Peter Drucker’s Seven Sources of Innovation

Peter Drucker wrote that there are seven sources of innovation. Here they are, in reverse order of importance.
7. New technology and scientific findings
6. Changes in public perception
5. Demographic changes
4. Industry market and structures
3. Process needs
2. Incongruities
1. The unexpected

One of the most successful innovations -the Sony Walkman demonstrates several of these principles.


The Sony Walkman was originally designed as a music player for couples, based on Akio Morita's observation of teenagers lugging their radios with them on vacations (an incongruity) and came equipped with two headphone jacks and a recording facility. It even had a "hotline" button, partially overriding the sound from the cassette and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music.

Of course, nobody really used it like that and Sony was quick to see that most people used it as a personal, portable music player (unexpected) and redesigned it accordingly.

What are the incongruous and unexpected events and behaviours in your market? And what are the tools you can use to find and use them?

Thanks to Antonella Pavese for writing about Drucker's seven sources in her excellent blog on women, technology and happiness.


  1. farrukh said

    Washing machine sales soared in a particular market which was rural. Marketers were surprised to find that the buyers were crazy about milkshakes. And lived in joint family set-ups. And bought washing machines – guess for what purpose.

    Have heard this but am not sure of authenticity. Highly likely, becuase I know how creative people of that market are.

  2. Reynold said

    Another unexpected innovation from the same market – the use of Coke and Pepsi by farmers as… pesticide. Although I don’t think either of those firms would like this to become widely known!

  3. Milo said

    9) A synergistic and candid team.


  4. […] While there isn't any information about how Tomy developed this innovation, I'd bet a large sum that it comes down to observing what Peter Drucker called the "unexpected" source of innovation. […]

  5. kempton said

    Hi Reynold,
    Interesting stuff about Peter Drucker here.
    I have a recent post about some Peter Drucker insight that you may find interesting.

  6. […] Walkman and iPod examples from Andy's follow-up post. Check out Snake Coffee for a discussion on how information driven the evolution of the […]

  7. […] Peter Drucker’s Seven Sources of Innovation [Snake Coffee] A good example of applying Peter Drucker's Seven Sources of Innovation to the emergence of Sony's Walkman. […]

  8. okello kelly said

    can you please list some examples of innovation opportunites.i will be glad to enjoy more reseach with you on line thanks
    Gulu university uganda

  9. okello kelly said

    How can innovation be so dangerous? can i refer the Nagasaki and Hiroshima attack by USA nuclear bomb an innovation in form of danger ?

  10. okello kelly said

    if iwas to improve on the recent walk man radio playerwith some functions will i be called as an innovater?

  11. Reynold said

    1. Try the posts under “Innovation” in the Category Cloud or the Resources section on the right hand margin.

    2. From a dictionary meaning point of view, yes. From the point of view of this blog, which is focused on innovation in business, no.

    3. Yes, from a dictionary point of view, so long as you invent functions that no one has ever done. From a business point of view, only if you create something that people value and are willing to pay for. Unlikely that adding functions to a walkman (assuming that there are any that haven’t already been thought of) would create much value in the iPod era.

  12. okello kelly said

    thanks Raynold perhaps is there arelation ship between to days under development of many LDCs to lack of innovative opportunities? if so under what circumstances may some countries progress while others not yet entreprenuers think hard.-kelly gulu

  13. […] Snake Coffee […]

  14. […] Management guru Peter F. Drucker wrote The Discipline of Innovation in 1985 where he outlined seven sources of innovation. And he also had this to say: Most innovations … especially the successful ones, result from […]

  15. […] The Sony Walkman story. […]

  16. […] There is a wealth of material available on defining what innovation really is. And, of course, multiple views and types of innovation have been identified and argued about. There is an interesting discussion here summarized here. There are many ways that organized innovation spaces or structures can be created as well within an organization. Steven Johnson talks about these spaces in his new book Where good ideas come from. There is a bit about different models like open innovation & FORTH and sites like platforms like One Billion Minds and Atizo. Various theories such as Actor-Network Theory and techniques such as Crowdsourcing innovation have also been conceived. The purpose of innovation is also discussed with respect to the context as is the evolution of an innovation over time-space. There are also many identified sources or ingredients of innovation. […]

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  18. News said


    Peter Drucker

  19. Jeffery said

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