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The Four Types of Innovation You Should Master as a Consultant

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November 29, 2021
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4 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

Innovation is the reason why we moved from caves to high-rise buildings, innovation is the reason why we no longer get very sick because of minor ailments, and innovation is the reason why you’re reading this article on a screen instead of a paper.

Not only innovation helps in our day-to-day lives, but it can also be a game-changer in the business world. In fact, innovation is the reason why a lot of companies stay in business and are able to take home a larger share of the pie.

In this article, we will discuss the innovation that you should be well-versed in as a consultant. The next time you’re working with a client on releasing innovative products or services, give this article a quick read again.

1. Incremental Innovation

The first one out of the four types of innovation is incremental innovation. This type of innovation involves continuously improving existing products or services using existing technology . And how can a company achieve this? Well, there are several ways to improve products. For instance, by increasing product efficiency, expanding product lines of existing products, making products more economical, or decreasing the amount of raw material used for production.

Let’s consider an example to understand this better. Gillette, the world-renowned razor seller, perfectly illustrates incremental innovation. Humans have been using different kinds of razors for centuries. And there’s no big deal in it—it’s just a razor. However, Gillette, using incremental innovation, has turned this very basic tool into a profit-making machine. The company innovates and comes up with new varieties of razors, such as multi-blade razors, heated razors, razors with gel to reduce friction, razors with skin guards for sensitive skin, etc. all the time.

It’s highly likely that there is a group of talented innovation consultants behind this. To use such a simple product to turn a company into a world-famous brand is pure genius. And all this happened because of innovative solutions.

“Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way.“ - Tom Freston, Co-founder of MTV

2. Architectural Innovation

The second one out of the four types of innovation is architectural innovation. Architectural innovation refers to the process of modifying an existing solution for an entirely new market. In this case, existing technology can be used as a foundation to innovate and design new products for a new market. This type of innovation carries a lower risk as compared to other types of innovation. And the reason behind that is pretty straightforward: If the new product architecture is not received well by the new audience, a company can move forward with the older solution and continue selling to the existing market.

Let’s discuss an example to ensure that you grasp this concept well. Smartwatches are a great example of architectural innovation. Using an existing technology (smartphone technology), businesses created a new product for a new market. This was nothing but an existing technology being repackaged into a smaller unit—a watch. And did it work? Well, despite the pandemic, Apple shipped over 9.5 million units of its smartwatch in the second quarter of 2021. So, it is apparent that the market loves this product.

3. Radical Innovation

The third one out of the four types of innovation is radical innovation. It involves applying new technology, or a combination of old and new technologies, to create a product or service for a new market. This type of innovation works when the new product is so advanced that it replaces the old one. Now you may be wondering: Why is it called ‘radical’ innovation? Well, because it is radical to let go of old technology and processes and have the courage to launch a completely new line of products that use advanced technology.

Airplanes are a great example of radical innovation. Before the 1900s, the idea of flying to a different continent within 24 hours using a long metal tube with wings would have seemed radical. People were still using horse carts and ships to travel during that time. But in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the first airplane, which was very basic, but it then evolved into the colossal commercial airplanes that we see today. Seems like the Wright brothers would have had a lucrative career as innovation consultants. Thanks to them, we can fly to any part of the world so quickly.

4. Disruptive Innovation

The fourth one out of the four types of innovation is disruptive innovation. It refers to using new technology to create products that serve an existing market. To be precise, disruptive innovation involves using new technology to develop new products in such a way that these products ‘disrupt’ an existing market. However, as a consultant who is helping a client innovate and come up with newer products, you must let your client know that disruptive products are risky and probably won't get a lot of attention initially. It’s because it’s likely that a vast majority of the target audience would not trust a completely new product in the beginning.

An interesting example of disruptive innovation is iPads. Once again, we’re using an Apple product as an example because... well, they’re really innovative, aren’t they? Many people who were using heavy and old-fashioned laptops ditched them for iPads. A lot of other companies, after getting inspiration from iPads, brought similar products to the market. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Lenovo’s Yoga tablet. These products are small, easy-to-carry, and stylish.


So, these were the four types of innovation. Sometimes, existing technology can be used to serve a new or existing market, and sometimes, new technology can be used to create products for an existing or new market. But the bottom line is: innovation is what makes us human. And if a company does it right, it can generate more revenue than its competitors and dominate the market.