If you’ve followed my work for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Ten Types of Innovation, a framework developed by Doblin (now a part of Deloitte).
I previously listed it as the #2 innovation framework you should be using.
And with good reason. I have used it frequently with clients to get them to think beyond innovating their product, which becomes harder, more expensive and less differentiating over time.
However, what I have found in recent workshops is that since it was originally published in 2013, some of the case studies and examples in the book already come across as out of date. That’s how rapidly the world is changing.
So here, I present three new more recent case studies for each of the Ten Types of Innovation, along with an outline on what each of them represents. Try and see which of these examples you would also suggest touch on more than one of the Ten Types, and let me know in the comments below:
1) Profit Model: How you make money
Innovative profit models find a fresh way to convert a firm’s offerings and other sources of value into cash. Great ones reflect a deep understanding of what customers and users actually cherish and where new revenue or pricing opportunities might lie.
Innovative profit models often challenge an industry’s tired old assumptions about what to offer, what to charge, or how to collect revenues. This is a big part of their power: in most industries, the dominant profit model often goes unquestioned for decades.
- Fortnite – Pay to customise: This Free-to-Play video game by Epic Game Studios is currently one of the most popular and profitable games in the world. Unlike other “freemium” games which incentivise people to spend money to speed up progression, Fortnite is completely free to progress and people only need pay if they want to unlock cosmetic items which don’t affect gameplay but act to personalise their characters.
- Deloitte – Value sharing: Professional Services firm Deloitte is the world’s largest Management Consulting firm and still growing. They noticed a desire from their clients for assurance that the advice they were being given and transformation projects which Deloitte was running would actually succeed. As a result, Deloitte has begun trialling projects where instead of their fee being based just on Time and Materials, they will also share in value delivery, where additional bonus payments are only activated if previously-agreed performance metrics are successfully met.
- Supreme – Limiting supply: While most companies want to get their products in to the hands of as many people as possible, Supreme has built a cult following through deliberately forcing scarcity of its products. The streetwear clothing retailer announces limited items which will only be available from a specific day when they “drop”, and once they are sold out, that’s it, unless you want to pay huge markups for a second-hand item on eBay. Their red box logo is now so collectible and desirable that the company is able to sell almost anything by putting the logo on it for a limited time only. Case in point: you can find official Supreme Bricks (yes, like the ones used to build houses) which are still selling on eBay for $500.
2) Network: How you connect with others to create value
In today’s hyper-connected world, no company can or should do everything alone. Network innovations provide a way for firms to take advantage of other companies’ processes, technologies, offerings, channels, and brands—pretty much any and every component of a business.
These innovations mean a firm can capitalize on its own strengths while harnessing the capabilities and assets of others. Network innovations also help executives to share risk in developing new offers and ventures. These collaborations can be brief or enduring, and they can be formed between close allies or even staunch competitors.
- Ford & Volkswagen – Developing Self-driving cars: As two of the world’s largest car-makers, Ford and Volkswagen are competitors on the road. However, in 2019 they announced a partnership to work together to develop technology for self-driving cars and electric vehicles which would be used in both company’s fleets of the future. While Ford brings more advanced automated driving technology, Volkswagen was leading in electric vehicles. Through the combined venture called ARGO, both firms can spread their R&D spending across more cars, while both developing competing products.
- Microsoft – launching on competitors platforms: Since new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has taken over, he has changed the innovation ethos of the company. Whereas previously Microsoft was a product-first company who tried to eliminate competing products and customers should stay within the company’s ecosystem, Nadella has shifted the mindset to a service company where their products should be accessible to customers should be able to access the products in whichever way they prefer. As a result, products such as Office 365 are now available in any web browser, as well as on the mobile marketplaces of Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS, previously seen as competitors.
- Huawei – Leveraging celebrity endorsement: Until recently, “high-quality smartphone” made people think of companies like Apple (USA), Samsung and LG (South Korea). Brands from China were often seen as competing on price but suffering from lower build quality and a lack of innovation. So in order to raise their profile in Western markets, Huawei has invested heavily in celebrities to endorse their flagship phones, such as Scarlett Johanssen, Lionel Messi, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot. This initial investment raised brand name recognition, to the stage where it is now focusing marketing more towards features and functionality.
3) Structure: How you organize and align your talent and assets
Structure innovations are focused on organizing company assets—hard, human, or intangible—in unique ways that create value. They can include everything from superior talent management systems to ingenious configurations of heavy capital equipment.
An enterprise’s fixed costs and corporate functions can also be improved through Structure innovations, including departments such as Human Resources, R&D, and IT. Ideally, such innovations also help attract talent to the organization by creating supremely productive working environments or fostering a level of performance that competitors can’t match.
- Perpetual Guardian – Four-day working week: This small financial advisory firm in New Zealand trialed moving to a four-day working week, giving their staff an additional free day each week as long as they got their outputs done. As a result, they found people adjusted their working rhythm to achieve the same outcomes in 20% less time, while also resulting in more satisfied employees.
- Netflix – Unlimited Vacations: In order to drive their breakneck growth, Netflix reviewed their formal HR policies to see what processes were getting in the way of people doing their best work. They discovered that most bureaucratic processes which slowed down high performing individuals were in place to only handle situations where a low-performance individual would do something wrong. As a result, they scrapped most formal HR policies to free people to work in their own ways to benefit the company, summarised in their “Freedom and Responsibility” culture document, including allowing staff to take as many vacation days as they felt they needed to produce their best work.
- WeWork – Leveraging other companies’ hard assets: WeWork’s business model revolves around providing affordable office rentals for entrepreneurs and companies, fitting a lot of tenants into the same space by offering co-working areas. In order to rapidly deploy new working spaces and attract customers, WeWork started using a system called rental arbitrage, where they would rent commercial space, create a ready-to-use coworking setup, and then rent this space to customers. By not having to spend CAPEX on purchasing the buildings themselves, they were able to rapidly expand with lower overhead.
4) Process: How you use signature or superior methods to do your work
Process innovations involve the activities and operations that produce an enterprise’s primary offerings. Innovating here requires a dramatic change from “business as usual” that enables the company to use unique capabilities, function efficiently, adapt quickly, and build market–leading margins.
Process innovations often form the core competency of an enterprise, and may include patented or proprietary approaches that yield advantage for years or even decades. Ideally, they are the “special sauce” you use that competitors simply can’t replicate.
- Tesla – Vertically integrated supply chain: Tesla’s electric cars require huge packs of EV batteries, made of thousands of lithium-ion cells. Until recently, the lack of demand for electric vehicles meant that companies had not invested in battery technology development, resulting in prices remaining high and making the cost of cars prohibitively more expensive than their gasoline counterparts. Tesla invested in a massive gigafactory to produce the newest battery packs themselves, and the economies of scale, as well as not paying markups to manufacturers, are estimated to save them 30% of the cost of the batteries.
- Amazon Web Services – opening internal technology to third parties: When Amazon Web Services initially launched in 2006, it effectively launched the cloud computing market, allowing external companies to not just host webpages but run code and calculations at a fraction of the cost of building their own server network. Since then, Amazon has continued to develop new technology it would use for its own services, such as artificial intelligence, image recognition, machine learning, and natural-language processing, and later make this technology available to their customers.
- AliExpress – Making everyone a Shop Owner: AliExpress is one of the world’s largest eCommerce sites, and serves as a commercial storefront for thousands of Chinese companies, allowing you to purchase everything to phone cases to forklifts. However, AliExpress also allows the platform to handle purchases as listed on external storefronts using a system called drop-shipping, where anyone can set up their own store, sell someone else’s products (but to customers it looks like they are coming from the seller) and then have those manufacturers send the product directly to the customer.
5) Product Performance: How you develop distinguishing features and functionality
Product Performance innovations address the value, features, and quality of a company’s offering. This type of innovation involves both entirely new products as well as updates and line extensions that add substantial value. Too often, people mistake Product Performance for the sum of innovation. It’s certainly important, but it’s always worth remembering that it is only one of the Ten Types of Innovation, and it’s often the easiest for competitors to copy.
Think about any product or feature war you’ve witnessed—whether torque and toughness in trucks, toothbrushes that are easier to hold and use, even with baby strollers. Too quickly, it all devolves into an expensive mad dash to parity. Product Performance innovations that deliver long-term competitive advantage are the exception rather than the rule.
- Gorilla Glass – Changing chemistry to improve smartphone durability: Gorilla Glass by Corning was listed as one of the original Ten Types by becoming scratch resistant. I have included it again for how it has changed the properties of its glass based on customer feedback each year. In 2016, version 5 of the glass was designed to resist shattering when dropped from 5+ feet, dubbed “selfie height” drops. However, after discussing what properties their customers wanted, by 2018 version 6 was no longer trying to resist shattering when dropped from a height once, instead the chemistry and manufacturing process had been changed to make it resistant to cracking after 15 drops from a lower height (1 meter, or a “fumble drop from your pocket”). I love this example of innovation as the product performance doesn’t just try to become “better” by resisting one drop from a higher height than last year, instead figuring out what really matters to customers and delivering that.
- Raspberry Pi – full PC for $35: The original Rasperbby Pi was developed by a UK charity to make a simple yet expandable computer which was affordable enough for everyone. Their credit-card sized PC may look bare-bones (it comes without a case and is effectively an exposed circuit board), yet it contains everything which someone needs to run a Linux operating system, learn to program and even connect it with external sensors and peripherals to make all manner of machines. The latest version 4 is now powerful enough to serve as a dedicated PC, all for a price so low you can give it to a child to tinker with without fear of it being broken.
- Lush Cosmetics – Removing what people don’t want anymore: As people become more aware of their impact on the environment, customers are demanding that customers do more to reduce the amount of plastic packaging their products use which could end up in landfill or the ocean. Lush Cosmetics was an early pioneer in bringing packaging-free cosmetics to scale, offering some of their packaging-free products like shampoo bars and soaps in dedicated packaging-free stores.
6) Product System: How you create complementary products and services
Product System innovations are rooted in how individual products and services connect or bundle together to create a robust and scalable system. This is fostered through interoperability, modularity, integration, and other ways of creating valuable connections between otherwise distinct and disparate offerings. Product System innovations help you build ecosystems that captivate and delight customers and defend against competitors.
- Ryobi – One battery to rule them all: While handheld tools have had rechargeable batteries for decades now, Ryobi’s innovation was designing the modular One+ battery which could be used with over 80 different tools. Not only was this convenient for customers who needed fewer batteries overall for multiple uses, it also encouraged someone to buy into the Ryobi tool ecosystem once they had previously purchased one tool and battery set.
- Zapier – making APIs easy: Many web-based applications nowadays have an Application Programming Interface (API) which allows them to share data with other services. However, this often requires complex coding from the developers, and repeated effort to integrate with multiple different APIs. Zapier acts as a middleman for data, providing ready-made actions and API integrations between popular web services, allowing customers to automate certain activities every time a specific event happens.
- Airbnb – Expanding into experiences: Airbnb built their business on allowing everyday people to sell accommodation in their homes to strangers. Now the company has begun offering complementary services to people visiting new places through Experiences. These experiences are also sold by local guides, and allow guests to try things they would otherwise not have known about in addition to staying somewhere new.
7) Service: How you support and amplify the value of your offerings
Service innovations ensure and enhance the utility, performance, and apparent value of an offering. They make a product easier to try, use, and enjoy; they reveal features and functionality customers might otherwise overlook, and they fix problems and smooth rough patches in the customer journey. Done well, they elevate even bland and average products into compelling experiences that customers come back for again and again.
- Kroger – Smartphone grocery scanning: US retail giant Kroger has been trialing a new smartphone app which allows shoppers to scan items as they shop, and then skip checking out altogether. Using the Scan, Bag, Go app, a customer will scan each item as they pick them up and place them into whatever bag they want, and once they are done, they can simply pay using the app and leave. This prevents shoppers having to wait in checkout lines and gives them an overview of their running total as they go, and also allows the supermarket to entice shoppers by sending coupons and offers directly to them.
- PurpleBricks – bringing real estate online: Estate Agents have a poor reputation for treating both sellers and buyers, especially for the amount they charge relative to the service they provide. PurpleBricks was one of the first online-only estate agents, where they could charge a significantly lower fee if the seller chose to complete some of the service processes themselves, such as showing the home to potential buyers. The firm can provide additional services for additional charges.
- Meituan Dianping – providing one app for all the services you want: As Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative company, Meituan Dianping provides a platform for Chinese consumers to purchase a variety of services. Known as a transactional super-app, you can use the app to book and pay for food delivery, travel, movie tickets and more from over 5 million Chinese small and large merchants.