Small Steps to Big Change

18 November 10

The Power of Incremental Innovation

Disruptive innovation is exciting. Big breakthroughs like Netflix, Zipcar, and the iPad, generate big headlines. However, it’s important to recognize that many of the most profitable innovations aren’t disruptive at all.

A classic example of non-disruptive innovation is the addition of wheels to suitcases. Many thousands of years after both the suitcase and wheels were invented, the two products were combined in 1970 to make life easier for travelers. This small, incremental change made a big difference and gave suitcase companies a way to differentiate themselves. Incremental innovation is defined as improving, reconfiguring, or building upon a form or technology that already exists. By focusing on incremental innovation, companies can align existing offerings with current trends, expand on what they already do well, and continuously create value.

Many companies practice incremental innovation. Let’s take a look at a few recent examples that demonstrate the value of this approach:

  • Google Instant — Just when you thought the browsing experience couldn’t get any better, Google launches their new search feature Google Instant. This new predictive feature displays results as soon as you start typing. Google estimates that this will save users approximately 2-5 seconds per search. The feature has been so popular that it has inspired programmers to create their own versions, including YouTube instant and Yahoo’s new Rich Search Assist. Read the rest of this entry »

Plugging Forward

31 March 09

plugging-forward

It’s been an exciting few weeks for some of the world’s most famous innovators. Apple unveiled the latest iPhone/iPod Touch operating system (who knew software could be so exciting?) and unveiled its third-generation iPod shuffle. Amazon released the Kindle2, a welcomed follow-up to its popular eReader. Facebook updated its homescreen layout. Google released a new ‘Undo Send’ feature to GMail. The list goes on… you get the idea.

The point is that things are still happening-despite all the negativity out there, smart companies are still plugging forward and improving their offerings. The five companies mentioned here have always kept things fresh with a pipeline of updates and enhancements, and that’s part of the reason these companies have done well. Just when things start to feel stale, they give their customers something new. Enhancements and updates are a relatively quick, low-risk way to keep innovation alive (and demand high) regardless of what’s happening in the economy.

What can you do to invigorate demand by freshening up your offerings? What small, meaningful enhancements and upgrades can you release? If you’re at a loss for ideas, just talk to your customers or scan customer reviews and you’ll uncover a trove of potentially valuable ideas. Just remember, innovation doesn’t always have to be ground-breaking and risky… sometimes the little things can have a big impact.

What does innovation look like for your organization given the state of the economy?


GE Caulk Singles

20 June 08

futurethink_ge-caulk-singles

Earlier this week, we wrote about Honda’s new FCX Clarity, which represents innovation on a very large scale. It’s redefining an industry, introducing a new business model through the leasing program, and paving the way for advanced research in energy production and consumption not just for vehicles, but for the home as well.

On the other side of the scale are equally valuable, smaller-scale, incremental innovations. These are the smaller improvements or enhancements to existing offerings that make life easier and better for customers. A great example of this is GE’s new Caulk Singles—single-use packets of caulk for homeowners. Now, I’m not much of a handyman myself, but I do know that in my garage back home are several tubes of unusable, hardened caulk. The stuff usually comes in the large tubes with hard-to-close nozzles, and most people end up wasting most of what they buy since caulk is often purchased for small-scale touch-ups and repairs. So here comes GE with a neat little solution in a 1.25 oz little packet. Read the rest of this entry »