Characteristics of agile innovation

This article covers agile approach on innovation. Agile methodology is based on the agile manifesto prepared by a group of prominent figures in software industry when they created four values and twelve principles. Values which the agile manifesto presents suggest that agile is interaction, collaboration, and responding to the change. Agile is an alternative and an interactive development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. Metaphorically presented agile approach in organization could be described as David, small, lean, determined, fighting against a massive bureaucracy of Goliaths who suppress creativity, innovativeness, and productivity (Morris, Ma, & Wu 2014).

What is Agile Innovation?

One case example of agile innovation is UBER. It has innovated a new way of cab service benefiting from modern technology and disrupting the existing ideas of service to improve lives and delighting consumers. This is agile innovation exactly: converting hard things to easy and creating revolutionary new products/services. According to a report, “Delivering Agile Innovation” by Ernst & Young, agile innovation is the art of making hard things easy and creating new viable business offerings faster.”

Furthermore, agile innovation is not limited to only innovating new offerings, but it emphasizes sustainability of new innovation in changing environment. One of the major challenges in innovation activity is how it can be achieved not just once, but consistently (Morris, Ma, & Wu 2014). Agile innovation could be concluded as an ideal innovation, where the goal of innovation is well defined, work is organized in self-organizing teams aimed at continuous improvements, management is responsible for removing obstacles without interrupting teams’ works, and priorities of customer are systematically analyzed (Denning 2015). Therefore, agile innovation is innovation, which creates new viable offerings faster through interaction, collaboration and which is also responsive to the changes in market spectrum; meaning agile is not just to creating new products or services but it deals with art of how any new innovation can be sustainable. Agile innovation is an approach in which firms achieve the optimal efficiency and effectiveness from their innovation activities (Wilson & Doz 2011).

Differences between agile and traditional innovation

When we are talking about agile innovation, an obvious and legitimate question always arises: how is it different from traditional innovation? While traditional innovation mostly focuses on creating new offerings (product and service), agile innovation intends to improve innovation activity to be consistent and sustainable. Agile innovation is fluid and self-organizing in project planning and management where traditional innovation lacks it and is rigid and directed. In an agile innovation approach, the leader is more open to accept change (Kaczmarek 2014). In closed innovation, organizations do not like to collaborate outside the firm. Agile innovation promotes open innovation, which benefits from collaborating outside the firm also. In today’s brutally competitive and complex environment, collaboration with similar firms to create extra value added and to achieve strategic renewal has become a necessity.

Since agile innovation methods have improved success rates of new product development traditionally in software development, they are about to improve innovation in almost every function in various industries (Rigby, Berez, Caimi, & Noble 2016). Agile innovation offers a firm effective collaboration and improvement in order to create competitive advantage in continuously changing and competitive environments.


Denning, S.  (2015). Agile: The World’s Most Popular Innovation Engine. Forbes. Retrieved 8 December 2016 from

Kaczmarek, E. (2014). Delivering Agile Innovation. EYGM Limited. Retrieved 8 December 2016  from$FILE/EY-innovation-through-collaboration-presentation.pdf

Morris, L., Ma, M., & Wu, P. C. (2014). Agile Innovation: The Revolutionary Approach to Accelerate Success, Inspire Engagement, and Ignite Creativity. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Rigby, D.K., Berez, S., Caimi, G, & Noble, A. (2016). Agile Innovation. Bain & Company. Retrieved 8 December 2016 from

Wilson, K., & Doz, Y. L. (2011). Agile innovation: a footprint balancing distance and immersion. California Management Review, 53(2), 6–26.

This article is a part of Innovation management collection.


Christopher Mukwaya, Lil Tamang, Linéa Tischler, and Liisa Yrjölä are students for the degree of Master of Business Administration.

Mikko Mäntyneva (Ph.D.) is a Principal Lecturer in the Master’s Degree Programme in Business Management and Entrepreneurship. He is also a research manager at HAMK’s Smart Services Research Unit.

Reference to the publication:
Mukwaya, C., Tamang, L., Tischler, L., Yrjölä, L., & Mäntyneva, M. (2016). Characteristics of agile innovation. In M. Mäntyneva (ed.) Innovaatiojohtaminen. HAMK Unlimited Professional 15.12.2016. Retrieved [date] from


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