Are We Innovators? Interview With Saul Kaplan : Founder Of Business Innovation Factory

Saul Kaplan

I have learned that when there is any doubt about any specific topic or perhaps even just want to know more, the best solution is to go and find an expert in the field. Nowadays, the word Innovation is commonplace in all fields. This prompts me to ask expert Saul Kaplan about this interesting topic.

Mr. Kaplan, is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of The Business Innovation Factory and author of The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant when the World Is Changing .

Saul kindly answered three questions related to Innovation that allows us to understand much more what happening right now.

1. I have observed for some time there are two words circulating globally: Innovation and Disruption. Additionally, I have noticed that the use of these words is ubiquitous, and now is used for agencies or companies and individuals to call themselves innovators and/or disruptors. Why would a company or person want to make that claim? Everybody can be a Innovator/Disruptor?

The good news is that it’s the innovator’s day. Every leader knows that just doing things the same way they have always been done isn’t enough. Tweaks won’t do it. Sometimes transformation is needed and this is one of those times. Leaders know that innovation is imperative. Innovation junkies and practitioners are in high demand. The bad news is that we have turned innovation into a buzzword. Every conference, every article, every new project is about innovation. The word is everywhere and used to describe everything. Of course if every person is an innovator and every thing is an innovation, no one and nothing is. We have to get below the buzzwords and to be clear about what we mean by innovation.

2. Based on the previous question. What factors should we consider professionally and objectively when calling a person or company both or either an innovator or disruptor?

If you ask 100 people how they define innovation you get 120 different answers! We have to start by being clear about we mean by innovation. My simple definition:innovation is a better way to deliver value. In my book, it’s not an innovation until it delivers value or helps someone solve a problem in the real world. It’s important to differentiate invention from innovation. Too many conflate the two. It is also important to clarify an organization’s innovation agenda to separate out incremental improvements to today’s business model from exploring entire new business models.

A good innovation agenda has four discreet components:

1) Creating an innovation culture

2) Enabling product and service innovation

3) Enabling capability innovation

4) Exploring and testing entire new business models.

Most organizations fail to recognize the different tools, skills and approaches necessary for each element of the innovation agenda and therefore struggle to advance their innovation agendas. It is easier to organize for incremental improvements to the existing business model. Most organizations fail to create the conditions to enable the transformational models necessary to avoid being netflixed by an upstart competitor or to lead the creation of entire new markets.

3. In your opinion, could you share with us two examples of companies that are really practicing innovation and/or disruption? How so?

There are many examples of companies that are good at introducing incremental innovation to strengthen their current business models. There are far fewer that are good at enabling transformational change proactively. The Steve Jobs era at Apple is the best example of a company that has consistently disrupted itself to introduce new game-changing business models. The jury is still out on whether Apple is positioned to sustain the steady introduction of disruptive new models.

Another example of an entrepreneur that has consistently brought game changing models to the market is Elon Musk. It’s worth looking at his success at Tesla, Space-X and Solar City which are each changing the industry prevailing business model unleashing significant new market and customer value.

I would like to thank you to Saul for taking time to answer my questions I learned a lot and I know you will as well.

You can reach Saul Kaplan at and order his book”The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant When The World is Changing” via Amazon.

This interview will published in Spanish as well.

Juan Carlos Giraldo