Understanding Doblin’s 10 types of innovations with examples

Neha Khandelwal
7 min readFeb 6, 2016


There are various other types of innovation as well but Doblin’s model covers the categories in which most of the innovations will fall. The thing to remember is that most successful innovations are a combination of multiple types of innovations.

Doblin Innovation Firm is a Chicago based global multidisciplinary innovation firm founded in 1981. They have divided the different types of innovations in the following categories :

It begins with dividing the processes that take place in any industry into three stages.

Configuration | Offering | Experience


This category is all about what goes inside a business and the systems which make the foundation of the business.

PROFIT : What is the way your business is going to make money, is a question that holds most importance for most business models (except in the social context).

A large company can never innovate faster than the market. But it can innovate better than the market. Scott Anthony,MD, Innosight

According to him this is the era of innovative business models wherein they are thinking about innovation holistically — not just introducing new features or functions but entirely new business models.

Syngenta The Swiss agrichemical company has launched a range of programs to drive growth in Africa. One specific program was an innovative way to package and distribute crop protection chemicals to smallholders (individual farmers) in Kenya. The program, called uwezo, approached the problem holistically. Beyond simply developing new packaging, it invested heavily in training programs to teach farmers how to use its product. It built an ecosystem that included retail distributors. And the effort was inspired by a purpose that ran deeper than a pure profit motivation — a desire to improve smallholder productivity, which can help to feed the world’s still-surging population.

NETWORK: In today’s dynamically changing society it becomes imperative that you develop a good network of people to work with,in order to utilize their resources, processes, technology etc. It is important to learn the art of connecting with others.

Open Innovation is one such example of network innovation model where in companies utilize each other’s resources and technology also sharing risks and awards with each other. Open innovation is a term promoted by Henry Chesbrough, professor at HASS School of Business.

GE’s ecoimagination project allows embraces crowd-sourced innovation and collaborative problem solving to address customer needs more efficiently and more effectively. By tapping into a global network of thinkers, inventors and industry leaders it tries to solve world problems. It has also worked as a good PR strategy for GE as for the longest time its image was tarnished due to its image of one of the biggest polluters.

STRUCTURE : This category deals with the assets of the company, tangible and intangible and how to arrange them to give you the best results.

OneLeap, a UK-based innovation consultancy, works with their client to set up a semi-autonomous unit of entrepreneurs inside the large company for about six weeks. OneLeap structures and manages the engagement between the entrepreneurs and client internal management according to research on key differences between start-up and established company approaches to innovation.

This allows the clients to use entrepreneur's strengths and their own resources in quickly developing new ideas, prototyping them and taking them to the consumers to see what works what doesn’t.

PROCESS : Process innovations are about using processes to create a company’s final offering in a way that makes the business stand above its competitors.

Companies adopting 3D modelling software for rapid prototyping instead of conventional methods of prototyping is a good example of process innovation.

Tata Group’s Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) developed a parallel processing library technology. Due to this process innovation, CRL has been able to develop the fourth fastest computer in the world, sustaining a speed of performing 117.9 trillion floating operations per second in 2007.


This category of innovations are focused on a company’s core product/service or a collection of them.

PRODUCT PERFORMANCE : This type of innovation deals with the value of the product that a company is offering. It takes in consideration the different features and quality of the product.

The Jaipur Foot, a hand-made artificial foot, is another example of a successful product innovation. There are more than 5.5 million amputees in India, and most of them live below the poverty line, thus not affording health care. The most important issue for these people is then to be able to go back to work, which is essential for their survival. However, most amputees were fitted with prostheses which were not very flexible, and not offering a wide range of motion.

Therefore, the Jaipur Foot is a prosthesis that matches the active lifestyle of the poor and allows squatting, sitting cross-legged, climb, working in wet fields, and walking barefoot.

PRODUCT SYSTEM: It stands for the complimentary systems that a company’s creates around its main product offering. How can a company create other products which can be integrated into one system.

Gillette after introducing Gillette Venus for women followed it up with other complimentary products like disposable blades, shaving gel, refillable razors etc.


This category is all about the user. These innovations deal with the kind of experience the users have in dealing with all the elements of the business that a customer interacts with.

SERVICE: This category of innovation talks about how the business provides “Customer service” to its clients which helps in using the product, understanding its various features and providing any other kind of assistance making the overall experience of using a product a good one. A good service also motivates the user to try a product for the first time and advocate the product amongst their social circle.

Burberry has introduced its ‘direct-to-buy’ offering fashion direct from the catwalk. A powerful mix of e-commerce and social media strategies enables shoppers to see the new season catwalk show through live streaming and to order personalised versions of clothes and handbags within minutes of seeing them

CHANNEL:This category of innovation is concerned with the delivery of the product and services to the customer. The delivery channel can be a physical one or an online one as well, what matters is how well it is able to connect the customer with the product.

Tesco Korea’s virtual store uses QR codes. Tesco Homeplus figured out a way of gaining market share without the need for expensive new stores, while at the same time helping time-poor commuters to do their shopping more efficiently. The virtual stores are located at platforms so that the commuters can shop via their smartphone by clicking the QR code of the product that they want through an app so that the product gets saved in their cart followed by home delivery.

Located at Railway platforms for commuters to shop while waiting for their next train

BRAND: This type of innovation is about how you present your product and other offerings to the customer. A brand image goes a long way in sustaining a business.

Microsoft uses the power of story telling to make its content compelling through Microsoft Stories.It is a technology firm but even then its blog is all about human stories. The reason being that stories connect people and create a warm fuzzy feeling for the brand.

CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT: These kind of innovations are about creating innovate interactions with the users that allows them to connect with the business. It works with understanding the customer’s aspirations, developing insights and tapping those to create compelling experiences.

Disney’s most treasured asset isn’t something that you can touch, see, measure, weigh, or toggle on Google Analytics. It’s magic.Disney sells magic in vacation packages. It promotes magic as a lifestyle. Its bus is even called the Magic Express and its cruise name is named Magic, too.

Even though you are not a Disney fan you would know what happens in Disneyworld. Disney has learned the trick of customer engagement through its various platforms.

During class discussions we also discussed how a socially conscious and responsible company should also consider two other categories.


The above 10 types of innovation do not take into account things like accountability of a company towards the society and till the time we do not start considering the above categories as important and equivalent to the remaining 10, we won’t create business models with these ideas in mind.



Neha Khandelwal

Hi there. Designer from India interested in Social Innovation, Impact, Transition Design, Wicked problems and Systems. [Nehaux18@gmail.com]