The myths of innovation – An interview with Alex Osterwalder

Alex Osterwalder is one of the world’s most influential proponents of business model innovation and value proposition design. Nordic Business Report had an extremely productive discussion with Alex about companies’ growing need to reinvent themselves in today’s rapidly changing world.

The full story will be published in this year’s Nordic Business Report magazine; however, as a first sample for our website readers, here are Alex’s thoughts about the most common myths that surround innovation, which is one of the most vital ingredients in creating new value for customers.

If a company wants to survive for even the next decade, innovation is the only way. Staying alive with the old business models, products and services gets too tough, even if you are extremely good at what you do. Global competition gets too hard and customers too sophisticated. Something better is needed, and that can be achieved only through innovation.

To do that properly, people have to understand innovation well enough. There are several myths that need to be torn down.

Such as:

Innovation means technology

It can, but that approach is very limiting. At best, innovation is about new ways of creating value for the customers and about new ways of capturing value for the organization. You can do remarkable things with existing technology which does not have to even have patents anymore.

Innovation is expensive

This myth is caused partially because people think innovation only means technology (which we already deemed false) and partially because they think you need to make huge bets in order to get a breakthrough. Actually, you make small bets first and as you gather experience, you can further reduce your risk level – which again allows more substantial investments.

Innovation requires a big idea

Actually, the idea is the easiest part. It’s cheap, sometimes even free. The tough job is about turning that idea into a great value proposition. The process of adapting the idea becomes most important. This is what companies need to learn to do.

Innovation should be a continuous process, but it is not about destroying what already works. It is about radically adding things around the parts of your business that are in good health.

With innovation, as with so many other aspects of life, false assumptions tend to become the greatest blocks for development. Finding what innovation is all about helps companies see their future opportunities in a new light – and give them courage to roll up the sleeves and do it.

Alex Osterwalder will speak about “Building Invincible Companies” at Oslo Business Forum on Thursday, September 24th.


More articles to read

NBR death of salesman

Death of a salesman

What companies can (actually, should) learn from sports teams

What companies can (actually, should) learn from sports teams