Chapter 17

Pattern Recognition

See How Industries and Markets Shift—and Learn from Those Who Saw the Signs and Acted on Them

Two kinds of change impinge on innovation. Mostly what we see is the relentless evolution within industries that demands and drives continuous improvement. Changes in microchips make more functionality easy and affordable in our gadgets. Our cars, appliances, and smartphones steadily get more features and capabilities; our detergents make the whites whiter; our service industries become more responsive and customer-centric. Simply put, stuff gets better as market researchers discover what people need, and engineers and designers work their magic. Think of this as improving the known. It never stops.1

Ah, but now and then industries change fundamentally. This is harder to spot, much more ambiguous, and vastly more valuable to get right. Often it takes a special form of courage to tackle this kind of change—though good methods can de-risk the challenges and help lift the fog when you are trying to peer through it to imagine alternative futures. We term this inventing the new, and our central assertion is that this especially valuable, and historically rare, form of innovation is becoming easier to execute more reliably.

Next, we will deconstruct some firms, fields, and moments where leaders in tough competitive situations were able to squint at them to see different possibilities. With today’s greater connectivity, better access to capabilities and capital, ...

Get Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.