Innovation Lambda is a consulting firm specialising in connectivity based in London.
The Lambda Vision
In order for innovation to be successful it is important to find a good way to describe it. We are all familiar with the diffusion of innovation curve, which aims to explain how ideas spread. In the technology world, we are also very familiar with Gartner's Hype Cycle, which since 2015 tries to capture the state of the market and industry each year.
Whilst the above tools are very useful to read the pulse of emerging trends and markets and to measure somehow what causes the adoption of innovations, they do not focus on the core of the problem, the innovation itself.
At Innovation Lambda we believe that the process of innovation is not linear, but it is determined by multiple factors that determine not only its outcome but also the way it evolves.
We believe that the process of innovation is continuous but has its characteristics that make it look like a wave. As such, we can describe it in its fundamental characteristics, such as frequency, cycle, wavelength, amplitude and phase. All combined these concur in shaping the way innovation evolves and, ultimately, whether it will lead to success.
Characteristics of the innovation wave
"The number of times a specified periodic phenomenon occurs within a specified interval."
Technologies usually evolve into what we call generations, which are have a certain frequency.
Let's take as an example Wi-Fi. In 1999 the first version of Wi-Fi was introduced, IEEE 802.11a/b, followed by 802.11g in 2003, 802.11n in 2009, 802.11ac in 2013 and 802.11ax in 2019. On average, a new Wi-Fi generation occurs every 4 years. Similar considerations can be done for mobile communication technologies, where the frequency is about 10 years.
"A single complete execution of a periodically repeated phenomenon."
Understanding what determines and can influence the duration of an innovation cycle is very important.
Let's consider spectrum allocation. Traditional approach based on exclusive, single-tiered licensing can be quite fast when the identified band does not present any incumbent user. However, in low and mid-bands this approach is becoming more difficult as any change to the spectrum allocation table would require lengthy and costly clearance programmes. The introduction of spectrum sharing can be a technique that considerably shorten the cycle, at the cost of some additional operational complexity.
"The distance between one peak of a wave to the next corresponding peak, or between any two adjacent corresponding points."
Innovation brings benefits in the future but has costs. Identifying and understanding the challenges and the costs can help with the planning of a successful solution.
For this characteristic let's consider the analogue to digital television switchover implemented across the world and by the UK between 2007 and 2012. For consumers this process had the potential cost of requiring new technology (such as a new television) and the nuisance of having to retune the TV receivers. This means that it took some time for the market to get to the stage where TV channels could be accessed like before. In other words, this innovation, before showing benefits to consumers, created some problems. Fortunately, overall the benefits for all stakeholders were greater than the challenges and better services were delivered as a consequence of this innovation.
"Amplitude is the height, force or power of the wave."
Innovation requires the combination of multiple components coming together and each one of those have their own effect.
Let's take a look at the emerging 5G market. The technology is ready and there is a lot of excitement about the benefits that this new generation of mobile communication will bring. In general terms, in order to unleash the benefits of 5G such as adding much more capacity to the network, 5G will require more base stations (densification) especially in urban areas. If the deployment of new base stations is hindered by infrastructure regulation restrictions, then the overall impact of 5G might diminish (or be delayed). Conversely, if regulations are developed to encourage the deployment of newer and more efficient solutions, then the whole 5G ecosystem will benefit.
"Phase is the position of a point in time on a wave."
In simple terms, even the most clever and disruptive idea might not be succesfull if not it is not aligned with all the other elements.
There are many examples of disruptive ideas that were never successful and among those there were surely some that failed because they came out too early for their time (here is a nice article from Tech Radar). But being too early is just one case. Innovation can fail because the idea came out too late, maybe because it was a 2x technology improvement on a market that was leaping towards a new technology altogether. Or maybe an innovative idea fails for far simpler reasons, such as not having the product development cycle in phase with the procurement cycle of target customers.
Innovation Lambda aims to support clients with their innovation journey by analysing, designing and implementing plans which maximise the impact of the innovation within the constraints of the market and the internal resources available, which are non-static themselves.