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17 Types of Innovation

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Innovation is the process of improving things dramatically all at once. It is associated with products, services, machines, equipment, infrastructure, architecture and environments that represent a shift in the way that things are done. The following are common types of innovation.


A tool, machine or technology that allows firms and individuals to produce far more output for an hour of work. For example, the personal computer dramatically increased the productivity rate of many industries and professions.


Efficiency is the output you get for a unit of input. For example, a candle converts 0.04% of its energy to light and a white LED light bulb with phosphorescence color mixing can convert 22% of its energy to light.


Usability is how pleasing things are to use. Where early technologies often require users to conform to the technology, innovation makes interfaces more human with time.


Completely or partially eliminating the labor required to achieve a goal. For example, washing machines made laundry far less labor intensive.


Beyond labor, making leisure time easier. For example, ecommerce makes shopping easier.


A superior level of performance such as an decision algorithm that makes more accurate and timely decisions than the competition.


Dramatically reducing the cost of something. For example, an energy source that is ubiquitous and inexpensive including environmental costs.


A superior level of quality as perceived by customers.


Innovation can occur in creative fields such as art where a particular artist, work or technique inspires a shift in creative direction across a broad spectrum. In the art world, these are referred to as movements such as the Primitivism movement of the 19th century largely inspired by Paul Gauguin.


Customer experiences that outdo the competition by a wide margin such as an amusement park that has a feeling to it that customers value.

Quality of Life

Innovation in areas such as urban design, transportation, education, public health and community that improve well being. For example, an approach to education in remote communities that reduces poverty and gives young people positive outlets for their energy.


Innovations that facilitate social processes such as professional networking.


Information tools, repositories and processing. For example, the internet represented an order of magnitude improvement over researching topics at your local library.


Decision making and problem solving capabilities.


Creating new two-sided markets or reinventing the economics of an existing market.


Reducing a risk. For example, retractable seat belts made cars far safer beginning in the 1950s.


Replacing a process that isn't likely to end well with one that has a future.
Overview: Types of Innovation
Improving things dramatically all at once.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about innovation.
Business Models
Concept Testing
Cost Innovation
Crash Of Ineptitude
Design Thinking
Discontinuous Change
First Principles
Innovation Risk
Inventive Step
Latent Demand
Market Fit
Naive Innovation
Prior Art
Proof Of Concept
Speculative Design
Systems Thinking
Technology Winter
Throwaway Prototype
Trough Of Sorrow
Value Creation
More ...
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Abstract Concept

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