Article PDF: 7.3 Strategic Innovation

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Six rules generally describing Sun Tzu's system of using innovation in competition.

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This article explains what we mean by competitive innovation. The creativity of surprise is vital to every aspect of good competitive strategy, but most of us do not understand what strategic innovation is and how we accomplish it. We are taught two ideas about invention that work against the everyday creativity that we need in strategy.

  • First, we think innovation is a flash of inspiration, a "great idea" that just pops into our mind.
  • Next, we think that these great ideas are the realm of special geniuses who are far out of the mainstream of regular thought.

This view of creativity is useless for the purpose of strategy. First, we cannot wait for ideas to pop into our heads because we need ideas every day. Second, strategy requires small dashes of creativity based on a firm foundation of practical knowledge. We all have a million ideas, and very few of them are great, but that doesn't matter. More to the point, they are irrelevant to the need at hand. If anything, great ideas are a distraction because, though they seem great when we have them. Very, very few prove to be valuable at all to the situation at hand.