Successful digitalization through systematic innovation

Picture of Tobias Adam

Tobias Adam

March 23, 2018

To make room for the new, the old has to go. The reason is that this is often overlooked or not taken seriously enough, Why digitization in companies so often fails. After the last part dealt with established and obstructive thought patterns and how these can be recognized, the second part now deals with the HOW: How can you take concrete action and pave the way for innovation? In this article, you can read why systematic innovation is anything but a contradiction in terms, where you need to start in your company and what you should definitely pay attention to.

Systematic innovation is what unlocks the potential of digitalization

The approach presented below, systematic innovation, is based on a combination of a clearly defined frame of reference with scientifically proven innovation patterns. This leads to a structured and methodologically sound approach that helps to overcome established thought patterns and fixations and to realize the potential of digitalization both inside and outside the company.

The frame of reference for systematic innovation

A large proportion of the reference projects currently being discussed give the impression that digitalization is essentially an approach for optimizing production and maintenance processes. Of course, impressive successes have been achieved in these areas and there are certainly projects that demonstrate the opportunities offered by digitalization. However, when developing concepts for digitalization, it should be borne in mind that several elements or reference groups of a company can benefit from new concepts:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Competition
  • Data
  • Innovation
  • Added value.

In order to exploit the far-reaching potential in all these elements and reference groups, companies must find the exact pivotal points for all areas.

The right questions determine success through systematic innovation

The following guiding principles, among others, should be considered when taking a closer look at the groups...

... with regard to customers and employees:

  • Use customer and employee networks
  • Increase loyalty
  • Promote interaction.

... with regard to the Competition:

  • Building platforms, not products
  • Turning competitors into partners
  • Watch out for unexpected market participants.

... with regard to the data:

  • What data does our company generate?
  • What additional data would be useful?
  • What information can be derived from this?
  • Who could benefit from this information?

... in terms of innovation:

  • Development and establishment of an innovation and error culture
  • Learning through experimentation
  • Promote innovation throughout the company.

... in terms of added value:

  • What benefits will we offer in the future?
  • How are new technologies changing our value creation?
  • What is the expiration date of the current business model?

The design of new and sustainable digitalization concepts requires a sometimes radical rethink: who would have thought 15 years ago that companies that do not produce media content, own cabs or have rooms to rent, for example, would become a serious threat to renowned companies that have often dominated their industry for several decades?

The key to success - systematic innovation

Within each of the dimensions listed above, established ways of thinking need to be questioned and habits overcome. For the reasons already mentioned, we find this difficult. The aim must be to systematically challenge these fixations. However, not in more or less productive brainstorming sessions, but with the help of selected innovation methods. Unfortunately, many of the so-called creativity methods do not live up to this claim: on the contrary, they only lead to insignificant changes in the status quo.

The proposed approach is based on the realization that around 80 percent of innovations can be described by one of five innovation patterns. This strongly benefit- and value-oriented approach enables people to break with established and accepted thought patterns and industry logic. In this way, it is possible to develop new concepts with high utility value.

Tips for the successful implementation of digitalization through systematic innovation

In practice, these innovation patterns are applied to the dimensions of digitalization listed above in order to initially develop high-quality concepts for each dimension. In the next step, cross-dimensional interdependencies are considered in order to develop a holistic digitalization concept step by step. In order to keep the introduction risk low agile methods which enable a cost-effective and comparatively low-risk validation of the benefit hypotheses.

One final note to ensure that no unexpected factors jeopardize systematic innovation: Particularly in view of the Basic ideas of user centricity it makes sense to involve relevant third parties in the digitization process. When involving potential customers and users or focusing activities on these target groups, it should be borne in mind that "well-intentioned" is all too often the opposite of good: they also have established patterns of thought and use that may stand in the way of the development of new types of services.

Event information

The TCI partners are pleased to announce two seminars on this topic: A two-day seminar on innovation management will take place in Mannheim on April 13-14, 2018. The speakers are Gisela Zweck and Dr. Tobias Adam, the authors of this article. Another two-day seminar by the two speakers, which you can also attend in Mannheim on 8-9 June 2018, is entitled "Systemic innovation for successful digitalization". Further information can be found here by clicking on the respective TCI event.

*Editor's note: With regard to the collection and processing of personal data, please also note the following our three-part series of articles on the EU GDPR referred to.

(Cover image: © Robert Kneschke |

About the author

Picture of Tobias Adam

Tobias Adam

Dr. Tobias Adam has been involved in the implementation of innovation methods for many years. The innovation expert supports clients in developing innovative concepts and solutions for a wide range of business challenges.

Share this article on social media

More blog articles

More from our blog

Harrlachweg 2

68163 Mannheim


Do you have an request? With pleasure!

© 2024 TCI - All rights reserved.