The Cyclic Innovation Model


The Cyclic Innovation Model

In the past, development of innovation was commonly perceived as a linear process. Innovation models that conceptualise this argue that once the process of innovation starts, communication about it will increase adaptation if there is enough human capital available. So, first something is invented, then it is tested and adjusted, then made and eventually sold, after which it slowly picks up pace until it achieves a sufficient return on investment.

During the last few decades, however, we have seen velocity being introduced in innovation models, as well as market pull. We also see that current society is diffusing the process of innovation in general and making it more non-linear. There is more open and non-sequential innovation, describing not only the market adaptation of innovation, but the constant process of developing innovation within an ecosystem. One such example is the Cyclic Innovation Model (CIM) by Berkhout et al.

Cyclic innovation model

The main differences between cyclical and traditional modelling is that in the contemporary cyclical model, the potential customer can be involved in the innovation process from the start instead of just as an end consumer.

No longer are innovations only the product of R&D departments, instead they are the outcome of an open process in which various stakeholders and resources can contribute throughout the innovation process. Ideas are the centre of pop-up networks—these networks involve parties that are looking to contribute and if the idea is interesting enough, co-develop. This provides a far more flexible ecosystem that acts when necessary but can disband when ideas don’t live up to their initial promise.

The fact that the process is cyclical also shows that innovation has many starting points. ‘Hard science’ can provide new fundamental insights or applications, whereas ‘soft science’ develops new understandings of both behaviour and market.

Cutting the model in half (vertically or horizontally), we see what often goes wrong when innovation processes are put into practice. A gap between technology push and market pull, between a product and a user that doesn’t know why to use it or how to use it well, or a break between theory and practice, between knowledge and too little valorisation.

Finally, the model shows us which parties are required to develop and implement innovations. By design, CIM shows a stakeholder analysis framework. Each quadrant can be used to analyse which actors are or should be involved. The process of finding partners should be about who we need instead of who we can get.