There are two schools of thought about innovation. One says that innovation is the exploration for big, ground breaking new ideas – transformational innovation. The other school disagrees, saying that innovation also includes incremental steps that improve and exploit – efficiency innovation. They argue that innovation is simply defined as doing something different that creates value:
‘It isn’t just the purview of engineers and scientists, nor is it limited to new-product development. Processes can be innovated. Marketing approaches can too. Something different can be a big breakthrough, but it can also be an everyday improvement that makes the complicated a bit simpler or the expensive more affordable.’HBR – Breaking down the barriers to innovation
I’m firmly in the second school in that I see a constant stream of efficiency innovation happening at Breathe. Work that improves the day to day lives of our team and our customers.
However, where I think leaders fall down is that prioritising efficiency innovation is easy, whereas it’s hard to allocate time to transformational innovation. The catch is that there is only so much efficiency you can wring out of a process before that process needs reinventing.
Transformational innovation involves uncertainty, disproportional investment in time and money, and can be a scary place to go. But, it is essential work for the leader of a growing business who must invest time and headspace into the kind of innovation that will keep the growth going.
I’m challenging myself in 2020 to commit 40% of my time to exploration!