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Patterns of Innovation [Business Models
Posted on August 17, 2016 @ 05:52:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Clayton Christenson is known his for ideas around disruptive innovation. Clayton has studied how leading technologies and companies are displaced by startup companies. He observed a pattern in how they operated below the radar of the market leaders, how the market leaders success led to their own demise, how the technology often succeeds by turning non-consumers into consumers (e.g., personal computers), and so on. He has many documented case studies to support his theories about how disuptive innovation happens. His theory amounts to recognizing a pattern that many disruptive companies fit. There is some debate about whether you can use these disruptive innovation patterns to create or identity unicorn startups. I think the disruptive innovation pattern is definately worthy of study and you may be able to execute a startup or an investment based upon disruptive innovation theory.

Clayton's theory does not explain all examples of innovation as it is mostly focused on giving an account of innovations that result in an industry disruption. Are there other patterns of innovation that we might identify? After giving it some thought yesterday I came up with two more patterns of innovation that I call "Unlocking The Potential" and "Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom".

In real estate, one type of innovation is to "unlock the potential" of a site. There may be a building or site that other people do not regard that highly. A real estate innovator might see it quite differently and follow an execution pattern that turns that recognition into a project that creates increased value in the eyes of others as well.

The "let a thousand flowers bloom" type of innovation occurs when an innovator conducts a large number of simultaneous experiments in the hopes that a few of them might make it to the next round of experimentation. Through this process the entrepreneur hones in on the opportunities that seem most promising and viable. New farmers and pharmaceutical companies often exhibit this pattern of innovation.

Real estate and farming might not be regarded as particularly innovative industries; however, we all have to be innovative in some capacity to survive and trive. While a theory of disruptive innovation may explain alot of innovation we see in the news, it may not account for these less glamorous types of innovation. We need more than one pattern to recognize and characterize all the types of innovation that are out there.

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