What Is Quantum Innovation?

Residential neighborhood at night with lightening strikes.
Like a lightning strike, quantum innovation often arrives when it’s least expected.

We’re used to one form of innovation: the slow, incremental kind, where new features are added and previous ones are refined and updated. What about the other kind, the kind where something terrific comes out of left field? That’s “quantum innovation.”

Quantum Innovation: Like Lightning

“Quantum innovation” is best summed up as a product that combines past technologies to make an entirely new one that’s completely unexpected. Consider the car. Many of the technologies involved in creating the automobile had been used in previous inventions. It was only when those technologies were combined in a new way that quantum innovation occurred.

Quantum innovation tends to have continuing effects. Inventing the car had an entire range of unexpected side effects on everything from urban planning to financial systems. 

Quantum innovation can also cause unease; look no further than laws restricting the speed of cars to 15 miles an hour for the proof.

Finally, quantum innovations tend to lead to future innovations. The car had been around for years when Dr. John Stapp began his research into the effects of rapid acceleration and deceleration on the human body for the Air Force. Stapp’s work completely changed how we see cars and, for that matter, how we survive accidents. Part of the reason we live so long is that it’s safe to get behind the wheel, thanks to Stapp.

This leaves two questions concerning quantum innovation. Can you pull it off, and what should you do when someone else does instead?

Creativity sign with a u turn arrow.
Sometimes an unexpected turn has dramatic results.

A Sudden Change

It’s worth noting that quantum innovation can often be a matter of perception. All the elements of many quantum innovations have been sitting around for years, sometimes decades, before somebody thinks to combine them, or before the infrastructure exists to support them. Often the innovation is not in the idea itself, but in overcoming the challenges that had prevented it from becoming reality.

So when seeking quantum innovation, start by questioning your basic assumptions. If you’ve always done something a certain way, ask yourself why. If something was too expensive, has it changed in some way? If it didn’t work for your business model before, has your model changed?

Then, of course, there’s the question of what happens if somebody else gets there first. Again, the question is not “Can we imitate their innovation?” If you want to remain a leader, instead look at the assumptions they questioned and work from there. What “rules” did they break? What risks did they accept? What approaches did they take that make sense for your business?

Businesses that have been taken by surprise by quantum innovation often have to ask themselves hard questions about how they operate, why they were put on the back foot, and how to regain the lost ground. Sometimes these questions have answers that are tough to hear, but that makes it all the more important to ask them.

Quantum innovation is rare, but when it arrives, nothing is ever quite the same. To learn more about innovation at its finest, get the Innovation Starter Kit today!

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