Where Does Innovation Come From? The Seven Sources of Innovation

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 4, 2015

Innovation. We all know how important innovating new ideas are for the growth and future of the any business. But where does “innovation” come from? Do you just wake up in the middle of the night screaming, “Eureka!” or is it more nuanced than that?

One of the most prolific management thought leaders, Peter Drucker, defined seven sources of innovation in his book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1985):

  1. shutterstock_277372325The Unexpected. This is indeed the Eureka moment where something unexpected happens that leads to a new product or service. You weren’t looking for it; the surprise found you! It is by far, the easiest and simplest source of innovation.
  2. Incongruities.  When there is a discrepancy between what is and what should be, you have an innovation opportunity. It’s that weird feeling, an incongruity, between expectations and results. It’s a disruption in the logic or rhythm of a process. It just doesn’t feel right.
  3. Process Needs. Perhaps there is a bottleneck or a weak link in a critical process. A substantial (not just a tweak) improvement to the process leads to innovation. The process innovator is always searching and saying, “There has to be a better way!”
  4. Industry and Market Structure. Industry and markets are always in a continual state of flux. Regulations change, product lines expand, and others shrink. Those that watch these changes may recognize untapped opportunities for new types of products and services.
  5. Demographics.  The changing demographics (age, education, disposable income, etc.) and moving populations are rich sources of ideas for creating new products and services.
  6. Changes in Perception. Meaning and Mood. Over time, populations and people change. The way they view life changes, where they take their meaning from and how they feel about things changes over time. Savvy innovators detect these shifts and leverage them.
  7. New Knowledge. New technologies, knowledge and discoveries can completely change an industry. These types of innovations are usually what people mean when they talk about innovation, yet these sources have the longest lead times to commercial development.

I suggest you go exploring!  Take each of these sources of innovation and ask, what is going on today and what are the trends going out 3-5 years?  What problem can you solve or opportunity can you leverage?  These are rich sources of innovative thinking.

It may not be a Eureka moment, but ALL innovation starts with a small seed of an idea and is refined with research, crowd sourcing and experimentation.  Enjoy exploring!

Kristin Arnold is a professional meeting facilitator who specializes in high stakes meeting facilitation. She is both an interactive speaker and an engaging trainer.  She is passionate about teamwork, hence founding Quality Process Consultants, Inc. a consulting  firm focused on building extraordinary teams in the workplace. You can read more of her work in one of her books Team Basics, Email Basics, Team Energizers, or Boring to Bravo.

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Photo credit – Istockphoto.com

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