As companies are challenged to deliver growth and profitability, they are looking to the emerging field of innovation for insights to achieve these higher levels of performance. The book Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley reports on years of research and identifies ten main patterns or drivers of innovation. These drivers span all aspects of the business model, product offering, and customer experience. Two of the ten categories are related to the product – product performance and product system.
As an engineering educator focused on inspiring innovation in the product design process, my attention is focused on these product performance and product system categories. Not surprisingly, these are high level and general categories that accommodate many types of product innovation. Examining the design process more closely, there are many decisions made during the process that can directly impact the success and innovativeness of the final design.
The Implications of the Innovation Canvas
Recent work with the Innovation Canvas provides additional insights into mechanisms for developing innovative and effective product designs. The Innovation Canvas is a tool for developing conceptual designs and combines a meta-model for a generic system with the Osterwalder Business Model Canvas. As a general but comprehensive model, we can find not only the Keeley ten types but also many more possible sources of innovation. Some of these are discussed below.
Features – The general category of product performance can be described in more detail through product features. Features are the desirable characteristics of the product that provide value to the customer and stakeholders. Explicitly identifying a complete feature list is a critical step in the design process.
Interactions – Interactions describe the exchange of energy, material, and information between the product and customers and other external systems. By thoroughly documenting interactions, the desired customer experience is captured and supported by the product or offering.
Interfaces – Interfaces act as the gateway between the product and customers and other systems. The interfaces support interactions and exchanges of information with these external systems. Interfaces are a critical design decision and product feature as they can be intentionally designed to be open (to make it easier to connect) or closed (to keep other systems and communication out).
Modularity – A modular design has functions grouped into modules so that they can be configured and combined easily. A great example of modularity is the Troy-Bilt FLEX system with a common “power base” unit with a standard interface that accepts attachments for mowing, snow throwing, and pressure washing.
Compliance – Product success is sometimes achieved through compliance with safety, heath, or environmental regulatory standards. Cummins Inc. is a leader in diesel engine power generation and for many years, their product innovation strategy focused on successfully meeting increasingly strict emissions regulations.
Ten Types of Innovation provides many insights into sources and mechanisms of innovation that can drive successful products and businesses. The Innovation Canvas provides the ability to visualize the ten types and identifies many more sources that arise in the design of the product or system.