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Innovation Management Essential - Series 1: Definition, Key Aspects, and Approaches

By : Xuan|12 Jan 2021

Innovation has been a top priority for the majority of leaders, both at company level and government level. However, deciding which approach will deliver the best ROI in innovation endeavor is not always easy. That is where innovation management comes into play. It takes innovation from a creative-thinking exclusive activity to a logically managed and measurable process. It leverages the collective intelligence of all to identify, curate, and implement the best ideas.

In this article, we are going to examine the concept of innovation management, the key aspects of innovation management, and its methodologies and approaches. 


So, first things first, what Is Innovation Management? 

The concept of innovation management was first formulated by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy first published in 1943, in which he developed the term “creative destruction”, referring to industrial forces revolutionizing economic structured from within. Since then, several scholars, thinkers, and entrepreneurs have further developed the theory of innovation management. 

In this article, we are going to adopt the definition by Gartner, an IT research and consultancy company, innovation management is a business discipline that aims to drive a sustainable innovation process or culture within an organization. 

By simply looking at the definition, innovation management is the systematic process of coming up and developing new things, be it a product, workflow, business model, or system and the fostering of innovation culture. 


The key aspects of innovation management

While there are various aspects involved in innovation management, they usually include management of the following areas:

Ideation: Making sure ideas from internal or external stakeholders are collected, refined, and implemented efficiently.

Resources: Ensuring that capabilities and materials are at disposal for bringing about innovative changes – including but not limited to funding, human capital, time, and information.

Structures: Structures enable the effective use of the resources. In practice, this means improving the organizational structure, processes, and infrastructure to optimize innovation. 

Strategy: Harnessing resources and ideas to reach innovation goals incrementally or disruptively. Ultimately, innovation is simply one of the means - arguably the most important one, to achieving your strategic goals. 

Culture: Creating a pro-innovation culture where new ideas are encouraged, and stakeholders are incentivised to share and comment on insights. It also enables the organization to acquire the best people to achieve its innovation goals, and ultimately, its success. 

Innovation management always entails establishing a process by which a company can continuously and effectively promote innovative activity. To be effective at managing innovation, it is essential to be able to understand both the big picture, as well as the individual components that make it up.


The methodologies & approaches of innovation management

Innovation management is complicated, it helps to look at some of the more widely accepted theories and approaches to choose one that fits best to your organization. 

The types of innovation

The two broad methodology categories that innovation management typically falls into are ‘incremental’ and ‘disruptive’. While the former involves making consistent improvements to existing products, services, or work processes, the latter involves introducing bolder changes which carry more risk but the possibility of large-scale returns.

Greg Satell, writer and innovation adviser developed a system called “The Innovation Matrix”, mapping out the four different types of innovation: basic research, sustaining innovation, disruptive innovation, and breakthrough innovation depending on how well the domain and the problem are defined.  

We are going to combine both, and categorize innovation into 4 different types: incremental & sustaining, incremental & disruptive, radical & sustaining, and radical & disruptive innovations.


The approaches to innovation management

In her famous blog “Future of CIO”, Pearl Zhu, author and innovation expert summarizes the three management approaches to improve the innovation management success rate in the digital era: an emergent approach, an iterative approach, and an integrative approach. We will combine her insight with our research and experience working with organizations to propose the following three approaches:

The proactive approach: Proactive innovation management and continuous adaptability are essential in today’s rapidly changing world. Managing, changes and innovations should not wait until there is an immediate pressing task.

The integrative approach: It focuses on how innovation can be best accommodated within an organization’s existing structure to create value, and to ensure future growth. 

The customer-centric approach: To make sure an innovation will have a positive impact on customers, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders, the best way is to seek out input from all of them in your innovation endeavors. 

There is no size one size fit all success approach for innovation management. It is important for an organization to choose an approach or a mix of different approaches that best address their business. You can also choose different approaches to address different aspects of the business to innovation is managed in the most systematic and efficient way. 


In the next article of the same series, we will continue introducing the common models of innovation management.

1. Schumpeter, J. (2003). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Taylor & Francis e-Library.
2. Gartner. Retrieved 7 July 2019, from
3. Satell, G. (2017). Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age. McGraw-Hill Education.
4. Pearl Zhu. (2017). Three Innovation Management Approaches. Retrieved 8 July 2019, from

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