The 3 Dimensions of Innovation

November 9, 2010 at 8:42 AM 2 comments

In my last post, I promised to delve into the 3 dimensions of innovation.

Product innovation – This is what we typically think of as innovation. Edison’s light bulb, the cellphone, anti-lock brakes. This kind of innovation makes a big impression up front, and it’s usually patentable, but it’s not where innovation ends. It’s where it starts.

Process Innovation – This is how we improve the process by which we create value. This can be much more difficult than product innovation. The recently-closed GM-Toyota joint venture in Fremont, California was an attempt by both companies to improve their processes. Toyota was able to do it, but GM failed.

Why? Process innovation often entails small, incremental improvements coming from people in the trenches, not the managers. GM could gain the insights, but couldn’t apply them to other factories – the people in white shirts felt too threatened listening and learning from people on the assembly line.

Promise Innovation – This is the most dynamic type, the one that offers the greatest opportunity. Here’s when you create new business models that create value – in effect, a new promise to your market.

FedEx’s great process innovation was its hub system. But its promise to customers – that they could deliver overnight – was what set it apart from the post office in the minds of customers. NetFlix’s promise innovation – movies delivered to your home – began by mail and has been reborn as downloading.

When you develop an innovation strategy, you need to look at all 3 dimensions. Keep in mind that the third of these – promise innovation – is the one that differentiates good companies from great ones. The boldness to create a new promise for customers is what drives a company to greatness.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

How Do You Measure Innovation? Agile Innovation

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. How Do You Measure Innovation? «  |  November 9, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    […] Rather than go into detail about the three dimensions here, I’ll talk about them in my next post. […]

  • 2. How High-Growth Companies Innovate «  |  March 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    […] To get a clear picture of the companies, we surveyed executives about how they approached the 3 dimensions of innovation: […]


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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at


"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters



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