Problem and Context

Following the goal to further evolve and mature the product management practice at my company SDL, we were looking for new and different ways to review and revisit the existing product strategies and to identify potential for innovation. Additionally we looked for ways to approach innovation more holistically and not just on the product feature level, this is where I came across a framework called the “Ten Types of Innovation”.

The Ten Types of Innovation

The Ten Types of Innovation

It’s a research based framework by a consultancy called Doblin. They described the method in this short sentence:

For many years, executives equated innovation with the development of new products. But creating new products is only one way to innovate, and on its own, it provides the lowest return on investment and the least competitive advantage. The Ten Types of Innovation framework provides a way to identify new opportunities beyond products and develop viable innovations.

Doblin put a lot of effort into researching companies that were successful in launching innovative products and services to the market and why they were successful. They discovered that all great innovations, throughout history, comprise some combination of the same ten types of innovation, that’s the heart of their framework.

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I used the framework (they have a great book, iPad App, and Cards) to design a workshop format that allows to look at a business in a holistic, cross-discipline fashion with the goal to revisit its strategic objectives and identify major opportunities and challenges (internal and external). This creates the foundation to align, refine, and sharpen the overall business strategy, and set focus and priorities for short and mid-term development efforts and other initiatives across internal teams (e.g. Sales, Marketing, Professional Services, Partner Management, Product Management, Product Development, and Customer Success).


Workshop Format

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I defined a 2 day workshop format following a general design thinking principle. The first day practices divergent thinking and uses the Ten Types of Innovation as lenses to look at the specific business. Participants should be representing as many different internal disciplines and departments as possible and all have to prepare their own analysis of the general marketplace, the competition, and the internal business or product.

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On day one I walk the group through these 3 levels of zoom and focus: Marketplace, Competition, and Internal and everybody contributes their assessment. For the general marketplace we are collecting trends, opportunities, and threats. For Competition and Internal we are collecting strength and weaknesses – all for each of the ten types of innovation. This triggers a lot of communication, knowledge sharing and discussions throughout the day and creates a map to work from on the second day.

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On day two we analyze the map for each of the ten types of innovation and discuss an innovation strategy. Which of the types could best be combined to maximize their combined impact? What tactics and actions are required to make it happen? This is where we form a strategy and define what concrete actions and tactics are needed for each innovation type to get there. Here is where the beauty and the power of this method comes to shine. Usually, innovation is associated with new product features alone. But in the Ten Types of Innovation framework, product (and features) is just one category. I saw that strategies proposed some new product features but also a lot of other concrete actions so that not all actions end up on a development teams' backlog.

Finally we formulate the related hypothesis for each tactic and how we can test and validate them. This leads to concrete follow ups and can transition into actual prototyping for each tactic.

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The greatest outcome this two day workshop brought every time was the knowledge sharing and alignment of many different disciplines and teams. Going through these ten types of innovation together, sharing experiences, analysis, data and ideas brings people onto the same page and let them create a vision of where to go next together. This, and a concrete plan of action are the best outcomes of running such a workshop.