Are the Best Innovations Incremental or Monumental?

Ben Bajarin / June 27th, 2011

Gabor George Burt an internationally recognized expert on innovation, creativity and strategy development contributed an article over at Mashable on innovation. The premise is that innovations that are more incremental improvements often times have more impact than the ones that leap forward. He states in the article that:

“Many of the most successful innovations were not brought about by outright inventions but rather by reconfiguring existing technologies. They represent a refreshing shortcut for today’s businesses.”

This is something the technology industry often has a difficult time understanding. There is a fundamental difference between invention and innovation. Bill Buxton in a great article on Innovation vs. Invention states that:

“Innovation is far more about prospecting, mining, refining and adding value than it is about pure invention. Too often, the obsession is with ‘invent- ing’ something totally unique, rather than extracting value from the creative understanding of what is already known.”

Innovation for innovations sake is a poor strategy and one too many tech companies RND labs deliver. Our firm promotes a much more holistic approach to innovation where the focused outcome of a product or technology is to be useful for the end customer. This where creating products with the customer in mind is key but often difficult.

Companies that put products on the market with no real understanding of the consumer value or pain point being solved is destined to fail in the market. This is a problem Microsoft struggles quite a bit with in my opinion.

Another great way of thinking about this is outlined by Scott Anthony, co-founder of Innosight, in his book “The Silver Lining.” He outlines in chapter two a concept that explains that consumers don’t buy products, they hire them to get jobs done. This is an excellent way to think about the value needed in a product as well as think through the task or tasks it is being hired for to get the job done.

If more companies took this approach to innovation, I believe we would see more quality products on the market more frequently. Apple is the poster child for this approach and the rewards are obvious.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
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