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An Introduction to Innovation Profiles

At SoapBox, we have the privilege of working with multiple organizations of varying industries, sizes, and structures with the goal of building a culture of Engaged Innovation. Below we’ve put together four main Innovation Profiles that almost every organization falls into, but before we dive into it, let’s first look at the basics of Engaged Innovation.

What Is Innovation?

The equation for innovation is pretty simple in appearance, but difficult in practice:

New Idea + Value + Execution = Innovation

We delved into the definition of innovation earlier last year, with the key takeaway being that innovation can only begin with a great idea that holds value and that is properly executed.


Coming up with that great idea is a taxing task when put on one person alone. But by enlisting in the help of numerous individuals within a group and encouraging them to participate in idea generation, you can create a culture of Engaged Innovation that will continue to drive the organization forward.

Sources of Innovation

Innovation originates from one or both of the following sources:

  • Internal sources
  • External sources

Internal innovation sources are typically employee driven. Toyota is a great example of a company that innovates by tapping into employee knowledge and feedback to create bigger and better products and processes. External innovation, on the other hand, typically originates from customers, community members, or crowdsourcing. P&G, for example, often uses crowdsourcing to gain insight from consumers for new products.

Now that the sources are covered, let’s take a look at the different types of innovation. While there are multiple ways one can categorize innovation, we’re going to keep it simple and focus on two models: the Big “I” and the Little “i,” and the Whole Team vs. the SWAT Team.

Big “I” vs. Little “i”

  • Big I: These organizations (such as Pebble, Dropbox, Uber, and Kraft’s “Mio”) are creating industry revolutionizing innovations, often referred to as disruptive innovation. These rare but lucrative innovations are typically product or service-based.
  • Little “i”: Similar to Kaizen or lean process improvement, organizations known for “incremental innovations” focus on smaller process or product improvements. More common and easier to implement, these innovations, though not immediately profitable, aggregate value through a combination of cost savings and revenue generation.

Whole Team vs. SWAT Team

  • Whole Team: This approach involves everyone in the entire organization, from core operations to frontline employees to leadership. As an example, in the finance industry, this would mean that employees located in both the head office and in satellite branches collaborate and innovate together. Organizations that take this approach are well known for their culture of innovation, such as Google or 3M, where everyone is involved in the innovation process.
  • SWAT Team: Organizations who choose the SWAT team approach will depend on a small and specialized select group of individuals to be in charge of generating and executing ideas. Consultants are a good example of a SWAT Team approach, as is Microsoft’s “mysterious team” that builds next generation technology, or small-scale Kaizen teams.

While some organizations may match one specific innovation profile, the truth is that a host of innovation profiles of varying attributes can be applied to many organizations to help businesses reach their goals. The question is — what single or combination of innovation profiles can be used to drive your organization forward?

Harness the power of employee ideas.