their IT department and the campaign was titled Simpler, Smarter, Faster which addressed any hindrances that were getting in the way of employees’ productivity. Not surprisingly, the campaign had one of the best response rates I had ever seen because there was so much pent up need and the employees finally had an outlet for their needs to help them be more productive at work.

This allowed my customer to gather several great process improvement ideas while the crowd gets ready for higher level innovation ideas that go beyond just addressing workplace efficiency needs. Had my client not done the Simpler, Smarter, Faster campaign first, the employees could have become skeptical of any high level innovation initiatives since it would be difficult to take seriously any request for more meaningful ideas if some basic process improvement needs are not even yet addressed.

2) Find a Doorbuster Topic:

We’ve all seen the ads for Black Friday deals with insanely discounted flat screen TVs or the trendy gadget of the season. Although not everyone who lines up to get those deals ends up scoring one since the stores always have very limited number of the discounted items because the purpose of those doorbuster deals are to get customers through the doors in the hope that they will spend money on other full priced items.

I believe launching a campaign and achieving high levels of engagement can also follow the same concept of figuring out an effective way to bring the crowds through the doors and getting them to stick around and/or keep returning. When possible, find campaign topics that address hot issues that may have been a pain point for most of your participants and use those to lead with. Once on the platform, the natural tendency of users is to keep browsing for other topics that may be of interest to them and this will improve the amount of exposure your other campaign topics will receive over all.

The same health care client I used as an example above employed this concept beautiful by eliciting submissions that were widely shared by majority of the participants. The number one voted idea garnered over 1500 votes (out of roughly six thousand total participants) and it was asking for the organization to upgrade its enterprise email application from one provided by one of the legacy software outfits to something more compatible and nimble. Apparently, a size-able number of the employees detested that particular email application with a passion and most had discussed it amongst their small circles but never realized how widespread that sentiment was until they were finally given a platform to express it. Driven by a common dislike of a certain email application, the users came in droves to also take part in the other campaigns and topics which is what we look for with the doorbuster strategy.

3) Be like Capoeira my friend:

Martial arts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of innovation management but if we drill down to the basic reason why a company needs to innovate or why soldiers train in martial arts, it comes down to survival and readiness whether it’s for a fight of market share with a competitor or disarming a foe in a hand to hand combat.  

There are several types of Martial Arts; some emphasizing striking such as capoeira and taekwondo or the wrestling type ones like judo and jiu-jitsu. Unlike the in-your-face strikes in kickboxing and Karate, I personally like Capoeira because it uniquely and seamlessly weaves dance, acrobatics and music to create this beautiful art form that would at times make you forget that it’s a type of combat. The origin story is also somewhat unique in that Brazilian slaves from Angola used capoeira to disguise the fact that they’re practicing combat by blending music and dance to make their Portuguese masters think it was some harmless ritual.

Innovation management is also vital for companies to stay competitive and agile but is not meant to alarm participants into thinking their company is going to be the next Kodak or Blockbuster. Although the survival aspect of the need for innovation will always be at the core, blending it into one’s company culture as something fun and a point of pride will nurture it to be interwoven in the fabric of a company’s identity.

4) Be The Ken Burns of Innovation Management:

Most casual moviegoers can probably list their favorite directors in fictional genres but most would be hard pressed to name any famous documentary movie makers except for Ken Burns whose name has become synonymous with the genre in the last three decades. His works have  become so iconic that even Apple borrowed one of his signature techniques of panning across a photo and slowly zooming in the main subject which named it ‘The Ken Burns’ effect in iPhoto, iMovie and Final Cut Pro.  He took a genre that had limited interest amongst the wider film audience and helped modernize and popularize it.

As an Innovation Manager, it does take some deliberate effort and planning to maintain a level of engagement on a consistent basis especially after the initial excitement of collaborating on a new platform has worn off a bit. We highly encourage Innovation managers to think outside the box and come up with novel ways to keep things fresh and maintain interest whether it is by running fun campaigns on the side such as photo contest to show company spirit etc.

Hope I didn’t bore you with these loosely related nuggets of wisdom, but innovation does require setting aside conventions and traditions while being willing to examine your needs through different lenses. However, to be a successful innovation manager, one has to identify any barriers first and plan to address those first before reaching for higher goals. Oh, in case you’re wondering whether or not the client in my example above addressed the email issue, I’m happy to report that within a year after the campaign, the client was able to upgrade all it’s twenty thousand employees to a new service and phase out the old service that had caused their employees so much anguish.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Beni Kebede, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale

A Look Back at the Innovation Management Awards

The Innovation Management Awards are in their fifth year and we thought it would be good chance to look back at all the past winners as we prepare to receive submissions from around the world in this year’s competition. We’ve honored a variety of organizations and companies in the past and we hope that we have just as much to learn this year. Learn more about any of these stories (2013 – 2016) by following the links in their summaries:

2013:

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance
A contest that resulted in one of the world’s first solar-powered wheelchairs.

Marriott Vacations Worldwide
Incremental savings that makes a huge difference to the bottom line.

State of Minnesota
Streamlining IT operations statewide.

University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Improving the University’s “Innovation Quotient.”

Yale University
Empowering staff to shape the future of the ITS organization.

2014:

Department of Energy
Finding the 5 Solar IT Start-Ups You Need to Know

Department of Labor
Identifying employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Scentsy
Finding the top-selling product of all time.

2015:

Innovate Your State
Crowdsourcing a winning ballot measure!

Ushahidi
Connecting citizens in the global south to their governments.

Western Australia Police
Saving millions of dollars and thousands of man hours!

2016:

City of Calgary
Engaging city-wide employees in an online dialogue for city improvements.

JUMP
Taking Ten New Technologies to Market

National Cancer Institute
Identify the top ten recommendations to help complete a decade’s worth of research in five years!

This is just a taste of what innovation management award winners can accomplish. They also have some great ideas about how to meet these innovation goals. Who will the winners be in 2017? Nominate your IdeaScale community for a chance to win one of several great prizes. Deadline is November 10th.

Top 15 Reasons to Attend Open Nation

Attend Open NationHave you booked your flight yet?  It’s that time of the year, my friends, to solidify plans to come to Open Nation – IdeaScale’s annual customer summit.

Open Nation is being held on November 2-3 this year in Berkeley, CA. It’s a place for you to connect with other IdeaScale customers and hear from other innovation management practitioners and take back best practices to your innovation communities. 

But what really goes down at Open Nation?

Here are my Top 15 Reasons for Attending:

  1. Build a Community of Practice – I like to call it therapy for innovation professionals.
  2. Meet Other Customers Like Yourself – Find out if you’re facing the same challenges and benchmark your program.
  3. Learn From Customers – Amplify your program by borrowing nuggets of wisdom from others!
  4. Visit the Land of Excellent Tacos – Who’s hungry?
  5. Mix it up With Other Successful Innovators – From the most recognizable brands to the just-getting-started success stories. This is a great chance to network and make connections.
  6. Validation – Learn where your program is excelling and how to showcase its success
  7. Inspiration – Need to freshen things up? Want some new ideas? You’re in the club now. Act as if.
  8. Get a Preview of What’s Coming Next at IdeaScale – Learn about new features and how they can impact your program.
  9. Tour Silicon Valley and San Francisco – Take advantage of the Open Nation innovation tours or do your own thing!
  10. It’s Personal – I don’t know how, but IdeaScale makes an effort to actually know and recognize every attendee name. #scarybutcool
  11. The Emcee – When was the last time you attended an event where the Emcee kicked things off by polling the audience for what show they were binge watching? Yup. Never. It’s bound to be entertaining.
  12. The Band – Why not a band during intermissions?!
  13. Get Advice and Give Advice – Talk about pressing issues, discuss your plans, wish lists, and ideas with your account manager.  And talk to our product team in order to Influence IdeaScale’s product roadmap (hint: success increases with more drinks).
  14. The Rickshaw Rides – Need a ride to and from? Just flag the IdeaScale rickshaw down. If you’re lucky, Jessica Day will be driving!
  15. What happens at Open Nation stays at Open Nation – What Open Nation? I didn’t say Open Nation. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Will I see you there? Register today.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Josh Folk, VP of Global Sales at IdeaScale

Introducing: CBS’s Wisdom of the Crowd

CBS's Wisdom of the CrowdCBS debuted a new show Sunday night called “Wisdom of the Crowd.” It’s about a tech CEO, played by Jeremy Piven, who builds a crowdsourcing platform to help find his daughter’s killer.

Sophia, as the platform is named, is essentially a network of solvers who can contribute information to help find Mia Tanner’s real killer, not unlike IdeaBuzz.com, minus the murder part. Ostensibly, Sophia then wades through the noise to find the tips of value.

As an Innovation Strategist at a company that also built a platform that specializes in crowdsourcing, I found the show’s premise intriguing. Not in a good way, though. I saw it as an opportunity to stretch out the ol’ snark muscles and really rip into it. While it did have its share of ridiculousness, it had a few surprising parallels to the work we do every day. I picked a few of my favorite parts from the show and connected them to our reality.

WISDOM OF THE CROWD: A few minutes into the show, Tanner (no word on whether there’s any relation to the other famous San Francisco Tanner family) used the Parable of the Ox to explain crowdsourcing to the doubting Detective Cavanaugh: “100 years ago, there was a scientist, Sir Francis Galton. He went to a county fair. He asked 800 people to guess the weight of a prize-winning ox. No one could get it exactly right. But then, when he averaged in all of the answers, they were dead on, within a half a pound. That’s what it does.”

REALITY: OK, yes, we use that story all the time.

WOTC: “Crowdsourcing is sifting through the dirt until you find the gold. 90% of anything is garbage, but 10% of everything, that’s a helluva lot of bling.”

REALITY: I get the idea, but it’s a bit extreme compared to the reality. Crowdsourcing and open innovation aren’t famine or feast. There’s a lot of room between dirt and gold.

WOTC: They were hacked like a day after releasing the platform, then they guy who hacked them literally came to their front door to introduce himself.

REALITY: That’s definitely how it works.

WOTC: Their Head of Engineering is a dreamy Brit.

REALITY: No, but our Head of Product is.

WOTC: Tanner offers $100,000,000 “to anyone that can help identify or apprehend the killer of my daughter.”

REALITY: Well, yes, incentivization is an important part of any crowdsourcing effort. However, when it’s financial, which isn’t always the case, it typically has way fewer zeros than Tanner’s bounty. Oftentimes, it’s not money at all; it’s lunch with the boss, recognition in communications materials or a banquet, or even some extra time off. For more tips on incentivization with shallower pockets than Tanner’s, check out our resource on creative, non-monetary awards.

WOTC: While it didn’t happen on the pilot, they’re probably going to find and convict the real killer.

REALITY: While we feel what IdeaScale and IdeaBuzz do is pretty sexy — finding ways to repurpose recycled glass, helping cure cancer, and helping accelerate more energy-efficient technology to market — it isn’t TV sexy, solving-murder sexy, CBS Sunday Night sexy. As Tanner put it, “People want to be a part of something meaningful.”

That, we can agree on. If you want to learn more about joining our crowdsourcing brigade, get started at IdeaScale.com or IdeaBuzz.com. As for me, consider this my two weeks’ notice. I’m with Piven.

Breakthrough Innovation or Disruptive Innovation?

A breakthrough can be an even bigger deal than a disruption.

Aren’t breakthrough innovation and disruptive innovation the same thing? It’s a common question when building innovation strategy. After all, the car, the telephone, the smartphone, the electric car, the solar panel, weren’t these all breakthroughs that were also disruptive? In a sense, yes. But it’s the context of the innovation that’s important.

What Is Breakthrough Innovation?

Breakthrough innovation is defined as an innovation from inside a company that pushes something to the next level. It is innovation that opens the company to new markets or changes the way customers interact with the market or the industry.

Zipcar is a good example of the breakthrough innovation. At its roots, Zipcar operates like any other car rental company. You book a car for a set amount of time and you return the car after you’re done. The breakthrough was to remove the centralized rental location and by placing Zipcars in neighborhoods and high-traffic areas, renting them via apps and websites, in-person and across counters. Zipcar made car rental easier and more accessible.

At the same time, Zipcar hasn’t caused the collapse of “traditional” car rental companies. Zipcar would be disruptive if Hertz, Enterprise, and other car rental agencies ceased to exist as they currently stand as a direct result of Zipcar’s innovation. Zipcar has shaken up the car rental model, but rental car companies as we know them aren’t going anywhere.

Breakthrough Innovation Or Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation and breakthrough innovation can overlap. The latter can become the former as the consequences unfold, like a rainstorm slowly filling a lake until it overflows. Amazon started as a humble bookseller with the breakthrough idea of making ordering books via mail simpler and easier, then slowly began reshaping the retail sector, a change that has accelerated over time to become disruptive.

Breakthrough is an inherent part of innovation strategy. Not so with disruption. Businesses must grow by finding new markets and improving what they offer and how they interact with their customers and clients. Often, close contact with customers and entertaining new ideas lead to breakthroughs.

Innovation is more than making a change. It’s making a difference.

It’s also worth remembering that “disruptive” innovation is often a process that builds over years or even decades, and often comes from an unmet need. In the ’90s, well before Elon Musk started building electric cars, General Motors built and sold the EV1, an electric car that was incredibly popular in California, but shut the entire program down and destroyed the cars for reasons economists and environmentalists are still debating. If GM had listened to its customers, Tesla might never have existed. As it is, Tesla’s success has overshadowed the fact that hybrid vehicles are so popular, hybrid supercars are coming to market, the effect of Toyota’s breakthrough Prius in 2000.

Disruptive innovation is always something to strive for, but breakthrough innovation can be just as stunning. So build your innovation strategy around both. Not everybody can invent the next iPhone, but if you open up new markets for your business and push your company forward striving to make it, it’ll be hard to argue that wasn’t effort well spent. Ready to supercharge your innovation strategy? Join the IdeaScale community.