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Innovation analysed from studies of successful companies

By Stern Curator on 29/12/15 10:00 AM

It seems counter-intuitive – trying to put a structure around innovation, which, after all, is about creating something new; about thinking ‘outside the box’. So what is innovation analysed? 

Nevertheless some academics at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School in the UK have done just that and published their results in a report sponsored by US telco giant AT&T: Six degrees of innovation: predicting transformative business models.

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The author say they have identified several characteristics of successful business model innovations that occur with robust regularity and that these result from matches between technology trends and supply and demand trends give rise to “Six Degrees of Innovation”





“We can diagnose some common patterns across the successful matching of the technological and market trajectories,” they say.

They list these as being

  • Tailor-made products and services that meet customers’ individual needs; such as downloading personalised apps to a mobile phone.
  • Sustainability; where companies minimise waste and manage resource costs.
  • Jointly owned assets; such as peer-to-peer businesses.
  • Only paying for service that is used; such as car-share companies.
  • Effective monitoring of supply chains; such as businesses which use handheld tracking systems to better monitor their operations.
  • Using data to easily adapt to customer needs; such as clothing companies that can quickly produce new designs to meet fashion trends.

The key technologies trends identified as enabling and driving innovation are: the mobile Internet; cloud computing; the Internet of things; the connected car; process optimisation and customisation technologies and sensing/interfacing and material technologies.

The report’s co-author, Stelios Kavadias, professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation & Growth at the Judge Business School, said: “This is the most comprehensive study we have ever undertaken on innovation. The Six Degrees of Innovation are present in successful innovators across all industry sectors. We believe this concept breaks new ground in identifying how and why transformational innovation occurs.”

The idea is that, equipped with these insights businesses will be able to be more innovative. The authors suggest that their report could provide business leaders with new tools and a practical guide to recognise opportunities for successful business transformation.

“It means that company leaders can assess their business’s propensity to innovate, and develop contingency plans that minimise the risk of disruption and failure.  Moreover, by examining cases of transformational innovation business leaders can identify the required technology changes to adjust their business model along such ‘regularities’.”

Steve McGaw, Chief Marketing Officer, Business Solutions, at the study’s sponsor, AT&T, said: “The Six Degrees of Innovation is a tool for executive teams to adapt their business models and adopt the right technology to succeed.”

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