Using agile approaches for breakthrough product innovation
by Mitch Beaumont, Ben Thuriaux, Prashanth Prasad, Chandler Hatton, Colin Davies
Issue 1, 2017
Technology & innovation management

Companies expect their share of revenue from breakthrough, as opposed to incremental, innovation to double over the next five years, yet 88% of business leaders are dissatisfied with their current performances in this area. How can they improve? This article looks at how adopting agile alongside existing methods in a complementary way across their innovation portfolios allows organizations to successfully deliver the breakthrough products they are aiming for.

Breakthrough innovation – innovation aimed at delivering disruptive impact, or creating new market spaces or step-changes in product, process or business-model performance – is increasingly important for companies. However, outside of the software industry most organizations, especially those with complex engineered products and longer development lifecycles, struggle to deliver it systematically. This is principally because the agile approach needed to realize breakthroughs is a challenge to the established practices that have served them well. In this article we look at how non-software product-based companies can successfully embrace agile, as well as non-agile, methods in a complementary way.

The challenges of breakthrough innovation

Business executives have always been under pressure to generate growth, and today’s fast-moving and competitive business environment does not make that any easier. Arthur D. Little’s study on Breakthrough Innovation revealed that leading companies expect their share of revenue from breakthrough, as opposed to incremental, innovation to double over the next five years. However, achieving breakthroughs is easier said than done: The study also found that 88% of business leaders were dissatisfied with their breakthrough innovation performances.2 They have become increasingly frustrated with the limitations of their current innovation systems on producing significant results.