An Innovation Element is a unit of advance. It is a clearly defined advance in a product, service, process, model, etc. When successful innovation occurs it results in one or more Innovation Elements being created. Why is it important to frame and identify innovation efforts in such a way you may ask. There are two primary reasons. The first is that for innovation efforts to be supported the innovation must provide value in excess of the resources expended in developing it. Breaking the results of innovation down into units allows us to more effectively quantify it. It allows innovators to more effectively make their case to stakeholders, especially those that control the purse strings. The second is that innovation can be managed and implemented more effectively if the output is organized in some fashion.
Now innovation efforts may result in several Innovation Elements being created. An example for the Iphone might be the single button which makes it easier to use, the special glass that was used to make it stronger and more durable, the battery which lasts longer, etc. Each of these would be innovation elements that combined to make the Iphone competitive in the market. The innovation effort might have been to simply improve on the Nokia cell phone. That effort however resulted in many Innovation Elements being developed. Those Innovation Elements can then be utilized or applied for other purposes as well. For example utilize the battery in other Apple products that are being developed would be the transfer of an Innovation Element within the organization in order to maximize the benefits.
An example of a Competitive Innovation Element for the Iphone would be the closed App Store. By making Iphone apps available only to customers, Apple created a Competitive Innovation Element that provides considerable competitive advantage that is not easily replicated, and was also the first in the market to really utilize and benefit from such a platform. So along with a number of Innovation Elements that it introduced with the Iphone, many of which have since been copied by competitors, Apple also introduced a Competitive Innovation Element that competitors are still trying to catch up to. By nature Innovation Elements will be copied by the competition, especially if they are well received by the market, but Competitive Innovation Elements will be the real source of competitive advantage.
In the next section we are going to discuss the three approaches to innovation and the processes that ensure you are capitilizing on them.