The Ten Types of Innovation

Jared Wade


June 28, 2013

Book_InnovationInnovation has become a buzzword. Rarely does it carry any meaning. All companies claim to be innovative.

It’s an adjective cavalierly thrown around by the same boss who might stop by your desk to say, “I’ll be out of pocket tomorrow, but let’s circle back soon with all hands on deck to do some outside-of-the-box thinking on ways to strategically shift the paradigm moving forward vis-à-vis our value-added deliverables.”

So when a book called The Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs hit my mailbox, it was eye-roll city. But it had a neat design and layout, so I cracked the cover.

Flipping some pages, much to my surprise, it seemed like a potentially useful resource. That was the goal, wrote the book’s four authors, Larry Keeley, Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn and Helen Walters. “It can be a diagnostic tool to assess how you’re approaching innovation internally.”

The most striking aspect of their project is the attempt to call innovation a “discipline.” When I first entered the writing-about-risk-management world, the term “discipline” confused me. In time, I came to understand what it means, how the risk management “discipline” informs decision making through a rigorous, process-based method. Still, I use the term sparingly. Though not a practitioner, I believe some aspects of managing risk come from the gut, requiring only simple insight and a certain mind set more than “discipline.”

Innovation, to me, has always seemed even more entrenched in the realm of creativity—not process. It’s the literal flash of Thomas Edison’s light bulb. It’s Steve Jobs’ singular vision of the future. It’s “EUREKA.” To think that there is a discipline involved, while sensible given how research and development works within companies, seemed contrary to the legends behind society’s greatest inventions.

Nevertheless, the authors show—in depth, by analyzing some 2,000 real-world breakthroughs—just how much process, and structure is involved. It’s hard to walk away anything other than convinced.

Jared Wade is a freelance writer and a former editor of Risk Management.