Six Directions for Next Generation Innovation

I’m reading a quite-interesting ebook on Next Generation Innovation, published by Bpifrance — the French Banque publique d’investissement (Public Investment Bank), a business finance and development organization with mission “to serve the future” — in collaboration with the Next Generation Internet Foundation (FING). (Here’s a direct ebook PDF link; or click here for a cover page in French with download links on the right, under “A télécharger.”)

I’ve written on innovation myself, applying a very simple framework to classify examples within my own technology specializations, for instance in my 2014 article, Sentiment Analysis Innovation Sources. But if your innovation aim goes beyond casual reporting — if you want to systematize and promote positive change — a much thorough analysis is in order. Bpifrance and FING provide just that analysis in their ebook.

The Bpifrance-FING work provides a comprehensive multi-dimensional framework for innovation assessment. It looks at six directions —

  • Sales and Marketing Innovation
  • Product, Service, and Usage Innovation
  • Technological Innovation
  • Process and Organizational Innovation
  • Business Model Innovation
  • Social Innovation

— and classifies a number of companies according to the primary focal direction for each company, of the above six,. It positions each company along a horizontal axis ranging between two innovation poles —

  • Incremental Innovation (improving what exists)
  • Radical Innovation (transforming the market, creating a whole new market)

This is a report graphic —

Innovation focal points and type, according to the Bpifrance model
Innovation focal points and type for a sampling of companies, according to the Bpifrance-FING model

— but you’re going to need to read the full ebook to really get at the work’s many deep insights. Those insights reside in the ebook’s review of other analysts’ work and in definitions, case studies, examples, descriptions of innovation models, and the many, many assessment questions proposed.

Questions are essential.

I’ll provide another clip. This one is an example of a finer-grained classification of firms’ initiatives according to key questions the act as subcategories within the Sales and Marketing Innovation category.

Assessment of Sales and Marketing Innovation, according to Bpifrance
Assessment of Sales and Marketing Innovation, according to Bpifrance & FING

Here’s one seemingly good idea that you’ll find in the above graphic —

ColaLife:  An antidiarrheal kit inserted in cola crates without loss of space, delivered to the poor, rated midway on the Incremental/Radical axis in the question category “Does it introduce novel packaging, or new product/service presentation?”

— but I must say, I’m left wondering, How did it do? Did the kits reach intended recipients? Was this initiative effective, that is, did it save lives or reduce the incidence, severity, or consequences of cases? Did this innovative idea prove to be a good one, once it was implemented?

Next Generation Innovation leaves me wanting more, specifically, an extension of the Bpifrance-FING innovation-assessment framework to cover impact, cost, and risk, both before-the-fact estimation and after-the-fact measurement. As the saying goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. For a given idea, how do you decide whether you should? And how do you learn from the experience in order to improve future assessments, decision-making, and results?

Classification alone, no matter how deep and comprehensive, won’t provide predictive confidence nor feedback on ROI. Classification aids in understanding, but understanding is only one step toward the larger goal, which is systematic, institutionalized innovation. But when it comes to innovation classification, I’ve seen nothing better and more useful than Bpifrance’s and FING’s Next Generation Innovation.

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