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Innovation icons

To get ahead in a competitive world, every company needs to find a unique angle to stand out from the crowd.

But innovation is never easy – and if you want to make a major leap forward, you need to understand that it’s a messy, unpredictable, serendipitous process.

Successful innovation is about learning from your mistakes, persisting when the going gets tough, rethinking your business in the face of disruption. Sometimes it means doing something someone else does, better. It can even involve obstinacy and luck.

To inspire you to think differently about innovation, we bring you the Innovation Icons series: classic examples of companies that have done things their own way.

Amazon: a master of reinvention

Julian Birkinshaw

"Amazon is the single best example of a serial business model innovator," according to Julian Birkinshaw

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If at first you don't succeed...

Julian Birkinshaw

Five thousand, one hundred and twenty six prototypes and still no joy...

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More innovation icon case studies

HILS: innovating for social impact


Creativity is key at Hertfordshire Independent Living Service, joint winner of the If At First You Don’t Succeed Award



Deliveroo: delivering quality


What drives the winner of The Best Beats First Award?




Is the right innovation down to luck?


Spot it, launch it, grow it. That’s the popular formula for successful innovations, right? Julian Birkinshaw says YouTube’s success story isn’t down to luck. Instead, he shares what we can all learn from an innovator that harnesses the winds of change.



Lessons from the world's best-known fast-follower: Samsung


You don’t have to dream up something new to be a great innovator. You must however, do it better. Julian Birkinshaw shares the lessons behind Samsung’s success.





Dubsmash: the power of persistence

Dubsmash fine-tuned its lip-synching app through constant iteration. It’s now a full video messaging app, used by more than 100m people in 193 countries who share 35 videos every second.

Fighting fire with fire: a story of reinvention

Steve McGuirk’s transformation of the fire service led to cost savings and fewer fires

An innovative solution to nuclear waste

Andy Barr’s core business used to be manufacturing dredging tools for scallop trawlers. Now he’s helping clean up decommissioned nuclear power stations

True grit: saving babies through innovation

Jane Chen was so determined to save newborn infants’ lives, she moved to India to get her venture off the ground

About the IIE

The Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) supports field-leading faculty research, entrepreneurial and extracurricular student activities. We disseminate the expertise necessary to equip the next generation of innovators and business leaders with the tools and insights they need to prosper.

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