9 Types of Innovation Models - They’re All the Same

The Ancient Greeks unintentionally laid out a template for what has now become the model for the best practices for creativity. They developed a simple three stage process that neatly fit into their vision of reality being a copy of an ideal realm:

  1. Inspiration: Gain access to a hidden essential idea
  2. Ideation: Make it manifest in words and images
  3. Development: And then work to make it real.
How the Greeks Viewed Making and Creativity

This basic model for making had four key stages or step:

Historically - How Creativity Models Flow

If you're a Design Thinking consultant, responsible for coordinating organizational innovation management or responsible for innovation curriculum in higher education - these four-steps likely sound familiar to you: Prepare, Ideate, Plan, Make.

Because today everyone of the most popular creativity and innovation models - from Design Thinking to Jeremy Gutsche of the Trends Hunter to Disciplined Entrepreneurship to The Radical Innovation Playbook - they all follow the very same basic model of creativity.

Not only do these innovation models for business share the same four steps to creativity - they share two ironies:

The first irony: They’ve all mirrored a model that did not believe in creativity. You see the Greeks didn’t believe in creativity and developed this model to help them best copy fixed pre-existing ideals.

The second irony: None of the creativity models listed below took the time to:

  1. Understand the (anti-)creativity model they were parroting; it’s strengths and significant weaknesses.
  2. Develop their own unique model of creativity. (Is anything more antithetical to innovation and creativity than that?)

The question of where models originated is not an academic one — it matters to know how and why something evolved and developed. These four step creativity models come from an ancient Greek and early christian worldview that all human creation stems from the careful following of a pre-existing plan. Thus these models implicitly carry forward a worldview in which

  • Humans are not creative
  • But they can gain insight into this plan (the original meaning of inspiration)
  • They then see the plan — which is to say they have an “idea” — they see a big clear articulable vision
  • Then they can work to make this real

Still skeptical about the most popular models of innovation and their lack of creativity? Let’s have a look together:

The 9 Types of Innovation Models

When you put every major innovation model side by side a pattern emerges — they are all doing roughly the same thing with only a change to the first step.

9 Innovation Models in a Side by Side Comparison

Ancient Greeks Creativity Model:

  • Inspiration
  • Ideate
  • Plan
  • Make

Design Thinking's Innovation Model:

  • Empathize
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Make

Jeremy Gutsche (trends hunter) Model for Innovation:

  • Trends Analysis
  • Ideate
  • Plan
  • Make

Equity Centered Community Design Creativity Models:

  • Power Context / Informed Empathy
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Make

Frame Innovation's Model:

  • Archeology & Reframing
  • Ideate
  • Transformation
  • Integration

The Innovators Dictionary Model for Creativity:

  • Deep Analysis
  • Ideate
  • Plan / Prototype
  • Make

Radical Innovation Playbook - A Model for Creativity:

  • Inspiration
  • Ideate
  • Plan
  • Make

Disciplined Entrepreneurship's Model for Innovation:

  • Inspiration
  • Ideate
  • Plan
  • Make

Lateral Thinking - A Model for Innovation:

  • Mind Loosening / Creativity Exercises
  • Ideate
  • Plan
  • Make

NOTE: Just as an aside, we understand that there is more nuance to all of these models, but this is how, at their most basic, they operate. We get that all of these loop and iterate, and are to some degree circular -- but that does not make them any less linear:

Innovation Models that Loop are Still Linear

Alternatives to 4-Step Iterative Models of Creativity

Aren’t there any radically different options that are not simply “Prepare, Ideate, Plan, Make”?

It’s interesting to note that all these models are iterative and linear. They follow a step-by-step process. None provide a means for genuine deviation or the ability to follow a true novel emergence that would render the initial idea obsolete..

4 Step Iterative Models of Creativity

We find this curious. Innovation is fundamentally disruptive -- those messy, loopy, infinite and indirect practices cannot be shoehorned into an ideation driven process.

How does one begin to be disruptively innovative?

You hit the breaks, you don’t run forward to solving problems. First you need to dig down and reveal whatever system you are in, then you need to step out of this and go backwards and begin an open, messy experimental process of co-evolving a novel world. And it is only when this is in place that you can move forward again towards novel paradigms.

Rupturing 4 Step Creativity Models

If one thinks about “Ideate, Plan/prototype, Make” as late stages in the process of how something emerges, we need to think of all that has to happen prior to this.

We collectively call these late stages: “Emerge”, and we put three big tasks in front of it that take you backwards before you go forward: Engage, Disclose, Deviate -- (and then, and only then, Emerge).

Analyzing 4 Step Creativity Models that have Ruptured

We’ve designed an innovation process that separates itself from idea driven models that are derivative of the ancient Greeks and creates the space for emergence, affordances and unintended possibilities. We call it the Innovation Design Approach.

It’s a series of innovation tools, methods and practices that generate novel paradigms for products, services, experiences and most importantly - the transformative challenges humanity faces in the 21st century - climate change, social and political injustices, equity, inclusion and beyond.

Want to learn how we can help?

Get in touch and let’s chat. No strings. No fees. We love talking about innovation challenges and finding pathways forward with like minded individuals.

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The Innovation Design Approach is leadership's blueprint for organizational innovation. Detailing the why and how to innovate across inter-disciplinary teams using approaches, tools, and practices.