Improvement vs. Innovation: Defining the Differences12 min read

Improvement vs. Innovation: Defining the Differences

The unpredictable dynamic of modern businesses requires companies to continuously enhance their products, services, procedures, and overall business model to stay ahead of the competition.

To accomplish this objective, organizations frequently rely on two primary approaches: innovation and improvement. However, although these terms are often used interchangeably, they possess unique differences worth examining.

So in this blog post, we will define innovation and improvement, highlight the differences between the two, discuss their importance for business success, and provide tips on establishing a culture that welcomes both.

Let’s start.

What is innovation

Innovation refers to implementing novel concepts, methods, products, models, or propositions that enhance value for clients and workers. It entails generating new, innovative ideas and executing them.


It is not restricted to technological progress, business model innovation, product innovation, or radical innovation, even though it is frequently linked with high-tech sectors.

As innovation is anything new to an organization, it may also encompass process improvement or anything that’s actually as simple as creating original strategies for advertising, customer assistance, and activities.

What is improvement

Improvement is a methodical approach to refining and enhancing the company’s current business processes, systems, or products.

It aims to achieve better results by making incremental changes that improve efficiency, speed, or quality.

Fundamentally, improvement refers to enhancing something that already exists to a higher level of quality or efficiency.

Unlike innovation, improvement is a continuous process involving small, incremental changes to achieve better outcomes. It relies on benchmarking to measure performance against industry standards or competitors and identify areas for improvement.

Through this process, businesses can optimize their operations, offerings, and services to cater to the changing demands of their clients and maintain a competitive edge. While it may not be as flashy as innovation, it is still a critical component of business success that can deliver tangible benefits over time.

What are the key differences between innovation and improvement

There are five major differences between innovation and improvement.

1. Term association

People may find it challenging to distinguish these terms since both processes involve generating new ideas. However, “innovation” is typically associated with high-tech sectors, while “improvement” is commonly observed across various businesses.

Innovators often develop groundbreaking ideas that disrupt the status quo and revolutionize industries, while improvements are made to optimize operations, increase efficiency, and sharpen organizational competitiveness.

Improvement is continuous, and companies often adopt new technologies and practices to enhance their existing processes.

2. Purpose

Innovation and improvement are two concepts that differ in focus and goals. It is centered on creating something entirely new, whether a product, service, or process.

On the other hand, improvement aims to identify inefficiencies and areas of improvement in established systems and practices, leading to greater productivity and cost savings.

In addition, the main objective of innovation is to explore uncharted territories and develop groundbreaking solutions that can disrupt existing industries and markets.

This means innovation often involves taking risks and pursuing ambitious goals that may require significant time, resources, and capital investments.

But, unlike innovation, improvement is considered a more practical and achievable goal since it involves building on existing knowledge and resources.

3. Predictability

Innovation is inherently risky and unpredictable since it involves creating something entirely new without certainty of the outcome.

There are no guarantees that innovation will lead to improvements, which makes it a high-risk endeavor. In fact, most innovations fail because they do not succeed in improving the product or process on dimensions of value that matter to customers.

They fail to make the product or process ‘better,’ ultimately leading to their failure. As such, it is critical to manage innovation projects carefully, with a clear understanding of customer needs and a willingness to iterate and adapt based on customer feedback.

4. Approach

Innovation involves a ground-breaking, pioneering approach, especially in problem-solving. While improvement follows a gradual, incremental process to remove unnecessary elements.

Innovators are recognized for their propensity to take bold risks, venture into unexplored ideas, and challenge limits. On the other hand, improvers usually focus on making slow but steady improvements to existing systems and processes.

Improvers, meanwhile, are patient and persistent. They work diligently to eliminate waste and inefficiencies and streamline processes.

Their work is often characterized by a high degree of attention to detail, and they take pride in making existing systems work better and more efficiently.

5. Outright effect

Innovation is developing new value by implementing effective ideas, while improvement concentrates on boosting an existing product or value proposition.

As a result, innovation can lead to transformative breakthroughs that revolutionize entire industries, whereas improvement can yield gradual, cumulative progress over a period of time.

Successful innovation can lead to transformative breakthroughs that significantly change how products or services are produced, marketed, and consumed.

Improvement can yield steady, incremental progress over a period of time, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, and reduced costs.

Which is more important for business success?

Both innovation and continuous improvement are essential for driving business growth.

Innovation has the potential to transform industries, change the world, and even generate wealth. But, it can be challenging to accomplish, and not every innovative idea can be practically implemented.

Furthermore, while promoting innovative thinking in your organization is crucial, it is equally essential to recognize the value of incremental improvement in driving business growth.

Although innovation can be a high-risk endeavor, it can bring significant rewards if successful. However, continuous improvement is also a dependable method for achieving gradual gains, especially in efficiency and productivity.

Hence, it is essential to promote innovative thinking in your organization while recognizing the value of a continuous improvement.

Is innovation improvement

You can say that innovation, particularly incremental innovation, is an improvement. However, not all improvements can be considered innovations.

Incremental innovations involve making small, continuous improvements to existing products, services, or processes, which can lead to significant enhancements over time.

Therefore, incremental innovation is a type of improvement that focuses on refining and optimizing existing systems.

However, not all improvements can be counted as innovation. Improvement can involve making small changes to existing products, services, or processes without introducing any new ideas or concepts.

And, while such improvements may be beneficial, they do not qualify as an innovation since they do not involve creating anything entirely new or groundbreaking.

How to establish a culture that welcomes both innovation and improvement

In your organization, there are three things that you can do to establish a culture that promotes both innovation and improvement:

1. Dedicate space and time to it

Ensure that individuals within your company have sufficient time and opportunity to enhance existing products or generate innovative ones. This involves scheduling specific periods for team members to engage in creative endeavors or ideation.

Additionally, it is crucial to foster an atmosphere in which team members feel at ease expressing their ideas without apprehension of being criticized or evaluated.

2. Reward good ideas

Recognizing and valuing employees who contribute to the advancement and progress of your organization through their innovative ideas and successful improvements is crucial.

Business Development vs Innovation: Are They Different?

Recognition can be given in various ways, such as public commendation during team meetings, monetary incentives, or promotions. Recognizing and rewarding good ideas and successes can help to establish a culture of innovation and progress within your company.

3. Don’t settle for the norm

Guide your employees to contemplate beyond your current products and strategies. Motivate them to explore fresh concepts, technologies, and methodologies that can aid your business in maintaining a competitive edge.

This may entail participating in industry conferences, perusing articles, or conducting investigations to acquire novel insights.

Encourage both innovation and improvement in the organization

Innovation and improvement are often viewed as opposing concepts, but in reality, they can coexist and are both necessary for achieving success and business growth.

Innovation allows companies to distinguish themselves from competitors, explore new markets, and enhance performance. Conversely, improvement can assist them in streamlining their operations, minimizing expenses, and boosting customer satisfaction.

However, innovation and improvement are not mutually exclusive. And in fact, they can complement each other.

At Accept Mission, we recommend employing a combination of both improvement and innovation efforts to bring value to your business.

Using our platform, you can create and manage projects focusing on incremental improvements and innovative ideas. Our platform allows you to collaborate with team members and stakeholders, set goals, track progress, and measure results.

With it, they can work together seamlessly to achieve the company’s organizational goals. They can start sharing ideas, exchanging feedback, and providing updates on their progress.

Whether you want to streamline your existing processes, create new products, or explore new markets, Accept Mission can help you achieve your goals. Our platform is highly flexible and customizable, which means it can be configured to your specific requirements quickly and easily with the help of our customer success team.

Book a demo of Accept Mission today.

Published On: March 16th, 2023Categories: Innovation strategy

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