Innovative ideas are not about creative sparks of getting something new and exciting. Creating excitement out of new invention ideas is not enough to help customers improve their jobs and profit from them. For example, despite creating excitement, customers did not rush to buy Edison’s Gramophone invention—resulting in gathering dust over a decade. Similarly, after showing impressive demonstrations, Humanoid robots are yet to take over household chores. Besides, various simple, innovative ideas for engineering students’ capstone design projects end up in a junkyard. Similarly, numerous new innovative ideas for daily life get forgotten before the next day sun rises. On the other hand, upon experiencing multiple rejections, ideas like photocopying and digital cameras have grown into large, profitable businesses.
Invariably, business Innovation ideas surface with a faint signal of latent potential and keep rapidly growing once noises are removed and reach the adoption of critical mass. Hence, innovative ideas that highly matter are those that begin in a humble form and keep growing through a flow of complementary ideas, leading to setting a new normal and generating profitable business.
Purpose and importance of innovative ideas
Innovative ideas help us improve quality and reduce costs to serve customers’ purposes better, profitably. The primary purpose of them is to profitably offer improved means to customers to get their jobs done better. Innovative ideas substitute (i) material, (ii) energy, (iii) labor, (iv) time, (v) pollution and (vi) emission and create additional (vii) willingness to pay. Besides, sometimes, they create positive externality effects. For example, due to innovative idea flow, battery pack powering electric vehicles or smartphones is getting lighter to store the same amount of energy. Increasingly, they also need less time for charging. Similarly, the LED light bulb idea has become a better alternative to CFL and energy-hungry incandescent lamps because they produce better quality light by consuming less material and energy, and reducing emissions and pollution.
Due to the ability to improve quality and reduce cost, innovative ideas are crucial in expanding the market, gaining more significant market share, growing revenue, and increasing profit. Hence, there has been a profit-making competition from innovative ideas. However, not all creative ideas succeed in winning competition and generating profitable revenue. Thus, more than 75 percent innovations retire before generating profit.
Besides, irrespective of the greatness, a single innovative idea is not good enough to serve customer purpose better or ferrate profitable revenue. Moreover, sustaining creative ideas to diffuse the market demands facing competition and leveraging externalities. Hence, creating scale, scope, and positive externalities is vital in leveraging innovative ideas.
Examples of frequently asked questions
- Future invention ideas—urgency in getting jobs done better is a vital force behind innovative ideas. Hence, future invention ideas may include finding clean energy sources, highly safe modes of transportation, radiation hazard-free mobile communication, sharp yield improvement of food production and so on.
- Science innovative ideas—Due to the role of supplying knowledge to the creative process, science-based innovative ideas have been growing. Some of the science innovative ideas include MRI, semiconductors, and wearable health monitoring devices.
- Innovative ideas for daily life—There have been plenty of examples of innovative ideas for daily life. For example, turning a discarded plastic bottle into water sprinklers, attaching a cart to bicycles, and cutting grass in a circular area by tying up lawn mower at the center point are examples of innovations for daily life.
- Simple innovative ideas for student projects—For science fairs or capstone design projects, simple innovative ideas for students include making mobile robots, sensor data-controlled precision watering to plants, and detecting and tracking individuals.
Twelve examples of innovative ideas—creating prosperity and building business
There have been numerous examples of innovative ideas. In addition to millions of grassroots, creative ideas we generate daily, global patent filling in 2022 alone reached 3.46 million. However, not all them have similar implications on living standards, businesses, and economic prosperity. Some innovative ideas grow as radical innovation, unleashing creative destruction and Disruptive innovation effects. Twelve examples of high-performing innovative ideas are as follows:
Washing machine— In 1851, James King came up with the idea of a washing machine using a drum. The role of washing machines in saving labor and time to clean our clothes is very high. Due to its immense importance, worldwide sales of washing machines reached USD 50 billion in 2022.
Renewable energy—Accounting for 25% of the U.S. total, the electric power sector was the second largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, there is limited stock of fossil fuels. Hence, the idea of solar cells and windmills for producing electric energy is precious for reducing emissions and increasing energy security.
Automobiles and Electric Vehicles—Of course, Carl Benz’s automobile invention in 1886 was an excellent idea for getting relief from horse manure. However, its growing population, reaching over 1.4 billion, has become a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the importance of the idea of powering automobiles with battery or fuel cells appears to be immense.
LED light bulb—For sure, the incandescent light bulb was a great innovative idea. However, the wastage of as high as 85 percent of energy by it was a serious concern. Hence, energy-saving LED light bulb has been a great innovative idea.
Digital camera—The idea of roll-film hand camera in 1888 by George Eastman was a great innovation—seeding the creation of a large business, Kodak. Still, in 1980, we used to capture images on film. However, the digital camera has emerged as a far better alternative innovative idea due to its material, energy, time, and labor-saving role.
Microwave oven—In 1945, Percy Spencer’s accidental observation of melting chocolate bars in a microwave laboratory led to the idea of the microwave oven innovation. Subsequently, Raytheon launched a vast—about 6 feet in height and weighing more than 750 pounds—microwave oven. Hence, customers did not rush to buy this $5000 colossal machine despite its quick heating magic. Instead, an additional Flow of Ideas distilling from Sharp’s 20 years of R&D led to profiting from this magical idea by releasing the countertop version.
Smartphone— In 2022 alone, vendors sold 1.39 billion smartphones worldwide. Of course, it’s a great innovative idea. However, the first smartphone, IBM’s Simon, released in 1994, faced sales of only 50,000 units. To reach this level of success, the smartphone idea has to cause creative destruction to various products.
Internet and e-mail: Both Internet and e-mail are great ideas. They have grown from humble beginnings into a major transformation force. From postal to telegram, they took over many services.
Airplane— Upon experimenting with the idea of a flying machine over four years, Wilbur and Orville Wright demonstrated the idea of the first successful powered airplane in 1993. Over more than 100 years, this idea has grown into jumbo jets. The global aviation industry has grown by flying more than 4.5 billion passengers in 2019.
Three-party business model—Google could not find a scalable business for its search engine idea. Hence, it came up with the idea of the three-party business model—making the main product free for the users. However, revenue is made from the 3rd party—advertisers.
Production process automation—Innovative ideas are not limited to only products. Production processes are an essential area to benefit from innovative ideas. For example, automation is a great creative idea for saving material, labor, time, and energy. Hence, more than 85 percent of automobile production tasks is now done by automation.
EUV lithography—Lithography is essential in producing increasingly complex and energy-saving microchips. Notably, the lithography technique using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light source has become a critical building block in the US-China chip war. However, to turn the faint potential of the EUV lithography idea into a commercial innovation, Dutch ASML had to invest $10 billion in R&D over 20 years.
Types of Innovation
There have been three significant classifications of innovations:
Product innovation–Product innovation refers to physical tools or services we develop and advance through innovative ideas. For example, the iPhone is a product innovation in the category of physical devices, and video delivery through streaming over the Internet is an example of service innovation.
Process innovation—Using robotics in automobile production is an example of process innovation. Process innovation refers to improving the efficacy and efficiency of production processes through innovative ideas.
Business model innovation – Business model innovation refers to changes in the modality of delivering and capturing value. For example, Google and Facebook have created success through three-party business model innovation.
Micro vs. radical innovative ideas
Innovation ideas have varying implications. They vary from innovative ideas for daily life to innovative project ideas for students. The next category of ideas refers to them, which grow as big business, unleashing creative destruction forces. We also need a series of ideas for incrementally growing radical ideas.
Grassroots innovative ideas—Innovative ideas that we generate through the reorganization of readily available artifacts for getting our daily life jobs done better belong to grassroots innovative ideas. Although each has a micro contribution, collectively, we generate billions of them. Hence, the collective contribution of grassroots creative ideas is substantial.
Incremental ideas for nurturing great ideas and sustaining innovation— Incremental ideas make small advancements of existing inventions. But their importance is paramount. All great innovations emerge in primitive form. Hence, we need a flow of ideas to incrementally advance them to reach a radical stage. Besides, once released in the market, all innovations suffer from competition. Hence, innovators need a flow of incremental innovations to release successive better versions.
Creative destruction and disruptive innovation ideas—We are all after disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation takes place due to switching failure of incumbent players to creative destruction waves. Hence, creative destruction and disruptive innovative ideas refer to the reinvention of matured products through the change of technology core, succeeding in unleashing technology disruption on existing products, skills, jobs, and businesses.
Ideas for innovation waves—We have witnessed five innovation waves, causing long-run business cycles. We are now at the cusp of the sixth wave. Ideas for innovation waves are those that reinvent a large number of matured products by the emerging technology cores and unleash a new wave of growth.
Innovative ideas shape the customer experience, market, and society
Although the implication of micro ideas is limited, ideas unleashing creative destruction have far-reaching consequences on how customers get their jobs done, how the market behaves, and how society transforms. For example, digital transformation in education will have a transformative consequential effect at all levels. Besides, although competition plays a vital role in growing innovations, innovative ideas of software and networks have been accentuating market power, resulting in winners taking it all. Thus, innovative ideas shape the Market Economy.
Ideas are endless. They have been flowing, transforming customer experiences, the market, and society. And they will keep flowing. Some of the future innovative ideas like autonomous vehicles, metaverse, electric vehicles, and digital banks will have profound effects, fueling a megatrend of transformation.
Profiting from innovative ideas
Of course, innovation is at the core of developing a profitable business. Besides, we are all innovative. It’s not difficult for us to produce ideas, notably for taking advantage of digital technology possibilities. However, profiting from creative ideas demands generating a systematic flow of ideas from crossing the threshold and winning the competition. Moreover, the profit-making journey from innovative ideas is fraught with pervasive technology uncertainties. Notably, AI uncertainty highly matters. For guidance, we should pay attention to innovation principles. We should also focus on assessing the scalability of ideas and how to make them scalable.
Underlying forces of innovative ideas—how to be innovative?
The main underlying force of innovative ideas is the urgency of profiting from helping customers get their jobs done better. For idea generation, we need to feed our creativity with the knowledge and urgency of getting jobs done better. Hence, science plays an essential function in innovative ideas because it supplies knowledge. Besides, often, technology invention becomes a new invention core for creating a flow of innovative ideas. For example, sensors, connectivity, cloud platforms, and smartphones have become sources of numerous digital innovation ideas. Similarly, machine learning through training samples has become a technology core for AI and intelligent city innovation ideas. These technology cores have consequently become the basis of innovative tech Startups and entrepreneurship ideas.
Of course, creativity plays a vital role in innovation. However, random idea generation is not sufficient enough. Instead, we should focus on empathy and systematic ideation to make ideas relevant in serving customers better and winning the competition race.
One of the frameworks has been design thinking–encompassing five steps: (i) empathy, (ii) define, (iii) ideate, (iv) prototype, and (v) test. Moreover, for producing ideas, we need to focus on strategic technology possibilities. Some of them are (i) changing mechanical components with electrical and electronics, (ii) changing hardware with software, (iii) leveraging 3rd party component plugins for positive externalities, (iv) changing cognitive role with sensors and software, and so on.
Competition force and customer preference are vital in innovative ideas to succeed, diffuse, and generate profit. For example, despite having a large pool of creative minds and a staggering $40 billion annual R&D investment, Google’s graveyard is already populated by 293 (as of Nov 2023) dead innovative ideas. Similarly, Honda has placed its ASIMO at rest upon spending $500 million in R&D and causing global excitement.