"Innovation" Becomes A Useful Term When Put Into The Right Context. A Pragmatic Approach

Schweiger & Partners


founded his firm's strategic Asian branch office in Singapore, which has become a major hub for IP matters in Asia. Martin Schweiger has his own blog, IP Lawyer Tools, that produces materials in helping to guide bright young people through the mine fields that the intellectual property (IP) profession has. It shows you specific solutions that can save you time and increase your productivity.
And innovation experts still think that they create better terms by adding something descriptive to the term "innovation", in the hope of creating a distinctive expression that they will be remembered for.
Singapore Strategy
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"Innovation" is a buzzword, I admit this freely.

And innovation experts still think that they create better terms by adding something descriptive to the term "innovation", in the hope of creating a distinctive expression that they will be remembered for.

The following are some of the terms that I have encountered so far:

Breakthrough Innovation, Pioneer Innovation, Ideation, Invention (despite there being patentable inventions vs. non-patentable inventions), Disruptive Innovation, Radical innovation, Architectural Innovation, Schumpeter Innovation, Classical Innovation, Customer-Centric Innovation, Open Innovation, Orbit Shifting Innovation, Outcome-Driven Innovation, Relentless Innovation, Reverse Innovation, Stage-Gate Innovation, Value Innovation, 4th Generation R&D Innovation, and many more.

In very short words, nothing is clear when it comes to such terms for "innovation".

I have even found a website with 15 definitions of innovation (click here) and when I read these definitions given by 15 so-called "experts in the field" they rather remind me of the old Indian parable of the "Blind Men and The Elephant" (click here).

I do not think that it is useful to define the term "innovation".

But what should we use instead?

The Term "Innovation" Needs A Different Approach

Being an engineer by training this is not a new situation for me. There are some terms in physics that cannot be defined further by asking "what is (term)?".

Example "force": the question "what is force?" does simply not make any sense. When an engineer (not a scientist!) reaches that point, he would rather change the question to "what does force?" and then he is in business. Lots of practical answers can be given from there: forces can deform bodies, can accelerate them, can keep them at a stable position, can decelerate them, etc. etc.

Now apply this technique to the term "innovation": ask the question "what does innovation?".

The immediate answer is: Innovation provides growth.

And when we talk about growth" then we mean "increment over time".

In other words, innovation happens when you do something that is
a) new
and that
b) generates profit
and all that
c) done in a short amount of time.

That means also that if something does not provide growth then it cannot be an innovation.

Applied to our daily inventions: anything that does not fulfill the criteria b) and c) is inventing as a hobby" only.

Growth In Business In Terms Of The Ansoff Matrix

The well-known Ansoff Matrix is a simple 2×2 matrix that is used to determine the risks that come with different approaches to commercial growth:


In very short words: growth with new products in new markets is riskier than growth in the existing market with the existing product.

It goes without saying that the returns in the existing market with the existing product are smaller than the returns that come with a riskier approach. And if you think that you can stay in the existing market with the existing product then, at one point in time, you will experience no growth anymore.

The Ansoff Matrix can be used to decide which growth strategies should or should not be applied, depending on where a company is in its lifecycle and its 'risk tolerance'.

The Four (4) Growth Strategies Of The Ansoff Matrix

  • Growth strategy 1: increase market penetration by selling more existing products to existing markets.
    Do this by: Decreasing prices to attract new customers, increasing promotion and distribution efforts, acquiring a competitor in the same marketplace, and others.
  • Growth strategy 2: Push product development by developing new products that better meet the need of existing markets.
    Do this by investing in R&D to develop new products, by acquiring a competitor's product and merging resources to create a new product, by forming strategic partnerships with other firms to gain access to each partner's distribution channels/brand, etc.
  • Growth strategy 3: Push market development by finding new markets for existing products.
    Do this by catering to a different customer segment, by entering into a new domestic market (expanding regionally) or into a foreign market (expanding internationally), etc.
  • Growth strategy 4: Push diversification by developing new products to sell to new markets.
    This is considered to be the riskiest strategy because it requires both MARKET and PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT. You can expect at least 30% growth or 30% costs savings when you follow the diversification strategy.
    Do this by 'related diversification' where many of the company's capabilities and know-how, and synergies can be leveraged in an adjacent market space, or by 'unrelated diversification' into a completely white spot on the market map.

In a side note only: there is also 'geographic diversification' which is the same as 'market development by expansion' (Growth Strategy 3). This has nothing to do with 'diversification'.

And credits to Rich McDonnell and Matthew Walrab for highlighting the and discussing the Ansoff Matrix with me. Thank you!

Innovation Meets The Ansoff Matrix

We have above outlined two definitions of growth.

The first definition of growth comes as the result of Innovation, and the second definition of growth comes in terms of business strategies.

Now let's match the two definitions, taking my own 4×4 Innovation Strategy as an example. Download my FREE book if you want to know more about the 4×4 Innovation Strategy (click here).


And this is the outcome, a comparison table of terms:


When you read my book "The 4×4 Innovation Strategy" you will see that I am talking about product and market development, as well as about diversification. It was my goal to provide an umbrella for innovation.

You are now ready for my recorded talk of 26 December 2021

Download audio here

Note: the audio quality of the above talk is only 5/10, so I may re-publish a better version at a later time.
In my talk, I am providing some outlooks to other areas of interest within the area of innovation, such as Innovation Management (slide 12), Human Ressources (slide 13), and Marketing (slide 15).
You can download the slides of my talk on SlideShare (click here) or here from my website: Innovation and how to classify it 261221


Innovation is a buzzword. Don't use it if you cannot explain what it stands for.

Explain instead what innovation does when asked for a definition.

Martin "4×4 Innovation" Schweiger

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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