January 25, 2022 | 5-minute read (995 words)
Radical innovation refers to a management concept where an established company paradigm is disrupted in order to create a new market. In contrast to incremental innovation, which focuses on fine-tuning existing products and services, radical innovation overhauls the system to create something entirely new.
When it comes to radical innovation, the focus is on the effect of the invention rather than its novelty. At the same time, it can take a long time for a radical breakthrough to be recognized, yet most innovation studies assess only two years.
By creating a breakthrough, radical innovation frequently offers enormous rewards. When done right, it can also provide long-term development while posing fewer dangers than staying the course.
In short: Radical innovators make a significant economic impact by developing a ground-breaking new product or service. They generate a new market while eliminating the need for old goods, services and business methods. Nothing is used again.
The radical innovator's perspective
Radical innovation requires a fresh perspective, meaning someone who thinks outside the box. Unfortunately, freethinkers who come up with revolutionary ideas sometimes tend to be dismissed as weird or even crazy, and their otherwise-promising ideas never acquire traction.
Outsiders and individuals on the periphery of their given industry are often the source of transformative ideas, according to research by Gino Cattani and Simone Ferriani, a professor of management and organization at New York University's Stern School of Business and a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Bologna, respectively.
Individuals who operate at the core of a sector, on the other hand, are awarded legitimacy and, as a result of their power and influence, have the ability to be heard. But according to Cattani and Ferriani, their insider status also prohibits them from making significant changes — in other words, radical innovations.
Scholars have banded together to solve the problem. Why are resources concentrated among conformists, whereas the creative ideas that move society forward are often developed by outsiders or, at the very least, those on the margins? Cattani and Ferriani's research aims to make sense of this inconsistency.
Identifying the core-periphery conundrum
According to Cattani and Ferriani, peripherality often helps people develop fresh ideas and may even be a necessity for radical innovation. But by virtue of their originators’ peripherality, these radical new ideas are unlikely to be noticed.
Meanwhile, the core is a safe place where ideas are validated and given the resources and support they require. The risk is that the drive to conform and maintain the status quo can suppress radical innovation.
Since radical innovation demands fresh ideas typically connected with individuals on the periphery, but their adoption is linked with the risk-averse center, academics refer to this predicament as the core-periphery paradox. Radical thinkers have to connect the dots between the core and the periphery.
Using the past to find a feasible answer
Cattani and Ferriani examined historical case studies to home in on what mechanisms move someone from the position of outcast to that of a respected member of society. Coco Chanel, for example, began her career as an outcast who was widely mocked for her unorthodox point of view and designs, but today she is regarded as a fashion legend.
Frequently cited modern-day examples of companies who succeeded at radical innovation include Metromile and Salesforce. Examining these aforementioned success stories may encourage those on the fringes to follow in their footsteps.
Providing legitimacy to outsiders' ideas
Through their research on the core-periphery conundrum, Cattani and Ferriani have developed a set of ideas about how outsiders can advance their ideas.
The academics outline six recommendations for people on the periphery to get their ideas to the center, where their new ideas will be provided with the resources they require.
1. Remember that your disadvantages can be significant. But allowing these disadvantages to defeat you is not an option. Make them the driving force that pushes you ahead. Because you're an outsider, you're better-equipped to think outside the box and come up with novel ideas.
2. Capitalize on your advantages. You have a certain degree of independence from societal constraints and restraint if you're on the perimeter. This allows you to think more critically about social and technical concerns. The fact that you're not connected to the core is a plus. So, make the most of it.
3. Recognize that the audience will vary. Different groups will react to ideas in distinctive ways. It's possible that your method will not appeal to one audience but will resonate with another, or vice versa. But when you deliver your message to the correct people, they will likely be receptive, allowing your unique concept to gain traction.
4. Alter the tone of your voice. Insiders have a distinct method of expressing their subject-matter knowledge. To win them over, you must speak their language. Figure out how insiders communicate, and try to copy them (or employ someone who can). This will boost the chances of your original idea being approved.
5. Get over denial. Outsiders routinely face rejection, hostility and criticism. To succeed, you must be tenacious. You'll also need the capacity to retain stamina in the face of adversity, which will give you an advantage over those in the relative safety of the core.
6. Find your way in. Insiders have access to a platform that outsiders do not. That means you’ll have to figure out how to get in. Keep looking for ways to push your innovative ideas into the mainstream.
More often than not, advancement necessitates new ideas. Unfortunately, the core of most industries tends to be short on big ideas with the potential for radical transformation. Outsiders have the benefit of using their position to see things from a different perspective. The core-periphery problem can be resolved by helping outsiders and those who are marginalized to gain acceptance for their ideas. Remember that radical innovation doesn’t pay off right away, but in the long run, it can help shape a new market.