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Innovation in an existing market

Part 2 on removing serendipity in innovation

3 Horizon model adopted from Baghai, Coley and White (1999)
3 Horizon planning for innovation

The key to innovation is a process of marrying ideation and commercialization and is about matching a problem and solution. Any innovation, hence, involves deep knowledge of both a problem and a solution. Innovation can be classified into two broad categories, push innovation and pull innovation, based on where you start from, problem or solution.

If an organization identifies a real customer problem/need first, and then search for a solution, this is PULL method. Under this method, commercial applications are known before technology is developed.

If an organization develops new idea or technological capabilities first, and then search for problems they can solve with them, this is PUSH method. Under this method, commercial applications are known after technology is developed.

Push and pull innovation sit well with the 3 horizon concept; horizon 1 initiatives are predominantly PULL innovations, while horizon 3 initiatives tend to focus on PUSH innovations. Horizon 2 initiatives are likely to involve both pull and push innovations.

Here is a table characterizing the 3 horizons and the type of innovations

3 horizon innovation characteristics
3 horizon innovation characteristics based on work between 2008 and 2016 by Penker et al

Here is a brief outline of the approach organizations can adopt for innovation in each of the horizons

Horizon 1

  • Speed of innovation is key and incremental innovation is quite sufficient.

  • Innovation in this sort of situation is clearly triggered by direct customer insight.

  • As a result, the ideation challenge is how are we going to deliver the customer insight.

  • These are perfect examples of pull innovation and organizations to have a robust process for identifying jobs that customers want done.

  • The outcome driven innovation (ODI) process developed by Tony Ulwick or the 10 types of innovation framework articulated by Larry Keeley et al. is very powerful in achieving this innovation goals.

Horizon 2

  • Involves pull innovation but start with customer insights which are yet to be addressed.

  • They offer an opportunity to be first to the market and generally involve a degree of radical innovation.

  • In most cases the solution requires development of competencies and business models.

  • As such there are possibly newer deployment of technological capabilities, which may already exists in many cases, involved.

  • Hypothesis driven ideation becomes an useful tool

  • In addition to ODI and 10 types of innovation framework, organizations must utilize the business model canvas framework.

Horizon 3

  • Results in radical innovation and is technology forward in outlook

  • Involves innovation push and starts with future scenarios and technology trends. Customers would in most cases not able to articulate such needs

  • The competencies required tend to be uncertain.

  • Scenario planning and development of multiple future scenario’s that result in a project portfolio is necessary

  • Where to play methodology developed by Sharon Tal and Marc Grubber is a very useful structured process for such innovations as is the lean start-up methodology developed by Steve Blank

We now know that such innovation can be done in a systematic fashion. The upcoming blogs will articulate these tools as well as organizations capabilities that enable success.

Hope this blog is useful to you and is insightful.

Do reach out to me if you need support for your innovation efforts.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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