Adjacent Innovations – How to use adjacencies to create killer innovations


How do you improve the success rate of your innovation programs?   Everyone wants to focus on the “new/new” (new product/service with a new “go to market”).  These kinds of project are high risk and hard to convince management that the project will be successful.

One way to de-risk the project is the take a “new/new” and break it down into a series of adjacent innovations (“rules of two”).  Adjacent innovations keeps one area stable (e.g. Go To Market) while focusing on creating a new killer something (e.g. product or service).  The benefits of this approach is:

  • Focus – By minimizing the number of “new” areas for a program, you can focus on what is truly important and leverage what already exists.
  • Scale — Adjacent innovations tend to scale faster than new/new since you are leveraging some area (channel, supply chain, customer, etc) that already exists within your organization.
  • Management buy-in — Management can get their heads around adjacent innovations.  Not to mention they will see early impact/success which ties into their typical quarterly focus.

Adjacent innovations are NOT incremental innovations.  Adjacent innovations is about focusing your “killer efforts” around one area (e.g. product or service) to ensure success.

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2 thoughts on “Adjacent Innovations – How to use adjacencies to create killer innovations

  1. Hi,

    I was wondering if this example falls into the adjacent innovation category:

    Amazon started as an online retailer which requires enormous scale to be successful. Eventually they allowed 3rd party merchants to sell on Amazon and later offered inventory management and fulfillment services to sellers which led to economies of scale. So would you consider the 3rd party merchant business and the fulfillment businesses as adjacent to Amazons original core business of online retail? I suppose you could make the same case for AWS – i.e they required massive technology infrastructure for their core business (which also benefits from economies of scale) and then realised they could sell AWS to 3rd parties. Curious about your thoughts. I write about logistics technology at and would like to have incorporate a piece about adjacent innovation as I Think over time Amazon will disrupt the package delivery market. Cheers

    • I would consider them as “adjacents”. They used an existing skill/ability to server a new customer segment (reseller, etc).

      There are two kinds of adjacents – 1) new product/service to existing customers and 2) same or similar products/services to new customers.