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The Third Way: Innovation Decisions

Posted by Joe Antle on September 21, 2018 5:10 PM EDT
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The Third Way to innovation success depends on four key decisions.....

.... with the most important decision being Decision 1:  What Is Your Key Product?

Let me back up just a bit here and say that Chip and I traded places here.  He asked if I would let him write one of the key elements to disruptive innovation blogs and for me to take the first cut at the four decisions of Third Way innovations.  I said that would be an interesting approach and a worthy one since both of us have read the work of the authors of these two fundamental approaches to innovation.

As Chip wrote effectively in his earlier two blogs on Third Way innovation, balancing the need to have innovation produce large and meaningful results with the idea of increasing the odds of success while not exhausting resources is a challenge with any innovation initiative that aims to make a large and sustainable improvement.  Chip's focus as a management consultant is on providing pragmatic advice that produces results.  So Third Way innovation jumps right to the center of that approach.

The centerpiece for Third Way innovation is Decision 1-what is the core product or service that an innovator brings to the market?  This key question is very important because of the basic premise of Third Way innovation which is that the innovation is in complementary products and services that can be integrated into the core product or service to create an entirely new and much more valuable solution.  The idea is not to abandon the core product or service in a "swing for the fence" effort to create a breakthrough new product or service, or even bigger, new marketplace.  Rather, the innovation is around defining and bringing complementary products and services that become sort of a moat around the core product and service, making it very difficult for competitors to duplicate the value offered by the integrated set of offerings.

Now, this is not a wholly brand new concept.  For years, researchers have argued the case for integrated products and services and for synergy amongst various products...and for whole solutions.  You get my point.

What makes the Third Way really stand apart is the clear purpose for focusing innovation efforts on complementary products that bring entirely new value and purpose for the core product.  So, understanding in a portfolio of products and services the core product or service that serves as the foundation for the innovation efforts that complement it and embolden it and give it a new purpose is really the big first step.

While breakthrough or breakaway success is not assured by getting Decision 1 right, it is almost certain that if you get the first decision wrong then the odds of success-big sustainable success-drop precipitously.  But like every puzzle, it isn't really one piece that makes the puzzle work, it's the entire set of pieces for how it fits together that can create the innovation magic for a solution that works!

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