Combinatorial Innovation Is What The World Needs Now


Using combinatorial innovation, we can get rid of hunger, deadly diseases, climate change issues, governmental issues, and many more sticky issues.

The problems of the modern world can be addressed by effective and collaborative use of combinatorial innovation. Everyone can contribute to resolving the world's painful problems.

Some advocates even call this the age of "combinatorial innovation" and propose it to address societal challenges.

We can use this concept at home, in school, in business and for the government. Connecting our collective intelligence is an excellent start to combinatorial innovation.

Photo by Cade Prior on Unsplash

My aim is to emphasize how combinatorial innovation is a crucial success factor for technology, leadership, and all other industry professions.

In this article, I want to introduce the concept of combinatorial innovation with examples, the reasons for growing focus in digitally transforming business organizations, and the primary business use cases. My focus is on how combinatorial innovation can augment current business capabilities for new insights into the digital world and create remarkable solutions for the problems of the world.

Combinatorial innovation is rapidly developing and receiving attention in many transforming business organizations and startup companies. Business executives and entrepreneurs embrace this concept. They have good reasons to do so.

What is combinatorial innovation?

Combinatorial innovation is an industry term but can apply to all aspects of life.

The term refers to the use of multiple technology functions, rather than a single technology stack, and creating new business capabilities by intelligently and creatively integrating them.

The key premise of combinatorial innovation is bespoke integration of technology functions.

Combinatorial innovation can partially relate to the invention process.

Using combinatorial innovation we can address many complex and debilitating problems of the world. Covid19 is an example that combinatorial innovation approach can be used to eliminate it from the globe.

Combinatorial innovation refers to the smart use of multiple domains in an integrated way.

Google is a prime example of combinatorial innovation globally.

How does combinatorial innovation differ from the invention?

The difference between pure invention and combinatorial innovation is about the approach to the final product or services. To add clarity, let me explain the difference between the perspectives of product and service requirements.

In the invention process, the novelty prevails. The idea of the invention must be original. For example, the final product of an invention is a patent. The legal claims must be original and non-disclosed items. The patent can be considered as the first of a kind of usable technology, tool, process, or a method.

For the combinatorial innovation, the new product or service can comprise multiple old ideas. The end result is combining these proven ideas in a creative, functional, practical, and agile way to address pre-determined use cases.

What is the focus of combinatorial innovation?

The focus of combinatorial innovation is — rather than creating new technology stacks, tools, processes, and methods — combining the current best of the approaches for specific business functions, and creating new business capabilities for customer and market demands.

From a conceptual perspective, a prime example of combinatorial innovation is a smartphone. A smartphone itself is not an invention. It is made up of multiple inventions including previously invented technology components such as central processors, memory, communications, navigation, messaging, applications, transistors, the Internet technologies and so on. by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What is the business purpose and what are the common use cases?

The business purpose of combinatorial innovation is to gain business advantage using multiple emerging technologies and to integrate them to solve business problems in an agile way.

Agile is one of the attributes to distinguish traditional invention and combinatorial innovation. The invention process is time consuming hence not ideal to meet the urgent market demands. Whereas in combinatorial innovation practice, the timeframes can be shortened dramatically.

One of the prominent enabling technology for combinatorial innovation for digital transformation is the use of APIs (Application Programming Interface). By using APIs and agile development methods, talented software development teams can integrate multiple services easily in a single user application as a customer solution in a very short time, such as a few days.

Meeting this type of demand by using the classical invention and innovation methods can take months or even years, depending on the complexity of solution requirements and use cases.

Combinatorial innovation is vital for the digital strategy of products and services for modernizing and transforming business organization.

Transforming business organizations leverage emerging technology stacks to create underlying support platforms by using various Cloud Computing service delivery models.

These transforming business organizations leverage IoT (Internet of Things) to collect data from objects. They use the Big Data Analytics, machine learning, and natural language processing techniques to gain insights from data coming from smart objects.

They use artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality technologies to add remarkable intelligence to products and services to make them appealing to consumers.

Using combinatorial innovation, we can get rid of hunger, deadly diseases, climate change issues, governmental issues, and many more sticky issues.

Methodology and approach

Photo by Neelam Sundaram on Unsplash

From a methodological perspective, the best approach to enable combinatorial innovation in the industry is the use of well-governed Design Thinking workshops. This practice brings sponsors, technical talent, and consumers in one place and enables them to co-create. I shared my experience with Design Thinking in this article.

There is remarkable progress to include the combinatorial innovation in the digital transformation strategy. Industry trends are optimistic in the growth of combinatorial innovation in digital space. For example, the Gartner informs that combinatorial digital innovation will become vital to make the most of digital technologies and processes in the next decade.

Combinatorial innovation can be used in all walks of life. We can use it at home, in schools, in business and for governments.

Linking different ideas and approaches in day to day life can be an excellent start to use combinatorial innovation at home and in business.

In my opinion, combinatorial innovation is a mindset to look at things differently and link them cleverly.


As the Gartner informs, combinatorial digital innovation is expected to become vital to make the most of digital technologies in the next decade.

Combinatorial innovation is an integral part of our lives. Everyone can contribute to it.

Many transforming organizations are leveraging compelling use cases and benefits of combinatorial innovation. Individuals can use it too.

The critical success factors for combinatorial innovation are cultural diversity, synergistic fusion, technical excellence, and innovative collaboration.

Thank you for reading my perspectives.

If you enjoy this article, you might also check my other technology and leadership articles published on News Break.

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I write about important and valuable life lessons. My ultimate goal is to delight my readers. My content aims to inform and engage my readers. Truth, diversity, collaboration, and inclusiveness are my core values. I am a pragmatic technologist, scientist, postdoctoral academic and industry researcher focusing on practical and important life matters for the last four decades.


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