[Adapted from Ridiculously Innovative: Generating more Ideas Faster to Grow your Business. Available on Amazon.]

A key part of success in innovation is creating enough volume. Too many leaders think that innovation is only about breakthrough products. They ignore the more down-to-earth opportunities that might be right under their nose. There are likely plenty of ways to raise the bar that don’t require a big R&D department or huge investments in capital. An innovation doesn’t need to be some big, far-out development. As one of my clients puts it, “Not everything has to be the equivalent of an anti-gravity machine.”

Leaders can create enormous value by increasing the volume of innovation initiatives. Once they have all four elements of a good idea machine in place, they should be able to work effectively on a wide array of initiatives. Some large. Some small. All consistently moving along multiple “S-curves” at the same time.

The S-curve is a common way to describe a specific innovation within a company. It refers to the level of performance that has been raised versus the level of effort. What leaders need to realize is that they can be working on multiple S-curves at any given time. They can be working on efforts that have shorter time horizons and smaller benefits right alongside much larger efforts with longer time horizons. An organization can capture an abundance of value by working multiple S-curves at the same time. Using a baseball analogy, at any given time, an organization may be working on one or more of the following four types of innovations:

  1. GAME-CHANGERS These are completely new products, services, or business models that haven’t been seen in the industry before. A game-changer requires the application of great effort and often takes years of dedicated investment. A game-changing innovation would put an organization far ahead of the competition or create a space where no competition yet exists.
  2. HOME RUNS Home-run innovations are those that make a company distinctly more competitive or efficient. A successful home run might boost create new revenue, dramatically improve the attractiveness of products and services, or widen the distinction between the company and its competition. Clients and competition would definitely notice the advance.
  3. SCORING RUNS Scoring runs are those innovations that produce incremental benefits for the company. The company and its clients would likely notice the improvement.
  4. BASE-HITS Base-hits are incremental improvements. The improvements would likely be noticed within the organization and serve as setups for larger future gains. An organization can be working on big items that might result in a game-changing innovation or a home-run innovation while still scoring runs and racking up base hits. Leaders should be looking to make scoring runs every year and base hits every quarter while they work hard to find and execute on home runs and potential game-changers.

The key point is to widen the view of innovation. Innovation is not just for big initiatives from R&D or the head office. Innovation should occur with continuous discipline. This is something that broad areas of the organization can participate in and from which we can see consistent growth and improvement, even while the very big breakthroughs are being pursued. Leaders should look for ways to attain value in big and small ways over time.

What are some examples of each of the types of innovation (game-changers, home runs, scoring runs, and base hits) in your organization? How well has your organization done in terms of filling out its potential volume of innovation?


[Wondering how this and other innovation concepts might apply to your own situation? Feel free to contact me directly by calling 480-720-9551 or emailing gary@garycovertconsulting.com.]