Counting and Classifying the Kinds of Innovation

Counting and classifying are fundamental modes of thought, seen in the earliest human communities. We classify the seasons, the objects in the sky, the animals and plants around us, the kinds of people we know and how we know them, minerals, food types, our possessions and so and so forth. Does it make sense to try to count and classify the varieties of innovation?

Yesterday I was at an Acumen Fund — Monitor Group event in Mumbai, where I met with Lina Sonne, who takes some joy in thinking about such questions. Over a drink I mentioned some of the research, thinking and writing we’re doing at CKS around the types of innovation. I’m thinking now that there are four kinds of innovation that one encounters in an emerging economy:

First there is Jugaad. The most basic, unstructured and local expression of innate human ingenuity, but triggered on account of the intersection between industrial and agricultural modes of production.

Then there is Frugal Innovation. The direction of that very same human ingenuity by mercantile parsimony towards the lowering of cost without any increase in value.

Then there is Product Development. Diverse techniques for routine, incremental, internal innovation may have been imported from Japan (automotive sector) or may have been adopted from northern Europe (telecom and mobile devices) or else from Silicon Valley (software and web services).

And finally there is Start-Up Innovation. This is a bit of a black swan that isn’t yet barking, in as much as we all want to see this happen in India, but the evidence is not there yet, that it is really there to be had. But this is the disruptive market-creating discovery of new value on account of multiple different alignments of product, technology platform, partner network, user-experience refinements, and other mash-ups of multiple other innovations that then goes on to define our social and economic life in a tremendous new way.

This at least, is the theory left over from last night. Comments? Criticism?

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4 Responses to Counting and Classifying the Kinds of Innovation

  1. rajish.k.r. says:

    I think innovation is sometimes parametric and critical to the context in which we relate to it.

  2. rajish.k.r. says:

    classifying such thoughts and models requires considering a lot of other things related to it. The context,environments is so critical. Which platform we are standing, which class we are putting down, which class we are rating high. Because the consequence of any innovation is totally unpredictable.

  3. Italo says:

    hi I like your classifying of innovation, it may be applied here in Peru too, where certainly there is a kind of jugaad innovation. I would like to know if your start-up innovation concept is just about small teams surging from scratch or it could be from inside established corporations or institutions?

  4. Aditya Dev Sood says:

    hi guys,

    first, yes, of course, all phenomena are very local… the point of creating ideal typical categories, however, is to be able to sort through the variety of social information that one encounters in any real-world context.

    second, to the question from italo: well, it looks like i was a but too far buzzed when i wrote down start-up innovation — i should really have called it new value creating old patterns disrupting innovation, with a nod both to clayton christensen and to joseph schumpeter. certainly, intra-organization innovation should also be acknowledge to be a part of this paradigm.

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