The Creative Company: How to Systematize Breakthrough Innovation

It is increasingly important for companies to be able to deliver a pipeline of serial Breakthrough (or Radical) Innovations in order to respond to emerging competition, disruptions to core business, and increasing customer power. To investigate this further, Arthur D. Little completed a survey  of over 80 large organizations  to explore best practices for how to deliver a consistent pipeline of Breakthrough Innovation – meaning radically-new products, performance features, business models or market space.

The results were both expected and unexpected, and yielded many valuable insights for companies wishing systematize their breakthrough innovation performance. Our analysis suggests that there are three overall learnings for companies wishing to improve their Breakthrough Innovation performance:

Learning 1: Define the strategic need

  1. Develop an explicit Breakthrough Innovation strategy with clear and quantified goals.

Learning 2: Organize to meet the need

  1. Ensure single-point accountability and commitment to Breakthrough Innovation from top management.
  2. Choose the right organizational model.
  3. Ensure cross-functionality, ring-fenced funding, and use of intrapreneurs.

Learning 3: Nurture high-value practices

  1. Focus on effective trend monitoring and business intelligence.
  2. Adopt agile processes and tools with fast iteration cycles.
  3. Actively manage the innovation ecosystem.
  4. Nurture a creative culture through multiple approaches.
  5. Fail again, fail better: move on and make an effort to leverage the lessons learned.

To enable you to explore these learnings in depth, we have detailed our findings and thoughts in the following articles:

  • Systematizing Breakthrough Innovation
    This viewpoint explores the overall findings from the Arthur D. Little Breakthrough Innovation Survey.
    Authors: Fredrik Härenstam, Ben Thuriaux-Alemán, Rick Eagar
  • Organizing for Breakthrough Innovation
    This article evaluates the various models available for achieving Breakthrough Innovation and the major considerations to bear in mind when selecting different organizational forms. 
    Authors: Robin Francis, Fredrik Härenstam, Rick Eagar
  • The Breakthrough Factory
    This article explores a fascinating new concept to enable technology-intensive businesses to research deeply into science in order to find breakthroughs – a breakthrough factory.
    Authors: Sohrab Kazemahvazi, Daniel Roos, Rick Eagar

If you would like to discuss this fascinating topic further with us, or would like to explore how your breakthrough efforts compare with survey participants, please feel free to contact the survey team.

If you would like to receive information about our upcoming events in the UK, Sweden, or Germany on Breakthrough Innovation, please feel free to contact our partners in charge.

Rick Eagar Fredrik Härenstam
Partner, practice leader Survey Manager,
Technology & Innovation Management Technology & Innovation Management
Arthur D. Little London Arthur D. Little Nordics

*This inquiry has been conducted by Arthur D. Little. All data are kept strictly confidential and in conformance with legal requirements on data security. Data are anonymized and analyzed without any identifying reference to the name of the individual enterprise
The survey sample consists of 83 companies from more than 30 different industries in 14 countries, with an emphasis on European based companies. 70% focus n B2B. Average participant turnover is €15billion