Which Innovation Model is Right for Your Company

The desire to recognize patterns (even when they don’t exist) and to sort, classify and categorize anything and everything is an inherent human desire. One can admire the desire and the motivation to do so even when the result is off-the-mark. Such is the case here.

Perhaps the most widely used (and one of the oldest) innovation taxonomies is the Doblin Group’s Ten Types of innovation. It has proven useful because it has two properties any useful taxonomy needs to have.


  1. The dimensions of categorization are easily identified and actionable
  2. It approximates a MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive) categorization

This categorization by BCG has neither of these properties. As an example, the definition of a ‘Solution Builder’ is that they ‘win by understanding and delighting customers’. There is not a company in existence that does not have this as a key part of their innovation efforts. This attribute that they use as a distinguishing factor in this categorization is, in fact, ubiquitous across all categories.

This is just one of the issues with this ‘study’. Others include cherry-picked examples that upon further examination don’t support the key categorization premise (e.g. Apple, J.P. Morgan, Amazon, Costco, etc.) and key characteristics (e.g. a mandate for growth) that apply pretty much universally.

Putting all this aside, it is useful to attempt to create models and taxonomies that reveal the essential attributes of innovative people, operations, organizations and strategies. Many of the definitions used in this ill-advised attempt (e.g. key characteristics and examples) are useful in their own right, just not in the way they are formulated in this post.

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