One of the biggest misconceptions of innovation is that it’s a modern concept. Past discoveries tell us otherwise. For centuries, innovators have built upon standard products and practices to create something new and exciting. Yet, novelty is only one characteristic of successful innovation. The other piece that’s often overlooked is usefulness.
In simpler terms, innovation must be new and useful. It needs to be original but won’t be successful unless people use it. Keeping these two characteristics in mind is essential to a design’s success.
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Types of Innovation
Innovation isn’t limited to products. There’s no denying Apple’s transformative products have made them an industry giant. Still, it’s important to remember that innovation has several applications in business. Here are three types of innovation your company can design and implement.
- Product or service innovation: This focuses on creating a new product, service, or product feature. Examples range from the internet to the pivoting head of Gillette razor blades.
- Process innovation: This refers to changes made to make a process more efficient. For example, assembly lines were a breakthrough in manufacturing.
- Business model innovation: This is when you transform business operations. Ride-sharing platforms, such as Uber or Lyft, are an example of this. They took the taxi and car service companies’ business model and altered it to a peer-to-peer, digitized model.
Although product innovation is only one type, much can be gleaned from analyzing past product innovations. This requires an understanding of what makes products innovative.
What Makes a Product Innovative?
In the business world, innovation is an original idea that’s useful to consumers. But what does that mean, and how can you ensure your idea has these two essential ingredients?
One way is by identifying and addressing the pain points your consumers are experiencing. There are two types of pain points innovation should address: explicit and latent.
- Explicit pain points: Customers are aware of, and can easily define, these pain points.
- Latent pain points: These pain points are more difficult to define because most customers aren’t aware of them.
Innovative ideas that focus on users’ challenges have a better chance of success and longevity. Understanding your innovation’s viability can be harder than identifying pain points, but it’s another crucial factor in this process.
Remember, innovations aren’t inherently modern. Netflix’s streaming service is a successful innovative product but grounded in the modern world. Much older innovations, like the creation of language, are equally insightful examples of how prospective innovators should approach the creative process. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for inspiration and guidance in your own innovation process.
9 Innovative Products
Recency bias—limiting your understanding of innovation to modern products and services—can be detrimental to the innovation process. Don’t let a narrowed perspective of what successful innovation is negatively affect your creativity.
Here are nine incredibly successful innovations that have stood the test of time.
1. The Wheel
Invented around 4000 BCE, the wheel is one of the earliest recorded innovations. While it’s often forgotten as an innovative product, it continues to have an impact. Its inventive design addressed a common pain point around moving multiple heavy objects at once. The result was a circular frame that allows users to transport many heavy items in a short time. Its significance is still felt today and has led to additional breakthroughs, such as carriages and today’s more modern transportation methods.
2. The Printing Press
Your favorite book or magazine wouldn’t exist without the printing press. This breakthrough in technology was novel and useful in that it allowed for the mass production of written documents. It solved an explicit pain point in document production: time consumption and tediousness. Creating a product that eliminated the handwriting element transformed the publishing world by making the process easier and quicker.
3. The Lightbulb
Although there’s some debate on who invented the lightbulb, no one denies its significance. It’s a great example of an innovative product that solved both explicit and latent pain points. Before lightbulbs, products like lanterns and oil lamps produced light but made houses more susceptible to fires. At the time, these accidents were accepted as a necessary risk until innovation showed people otherwise.
Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wouldn’t be the business mogul he is today without the initial innovation of motorized automobiles. The automobile’s invention in 1886 kickstarted a major evolution in technology by focusing on the transportation landscape’s challenges, such as fatigue from walking or bicycling and caring for horses that pulled carriages. Today, horse-drawn carriages are nearly obsolete beyond tourist attractions and services.
Computers have completely changed everyday life. Since their humble beginnings of automating mathematical equations, computers have progressed and evolved according to users’ ever-changing pain points. For example, computers were originally enormous, spanning nearly 50 feet long and weighing almost five tons. Over time, their size and portability have reduced from desktop computers to laptops and smartphones.
6. Cellular Phones
While cellular phones also evolved, they initially solved a specific problem for phone users: landlines weren’t portable. People were tethered to house phones, beepers, and phone booths if they wanted to receive a call. Cellular phones allowed users to take calls from anywhere. As more consumers bought cellular phones, this product began to solve latent pain points about safety outside the house and emergency contacting.
7. The Internet
The internet is such a widely used product, it’s hard to imagine a world without it. In this way, it may be the most successful modern innovation. It was originally based on the expression “information at your fingertips.” Although limited information was accessible to those with a library card, basic cable, and a newspaper subscription, there was still the inconvenience of waiting for information. The internet solved this latent pain point by becoming a vast hub of instantaneous knowledge and information.
8. Bagless Vacuum Cleaner
Bagless vacuums may seem like an odd addition to this list, but it’s a great example of how simple updates to a product can impact an industry. James Dyson, an industrial designer, was frustrated with the process of emptying his vacuum cleaner bags. They sometimes caused clogs and buildup that affected the vacuum’s performance. With these pain points in mind, he built the first bagless vacuum cleaner. Since then, Dyson has revolutionized cleaning technology and continues to innovate with its users' key pain points in mind.
It’s no surprise that Apple products are almost always mentioned in any discussion about innovation. The iPhone is a modern innovation that revolutionized cellular phone technology. While computers and cell phones were constantly evolving, Steve Jobs understood that consumers’ latent need for portability and speed couldn’t be solved with a computer or phone alone. This is what led to the iPhone.
How To Be Innovative in the Modern World
Innovation isn’t just for inventors and entrepreneurs. It isn’t just for the workplace either. In fact, an excellent way to foster innovation as a regular practice is to adopt a design thinking mentality.
Design thinking is a user-centric, solutions-based approach to innovation. In the online course Design Thinking and Innovation, Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar touches on design thinking’s principles using the four phases of innovation framework:
- Clarify: Conduct research to clarify a problem and empathize with your target audience. The goal is to identify key pain points, ensuring solutions are useful.
- Ideate: Focus on idea generation to solve problems identified during research.
- Develop: Explore potential solutions generated during ideation. Create prototypes to validate their effectiveness.
- Implement: Advocate for your innovation to key stakeholders and encourage its adoption into the organization.
This approach provides structure to aid your innovation process but doesn’t require rigid adherence. Creative problem-solving methods, like design thinking, aren’t one-size-fits-all. Rather, they’re roadmaps to creating innovative products and services.
How You Can Create an Innovative Product
Classifying products as “innovative” isn’t just applicable to products like an iPhone or electric car, and it doesn’t require teams of experts. Innovation can be accomplished by anyone with an original and useful idea.
The design thinking process is a wonderful resource for innovation on any scale. Each stage is conducive to all forms of innovation and can guide you through your new product, service, process, or business model’s creation. With the right tools, you can create something that’ll change the world for the better.
Eager to learn more about how design thinking can help you innovate? Try our online course Design Thinking and Innovation, which will teach you how to apply the design thinking framework to the innovation process. Interested in our other entrepreneurship and innovation courses? Download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.
The Lightbulb. Although there's some debate on who invented the lightbulb, no one denies its significance. It's a great example of an innovative product that solved both explicit and latent pain points. Before lightbulbs, products like lanterns and oil lamps produced light but made houses more susceptible to fires.What are the 4 types of innovation with examples? ›
- Sustaining, or incremental innovation.
- Breakthrough innovation.
- Disruptive innovation.
- Basic research.
- Radical innovation. As the name suggests, a radical innovation really changes the circumstances of a brand, whether in terms of market or of business dynamics. ...
- Incremental innovation. ...
- Disruptive innovation. ...
- Technological innovation.
- Product Innovation. When people think of innovation, often, they're thinking of product innovation. ...
- Process Innovation. Process innovation is probably the least sexy form of innovation. ...
- Business Model Innovation.
- Laundry detergent.
- Premium or luxury goods.
- Unsought products.
- Niche Products.
- Consumer preferences.
- Convenience products.
- Complementary goods.
Product innovation is probably the most common form of innovation and it refers to improvements in performance characteristics and attributes of the product.What are some types of innovation? ›
- Incremental innovation. ...
- Adjacent innovation. ...
- Disruptive innovation. ...
- Radical innovation.
Innovation can be a new idea, product or method that is translated into a good or service that creates value or for which customers are willing to pay. The essence of innovation is improvement – the ability to create something better and launch it to the world.What are the 10 types of innovation summary? ›
We also learned that 10 sides of Innovation in Doblin 10 Types of Innovation Model consist of Customer Engagement, Brand, Channel, Service, Product System and Product Performance, Process, Network, Structure and finally the Profit Model of our Organization/Company.
The elements, or success factors, to innovate effectively are structured in seven key areas: context, leadership, planning, support, operations, evaluation, and improvement.What are the 7 innovation process? ›
Campbell breaks down the innovation process into a sequence of seven steps: preparation, exploration, incubation, insight, prototype and trial, planning and execution, and reflection and evaluation.What is a good innovative idea? ›
The first requirement of an innovative idea is originality. And that doesn't mean improving on an existing idea by adding your own flavor. It means a coming up with a unique idea that introduces a new way of thinking to the market.What are the 3 greatest innovations of all time? ›
|1||Printing Press||Johannes Gutenberg|
|2||Electric Light||Thomas Edison|
|4||Telephone||Alexander Graham Bell|
A product or an idea becomes innovative when it stands out from the rest and truly makes the customers' lives easier. A successful change that can convert knowledge and ideas into benefit – in the form of new or improved products / services is capable of being innovative.What are the 4 main types of products? ›
What are the four classifications of products? There are four types of products and each is classified based on consumer habits, price, and product characteristics: convenience goods, shopping goods, specialty products, and unsought goods.What are 4 examples of by products? ›
- bagasse and molasses from sugar production.
- bran and germ from flour milling.
- buttermilk from butter production.
- distillers grains from ethanol production.
- fly ash and bottom ash from coal combustion.
- glycerol from soap or biodiesel production.
- lanolin from wool processing.
- lees from wine fermentation.
- Convenience Goods. As one of the first types of products, convenience goods are those that consumers purchase frequently and without much effort. ...
- Shopping Goods. ...
- Specialty Goods. ...
- Unsought Goods.
- Open Innovation. ...
- Closed Innovation. ...
- Social Innovation. ...
- Process Innovation. ...
- Product Innovation. ...
- Radical Innovation. ...
- Incremental Innovation. ...
- Business Innovation.
The simplest way to categorize innovation is into two types – incremental and radical. Incremental innovation is an improvement in an existing thing (e.g. product, process or service). Radical innovation is finding an entirely new way of doing something.
Innovation strategies can be classed as proactive, active, reactive and passive (Dodgson et al. 2008).What are the six innovations that changed the world? ›
Learn more about us. Giving Compass' Take: Megan Gambino discusses the six innovations which, according to Steven Johnson, made modern life possible: glass, refrigeration, recorded sound, water purification, clocks, and artificial light.What is innovation 1 example? ›
Examples of product innovations:
Lego has been changing the materials of its famous bricks to biodegradable oil-based plastics. The first electric vehicles introduced in the car's market were also an innovation, and new batteries with longer ranges that keep coming out are also an example of innovation.
To be successful, an innovation must clearly create differentiated value for the sets of buyers involved. However, the problem is that creating value for customers can cause or be accompanied by huge cash losses for the company involved.What is an innovative thing? ›
Something innovative is new and original. If you love to experiment and find new ways to do things, you are an innovative person. Innovative, like nova, novel, and novice, comes from the Latin novus, which means new. Something innovative renews or alters the way something has been done.What are the six 6 common examples of innovation in higher education? ›
- Artificial intelligence (AI) ...
- 3D printing. ...
- Flipped classrooms. ...
- VR & Augmented Reality. ...
- Virtual labs. ...
- Social media. ...
- Blended/hybrid learning.
In his research at Harvard Business School and Babson College, Professor Daniel Isenberg delineates a framework of the 6 key elements of an innovation ecosystem: people, markets, policy, culture, finance, and infrastructure support.What are the 8 S's of innovation? ›
From the research, they identified eight essential elements of innovation success: Aspire, Choose, Discover, Evolve, Accelerate, Scale, Extend, and Mobilize. The authors note that there is no proven formula for innovation success but argue that there is a strong correlation between these essential elements and success.What are the 8 P's of innovation? ›
8Ps of Innovation:
Processes (innovation strategy, governance, innovation methodology, team structure) People (finding the right people, training) Projects (methodology: lean start up, design sprints) Problems (start with real problems and not pet projects from a few)
Overall, the systems model and the three innovative variables of organizational structure, culture, and human resource practices can be used to stimulate innovation within an organization.
What Is Product Innovation? Product innovation is the process of creating a new product—or improving an existing one—to meet customers' needs in a novel way. There are three key types of innovation: Sustaining innovation, in which a business consistently provides the highest quality products to its best customers.What are some good innovative ideas? ›
- 30 feet away from the elevator, there's a call button so that it arrives by the time you walk up to the elevator. ...
- Wash your hands at the basin and reuse the water to flush the pot. ...
- Incredible water fountain design so that even dogs can drink some.
Product innovation is probably the most common form of innovation and it refers to improvements in performance characteristics and attributes of the product. It can also use components that differ from previously manufactured products.How do I find new innovative ideas? ›
- Ask questions: Foremost, idea people are curious people. ...
- Write Your Ideas Down: Creative people keep lists and notes. ...
- Think Associatively: Many ideas are the result of associative thinking. ...
- Put Ideas to the Test: Innovators know the importance of experimentation.
When the first car was created, it was an invention, since there had never been a motorized way to get around before. Compare that to Uber, an innovation in transportation; disruptive as it may have been, the taxi and car service industry already existed before Uber's arrival.Why are most products innovated? ›
Product innovation helps companies stay relevant in their market and continue growing and improving over time. A company's ability to innovate is considered essential for its long-term viability. Companies need to venture out of their comfort zone and get creative when designing new products.What are examples of products? ›
A product is any item or service you sell to serve a customer's need or want. They can be physical or virtual. Physical products include durable goods (like cars, furniture, and computers) and nondurable goods (like food and beverages).What are the innovative product ideas for 2023? ›
Some examples of innovative product ideas include environmental-friendly electric vehicles, biodegradable packaging materials, wearable technology that can monitor health, educational virtual reality applications, and solar-powered charging stations for electronics.