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Strategic Innovations: Paving the Way for Business Evolution and Market Leadership

Innovation serves as a cornerstone of growth and sustainability. To maintain competitiveness, companies can deploy a spectrum of strategic innovations, each varying in scope and impact. Such innovations generally fall within four categories: core innovations that refine existing offerings, adjacent innovations that explore related markets, transformational innovations that forge entirely new markets, and systemic innovations that radically alter business models (Cicero, 2017). Understanding these distinct types of innovation helps businesses navigate their competitive environments and tailor their strategies to meet evolving market demands and opportunities.

Types of Innovation

In the following section, we explore the four categories of innovation as discussed in the 2017 Medium article, "Why Business Strategy Innovation is Hard." Specifically, we will explore core, adjacent, transformational, and systemic innovations, each representing a unique strategy that businesses employ to evolve continuously. These classifications not only help in identifying the nature of innovation but also assist businesses in pinpointing their strategic efforts according to their goals and the demands of their market environments.

Core Innovations

  • Definition: Core innovations improve existing products, services, or processes. These innovations are focused on enhancing the value of the current offerings to better meet the needs of existing customers.

  • Importance: Core innovations help maintain and strengthen a company's position in existing markets, ensuring continued customer satisfaction and loyalty. They are crucial for keeping up with competitors who may also be improving their offerings.

  • Example: McDonald's regularly updates its menu and introduces new food items to appeal to its existing customer base. For example, adding gourmet options or healthier choices reflects core innovations that meet evolving customer tastes and dietary preferences without deviating from their fast-food model.

Adjacent Innovations

  • Definition: Adjacent innovations involve expanding into new but related markets or customer segments by leveraging a company's existing capabilities or business model.

  • Importance: These innovations allow businesses to grow by tapping into new opportunities that build on their current strengths, thus reducing the risk associated with innovation.

  • Example: Amazon expanded from an online bookstore to selling a wide variety of consumer goods. This was an adjacent move that utilized its existing e-commerce infrastructure to cater to a broader range of customer needs.

Transformational Innovations

  • Definition: Transformational innovations create entirely new markets and target new customer segments. They often involve breakthrough products or services that redefine industries.

  • Importance: These innovations can provide substantial returns on investment and position a company as a leader in new markets. They are risky but can lead to significant competitive advantages and long-term success.

  • Example: Tesla, Inc. transformed the automotive industry with its introduction of luxury electric cars, combined with a focus on software and renewable energy solutions, effectively creating a new market for high-performance electric vehicles.

Systemic Innovations

  • Definition: Systemic innovations involve significant changes in a company’s core business processes or models, often through the integration of new technologies or radical changes in how a company operates.

  • Importance: They can redefine how a business delivers value to its customers, often leading to disruptions in the industry and providing a pathway to leapfrog competitors.

  • Example: Netflix transformed from a DVD rental service to a streaming service, radically changing how media is consumed globally. This shift not only affected its own business model but also forced changes in the entire entertainment and broadcasting industries.

Applying The Concepts

To illustrate how a company can excel across all four domains of innovation, consider Dyson. Since its inception, Dyson has become a paragon of innovation, mastering core, adjacent, transformational, and systemic innovations—a beacon for those in search of inspiration. Dyson's diverse product portfolio as shown on their website exemplifies these various types of innovation, each representing a unique approach to market and technological development. Below is an overview of how some of their products align with these distinct categories.

Core Innovations

Core innovations enhance Dyson's existing products and markets, primarily focusing on improving the performance and features of their existing technology platforms.

  • Dyson V15s Detect Submarine™️ Absolute Vacuum Cleaner: Offers a cordless solution that vacuums, sanitizes, and washes floors, delivering a comprehensive cleaning solution.

  • Ball Animal 3 Extra Vacuum Cleaner: Features a pet grooming tool that can groom medium and long-haired pets.

Adjacent Innovations

Adjacent innovations allow Dyson to enter markets related to, but distinct from, their original offerings, utilizing their existing capabilities and customer base.

  • Dyson Purifier Big + Quiet Formaldehyde BP04 Air Purifier: Delivers purified air over 32 feet, captures 3X more nitrogen dioxide, and includes a carbon dioxide censor.

  • Dyson Airblade 9KJ Hand Dryers: Leverages digital motor technology for an energy-efficient, fast, hygienic hand-drying solution in public and commercial restrooms.

Transformational Innovations

Transformational innovations introduce entirely new product categories and target new customer segments, often creating new markets.

  • Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer: Revolutionizes hair care with its powerful digital motor and heat control for damage prevention, entering the personal care and beauty industry.

  • Dyson Corrale Hair Straightener: Uses a patented flexing plate technology that shapes to gather hair, providing superior styling with less heat and therefore less damage.

Systemic Innovations

Systemic innovations involve radically new business models or transformative opportunities that could redefine the company’s direction and capabilities.

  • Dyson Electric Vehicle (Cancelled): Although eventually canceled, Dyson's venture into developing an automobile highlighted its ambitions to innovate beyond traditional product categories.

  • Dyson Digital Motor: Developed in-house, this motor powers most of Dyson’s products. Its continuous improvement and applications in various products (from vacuums to hair dryers) demonstrate systemic innovation in engineering and manufacturing processes. According to Dyson, this innovation is known to run five times faster than a Formula One engine.

Dyson’s strategy across these categories reflects a commitment to innovation and quality that has helped the company sustain its competitive edge and brand reputation. Each type of innovation plays a critical role in maintaining growth, exploring new opportunities, and consolidating market leadership.

The main takeaway

Innovation is not just a mechanism for growth, but a multifaceted approach to reshaping and expanding the capabilities of a business. This article has highlighted how companies can utilize core, adjacent, transformational, and systemic innovations to not only adapt and thrive in their existing markets but also to pave new paths and capture new territories. From refining current offerings to radically altering business models, these types of innovation form a comprehensive framework that can guide firms toward sustained success and industry leadership. 

The examples discussed, from Dyson's versatile product innovations to Tesla's market-creating strategies, serve as compelling illustrations of how integrating diverse innovation strategies can significantly bolster a company's market position and propel it forward in an ever-evolving business landscape. As businesses continue to navigate the complexities of the modern economy, embracing these diverse forms of innovation will be crucial in fostering resilience and achieving long-term growth.


Cicero, S. (2017, February 15). Why Business Strategy Innovation is Hard. Medium.

Dyson UK | Official Site. (2020).

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