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Business innovation has been recognized as one of the core drivers of business value. However, generating innovation breakthroughs for future growth is still a challenge facing many organizations today.
The guide aims to democratize this process so that every individual in an organization can come up with innovation breakthroughs to drive their business into the future. This methodology has been used successfully with hundreds of organizations from different industries around the world to deliver innovation strategies.

Table of Content:

  • Innovation Breakthroughs

  • Growth Platforms

  • Business Concepts and Business Cases

  • Individuals and Teams

  • Structured Approach in Problem Solving

  • Thinking Styles


Purpose and Audience of the Guide


The primary purpose of Guide is to identify good practices on Innovation Breakthroughs using the "Innovation Management Body of Knowledge". By "Good practice", we mean that there is general agreement that the correct application of these skills, tools and techniques can enhance the chances of success over a wide range of different innovation initiatives. Good practice does not mean that the knowledge described should always be applied uniformly on all projects; the innovation project team is responsible for determining what is appropriate for any given project.

The Guide also provides and promotes a common language for discussing, writing, and applying innovation and innovation management. Such a standard language is an essential element of a profession.


This standard provides a foundational reference for anyone interested in the profession of innovation and
innovation management. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Senior executives

  • Innovation program managers, project managers or other innovation initiative project teams

  • Members of an innovation management committee

  • Managers and team members under Business Development, Strategy, or R&D

  • Consultants and other specialists in innovation and innovation management, and related fields

  • Educators teaching innovation management

  • Trainers developing innovation management education programs

Demystifying Innovation

When it comes to big breakthrough ideas, there is no one “Eureka” moment. All of us have the potential to create new, great ideas and the capacity to make it reality one day. If everyone has the potential to have great ideas, why aren’t we all becoming genius innovators? Can we figure out if some people can connect the dots faster because they have more dots to begin with - and how we can all get these dots.

Hitendra Patel is the Managing Director of the Center for Innovation, a global innovation consulting company based in Cambridge, MA. He has helped drive innovation transformation initiatives at companies like Hewlett Packard, LG, Cadbury, Verizon, and P&G.

Innovation Breakthroughs 

We want to demystify innovation and share with you a simple framework to create your own innovation breakthroughs.  This framework was developed based on our research and analysis of similarities and difference of over a hundred innovation breakthroughs across industries and geographies. 


Our first observation was that many of the innovation breakthroughs were similar and could be grouped together into at least ten categories like Going Green where companies like GE and BP were creating water desalination plants and solar energy solutions for Libya and Philippines, respectively. Another category was Customized Comfort where companies like Adidas and Starbucks were able to mass produce products and yet make each product customized for each customer.  Another example was Building Blocks where companies like eBay and YouTube provided basic infrastructure for everyone to co-create new solutions and value.   The other seven categories were Neglected Niche, Providing Protection, Simply Sufficient, Intel Inside, Always Available, Trusted Transactions, Customized Comfort, Simply Sufficient and Expensive Expendables.


To have an innovation breakthrough,  it must


(1) be based on sustaining trend

(2) serve a basic human need

(3) have a proven business model

(4) combine the company assets and those of a partners in a unique way to create and capture value.

If you are going to use this framework, then you may want to consider the following specific trends around sustainability, mobility and connectivity, bottom of the pyramid and trusted transactions; the following human needs around customization or personalization, safety or simplicity; and business models that depends on co-creation, bait and hook or  branding.

Innovation Techniques

Individuals and Teams

The first involves using individuals and teams to put disparate pieces of information together. When someone thinks of an idea, it is usually incomplete. We call this an idea fragment. For example, you may think that using a new type of technology is a great idea. But in reality, this is just an idea fragment. You also need to think about the production, offering, delivery, market, partners and business models that will make your idea complete and a success. Collaboration with others within your organization can help make your idea fragment more complete by adding their dots to your dots.

"Invest to Robust Business Concepts, Not Idea Fragments" - Dr. Hitendra Patel, MD at the IXL Center

Structured Approach in Problem Solving

The second innovation fundamental requires a structured approach for creative problem-solving. All problem-solving requires spending the right amount of time on the setup, divergence, connecting and convergence processes to be effective. The right mindset and a structured approach to creative problem solving are critical.

Before you start problem-solving, you need to identify the problem and set a goal for what needs to be solved. Once you have identified your goal, the next step is to diverge. Re-frame the problem and generate ideas. One person will never have all of the possible solutions to answer any problem. Therefore, everyone on the team should be encouraged to put forward new ideas, options and alternatives. Explore all possible solutions but avoid being critical and skeptical of any ideas during this stage, no matter how impossible an idea may seem. After diverging, the next step is to connect. Organize and combine ideas and idea fragments in new ways. Group similar ideas to make them more complete and robust. Once you have connected ideas, the next step is to converge. Prioritize which idea you want to develop further, and refine it. Being analytical, critical and cautious will be helpful during this stage. Note that in the convergence stage, you and your team should not be collecting new ideas anymore, but instead should be making a decision. The last step is to emerge. Set the action plan on how to take the prioritized idea forward.

Thinking Styles

The third innovation fundamental uses different thinking styles throughout the innovation process. We use different thinking styles for different situations, but it is particularly important in innovation to use all six of these thinking styles.

It is important in innovation that you use all six thinking styles. But it is also important to be aware of which stage
you are in, and to use the appropriate style at each stage in the process.

Cross-Functional Teams and Networks

For Successful Innovation in the Long Term, Find Ways to Integrate New Initiatives with Existing Systems

Another innovation fundamental includes working with cross-functional teams and networks to get different perspectives. Cross functional teams consist of individuals with business discipline expertise, such as finance, marketing, production and IT, but who work collaboratively on issues requiring diverse resources. Bringing people together from different disciplines can improve problem solving, result in better insights and solutions, and lead to more thorough decision making. However, teams may encounter challenges beyond the expertise of an individual or team. Having powerful networks and sponsors that members of the team can tap into to overcome these challenges is a key factor that will help drive concepts forward. As such, whenever possible, we do encourage to create diverse teams of international and/or cross-functional backgrounds to gain these benefits.

Innovation Breakthrough Process

There are five major steps to generate innovation breakthroughs, each with a set of activities and outputs associated with it.

Through this methodology, you will get a wealth of insights and business concepts that you and your innovation
project team can pursue on Monday morning.

  • A Strategic Innovation Portfolio that defines your innovation campaign or initiatives and establishes boundaries for innovation

  • 500+ insights or idea fragments across the whole value chain – production, offering, delivery, market,
    business models and partners

  • 5+ new opportunity spaces or Fields of Play for your business

  • 5+ new business concepts focused within each prioritized Fields of Play

  • 5+ business cases on business concepts that your innovation project team can review and develop

Growth Platforms 

A powerful tool that has helped hundreds of organizations to drive 10x growth. At IXL Center and with many of our clients, platform thinking has gone beyond the product and services platforms to innovation platforms. Innovation Platforms are a cluster of technologies, competencies, products, and associated market opportunities that have a significant future impact on the business and must be managed strategically.

Protocepting (Business Concepts and Business Case) 

Innovation Guru and IXL Senior Partner Ronald Jonash shares with you a proven methodology on developing actionable business cases and “protocepts” that will enable you to execute faster. Ron also introduces the framework of “Innovation 4.0” and how to leverage tools of simulation, visualization, virtualization and gamification to rapid test ideas and bring ideas to implementation and commercialization.

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