Chapter 14

Strength in Numbers

Innovations Using a Combination of Types Generate Better Returns

As children, we like our music simple. Happy Birthday to You. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Row, Row, Row Your Boat. One note at a time, steady cadence, melody is everything.

Thus it is with simple innovation. These use one or two types of innovation and every company needs to pursue them. Failure to consistently, relentlessly improve the known is one of the surest routes to failure. Unfortunately, too many firms do only simple innovation. In today’s contested markets, simple innovations alone are never enough for long-term success. They can build a lead on competitors, but they don’t create the firms, brands, or platforms that thrill us.

As we get older, the music we like gets more sophisticated too. At some point we learn to love chords, harmonies, complex rhythms, syncopation, themes, and variations. Similarly, when a market grows up and gets complicated, it demands more sophisticated innovation, which uses many types of innovation combined elegantly and orchestrated with care. Under the covers, inside your firm, these require working across internal boundaries and silos—challenges that bring additional complexity. You will cut through this with multi-disciplinary teams to bring in the necessary talent and knowledge, and with systems in place to tell everyone how they can tackle tough challenges with curiosity, confidence, and courage.

Naturally, sophisticated innovations are more ...

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