The relationship between innovation and speed?

For too many people, innovation equals “it takes time”.

In some domains of activity, yes, it could take a significant amount of time, mainly when one confuse innovation and research. Some life sciences research are taking a long time to lead to some results (we are still looking for HIV eradication), even if the underlying technology is accelerating thanks to automation, robots, connected sensors, big data and faster experimentation cycles…

In our current world, we are facing innovation with multiple non-exclusive strategies, some of them originating significant disruptions. Is speed an obvious common factor ? My point of view in the following success stories below…


Continuous/evolutionary innovation

Incremental innovation: simply improving existing systems, products or services, making them better, faster, cheaper, easier, or adding few features. This kind of innovation is more considered as an evolution. Consider the new yearly model of your car. That’s it. It can be FAST because limited in scope. To illustrate this kind of innovation, I propose you to look at the Tesla Model S P85D leaving in the dust the previous king of Telsas, the P85.

Process innovation: it’s about being more effective or efficient for offers in established markets. Such process innovation can lead to real disruptions, like in the air transportation or in the fintech. Low-cost processes in the initial design of Ryan Air are not matchable by any incumbant major like Air France using incremental innovation (source McKinsey). And it’s FASTER to redesign a lean process from scratch than to reengineer an existing one, since the human factor will create a strong resistance to change.
Source: McKinsey - Go Digital or Die - November 2015, p15

Designing a mobile app for a bank registration process again is FASTER than optimizing the original branch-based process. It’s not a surprise that a new breed of mobile banking is happening on the market. Recently, a startuper declared to me that 80% of bank branches were to disappear by 2020.

McKinsey - Go Digital or Die 21

Discontinuous/revolutionary innovation (disruption)

Thanks to exponential technology, open source (crowdsourcing), cloud ubiquity and related communication tools, we have key SPEED enablers for all kinds of innovation. Do you have your teams up to speed in using those enablers?

Blue ocean / new market innovation:

The blue ocean innovation is a seek for new markets, where there is almost no competition. I had so many examples that I tried to be a bit disruptive by selecting one example in the food habits: The LIVIN farms hive, the world´s first desktop hive for edible insects. And seriously, this KickStarter crowdfunded project (another innovation to speed up testing consumer acceptance) can make a serious foray into world’s feeding problems.


Business model innovation: the “sharing economy” as the perfect example of a business model innovation. The entire concept is based on the usage of excess capacity of space, time, or anything which is not used at 100%. The equivalent in the business space is the use of connected computers on the net, the “cloud”, that has created the SaaS business model. We don’t pay anymore for a computer and software on premises, but for the usage of a service on a remote computer. By extension in the consumer space, the sharing economy makes the ownership not necessary any more for a usage. Thanks to the key SPEED enabler of technology, such new business model experimentations are fast and easy.

UX innovation: User eXperience is one of the angle of attack taken by startups to disrupt incumbent companies. The starting point is to observe the user experience while they complain in an existing situation. The picture below is worth a thousand words.


This kind of user experience analysis, the use of Google Map API, a payment gateway, and the use of the latest smartphone SDKs have led very quickly to the first version of Uber. It has taken by SPEED the taxi industry, which has not recovered yet from this disruptive newcomer.

I promote the experiment based culture and lean based methodologies since multiple years (design thinking, lean startup). Recent studies from the Boston Consulting Group have confirmed strongly all my directions, being lean, fast, technology enabled, customer centric and exploring out of the core (bcg – Most innovative companies 2015bcg.perspectives – The Rising Need for Innovation Speed and bcg.perspectives – Strong Innovators Are Lean Innovators).

Amazingly, the concept of being fast and lean is reused by copycats (Rocket-Internet being a industrial one in this respect). When a good business idea surfaces, it often takes not more than 2 months to be copied by other newcomers. Incumbents take more time to react, I will develop the reasons in a another post.

But it’s not enough, being lean and fast is unfortunately and usually not part of the corporate culture, while it’s completely achievable… more on that if you stay tuned. Don’t forget to register right below for my blog updates, I will elaborate on that topic in many ways in further posts.

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