Great Ideas and Radical or Disruptive Innovation

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Creativity can be defined as problem identification and idea generation whilst innovation can be defined as idea selection, development and commercialisation.

There are other useful definitions in this field, for example, creativity can be defined as consisting of a number of ideas, a number of diverse ideas and a number of novel ideas.

There are distinct processes that enhance problem identification and idea generation and, similarly, distinct processes that enhance idea selection, development and commercialisation. Whilst there is no sure fire route to commercial success, these processes improve the probability that good ideas will be generated and selected and that investment in developing and commercialising those ideas will not be wasted.

Great Ideas and Radical or Disruptive Innovation

We're all looking for great ideas right?

There are a few Creativity and Innovation principles that are relevant before we discuss practical application:

a) Franklin (2003) states that successful innovations tend to be moderately new to the market, based on tried and tested technology, save money, meet customers' needs and support existing practices. By contrast, the products that fail tend to be based on cutting-edge or untested technology, follow a "me-too" approach, or are created with no clearly defined solution in mind.

b) There is a perception that radical innovations break from the past and are resultant from disruptive leaps. While some radical innovations follow this pattern, the vast majority of radical innovations result from cumulative incremental changes. That is, continuous tinkering, toying, experimentation and improvement results in greater "originality" vastly more often than "waiting for the big idea." The Internet is a good example: though often perceived as a radical leap, it is actually the result of many years of incremental improvements traceable back to the solid-state transistor and beyond.

c) Ideas can be measured in many ways, but one of the most useful measures is to benchmark for feasibility along the S-curve. That is, what are the practical impediments? For example, a time machine is less likely to reach commercialisation as a whole host of technological impediments stand in the way, whereas an idea for a new flavour for soda does not have that degree of obstacle.

Taking the above into account, we will discuss some ideas that have had significant commercial success by applying (inadvertently) the above principles:

a) EasyJet or South West airlines. The no frills airline model has found success ? and can be defined as a radical shift ? by simply operating at vastly lower prices ? prices that previously would have been considered to be "outside the box." This business model obeys Franklins rule, is an incremental change and has low impediments.

b) ? a recent success story that follows the above principles to provide, would you believe it, cut price specs. This is similar, by the way, to Dell, as the business model has been successful combining the Internet and Mail Order.

c) IPod ? follows Franklins rule, is an incremental change and didn't have too many practical impediments.

So what is the lesson? To generate ideas that have a chance of commercial success, think outside the box but stick to the three rules above.

These and other topics are covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from

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Kal Bishop, MBA


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Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on

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