6 examples of breakthrough innovation

In a previous blog post we explored great examples of incremental innovation. Now, we’re turning our attention to breakthrough innovation and 6 great examples of it that we’ve seen.

Breakthrough innovation comes in two forms. Either as new technology that relies on an existing business model. Or a new business model that utilises existing technology.

Breakthrough innovations harnessing new technology

The iPhone

One of the best cited examples of breakthrough innovation on the tech front is the first iPhone. By harnessing new technology, Apple was able to bring a fundamentally new product to market, creating new demand in the process.


Another great example of breakthrough innovation on the technology front is Blippar, a ground-breaking visual search app that recognises objects in the real world and then uses augmented reality to bring them to life through fresh content. The app uses machine learning to recognise its environment and has been named one of Business Insider’s most innovative companies in tech. And did we mention that this innovation is the brainchild of an ex-FreshMinder, the wonderful Jessica Butcher?


No list of breakthrough innovations would be complete without including Dyson. The world’s first bag-less vacuum cleaner is based on an existing business model but the company harnessed new technology to substantially improve the market offering. This same approach is what’s behind Dyson Cool, the company’s bladeless fan.

Breakthrough innovations harnessing a new business model

Dollar Shave Club

One of my favourite examples of breakthrough innovation which harnesses a new business model comes from Dollar Shave Club, a subscription based business which delivers fresh razors to its members every four weeks for as little as – you guessed it – a dollar a month. Rethinking the business model surrounding shaving has proved to be lucrative: The Dollar Shave Club now has 3.2 million members and has recently been acquired by Unilever for a reported $1 billion.


Microsoft has also rethought its business model to develop a breakthrough innovation in the form of Office 365. This saw the company go from selling its Office suite as a product, paid for on a one-off basis, to offering it as a monthly or annual subscription.


Our last example of breakthrough innovation comes from Zipcar. The company re-envisioned the business model for driving through its subscription service. It allows members to rent a nearby car by the day, or by the hour. A radical shift away from the existing car ownership and car rental business models, Zipcar is a true example of breakthrough innovation.