Incremental Innovation: The Answer to Your Questions11 min read
Competition is getting tough, and business entities are now doing everything they can in developing the next Apple of their industry. Many of these companies seem to forget that adding optimal features and improvements is already innovation in itself.
Understanding how these brands associate innovation with breakthrough technologies, they spend most of their resources creating products and services that are highly distinct from their predecessors.
In this article, you will learn more about incremental innovation — how does it deliver growth and development to your company?
What is incremental innovation?
Incremental innovation means improving your existing products and services through a series of low-cost yet effective changes as a way of separating yourself from the competition.
Unlike radical innovation, where brands create an entirely new set of products and services to replace the current ones in the market, you are only aiming to improve your line of products.
In essence, incremental innovation supports the principle that organizations must not entirely be laser-focused on making groundbreaking products and services. They should concentrate on refining their current offerings instead.
This way, you can allocate your resources to balance other aspects of the business, such as stabilizing innovation portfolios, increasing and retaining customers, and remaining relevant in your respective industry.
Case in Point: Apple
Years passed, and the company still keeps the same product design. However, Apple continually upgrades the features of the iPhone with an increased refresh rate, an improved set of cameras, or even with a quicker operating system.
Again, with incremental innovation, you do not change the consumer landscape, nor switch markets. You only inject brilliant improvements to your products from time to time.
However, performing incremental innovation can help you by:
1. Strengthening Existing Business Model
Depending on circumstances, incremental innovation may not give you enormous returns (unlike other innovation types). However, this does not change the fact that incremental innovation is a low-risk method of protecting your current position in the industry.
Moreover, with the rapid changes in the market, innovation failure rates are high.
Many institutions will lose a lot of money from taking risks and conducting other long-term investments such as making or adapting new technologies and starting other projects with research and development.
2. Increasing Market Relevance and Retaining Customers
As a by-product of improving your products and services, you maintain your customers and even gain more and increase your relevance in the market. With the same example, Apple has only innovated the iPhone incrementally for more than a decade now.
But the company has already sold more than 1.3 billion of this product since its release in 2007.
In addition, its customer base not only remained strong. It has also grown tremendously. Fundamentally, the iPhone has already secured a dedicated stream of users before, but its continuous additions made it one of the most sought-after smartphones to date.
3. Expanding Product Diversification
Radical innovations take time to get accepted by most markets because people naturally like new products and services but are not eager to learn new things. These radical innovations are not only expensive, but they also come with plenty of risks.
On the other hand, incremental innovation may only present upgraded products. But they provide companies with funds that sustain them as they venture on other innovative concepts. As a result, the shift towards new offerings becomes more gradual.
The market is now open to learning new products with entirely new features, and your product portfolio becomes diverse.
Examples of Companies That Used Incremental Innovation
Aside from Apple, other organizations have also demonstrated how incremental innovation can be beneficial for businesses.
Here are the following:
The Sony Group Corporation is a Japanese multinational conglomerate known for its PlayStation and other electronic products. Aside from its top-notch quality, most consumers recognize Sony for its incremental innovation within its existing product lines.
For instance, this institution has made around 160 different versions of the iconic Walkman — all within a decade. To this day, Sony still does the same with its products, giving it a huge market share and strong product leadership.
Toyota Industries Corporation is a famous vehicle producer with customers all over the globe.
Because of its reputation as an incremental innovator in manufacturing and assembly, the company exhibits an excellent standard in creating cars, textile machinery, and material handling equipment.
Its popular Kaizen approach, which translates to continuous improvement in English, focuses on working proactively as one regardless of your position in the professional hierarchy to pull off incremental refinements in your manufacturing process.
Gillette is an American brand by Procter & Gamble that produces safety razors and other personal care items. Since then, consumers view this fragment of P&G as an innovation leader, but the brand uses incremental innovation to stay on top of the industry.
Their razors began with a single blade but have continuously evolved with various features and even more blades to respond better to the needs of their audience.
Most of the features added over time focused on avoiding razor burns. For instance, the company has added micro fins, a micro comb, and a guard bar on their razors for optimum comfort.
Coca-Cola, a trusted beverage company, serves 1.9 billion products in 200 countries daily. However, the famous drink had taken numerous changes in its operating years, like its cherry, vanilla, and lime additions.
These incremental innovations, though somewhat dainty, have contributed to its relevance and longevity in the industry.
Moreover, they enabled the company to stay afloat for 130 years, retain its market share, and venture on emerging trends to provide something new to its customers.
J Sainsbury PLC is a supermarket company in the United Kingdom that sits as the second-largest chain of supermarkets in the country with a 16% share in the industry.
Sainsbury proves how organizations can apply incremental innovation to services.
From opening a physical store in Drury Lane, the company has become the first supermarket to offer organic food and the first retailer to launch nutritional labeling on products to provide shoppers with an insight into their nutritional value.
Most importantly, it incorporated a click-and-collect service with a same-day delivery option to address the needs of its customers.
Tips on Getting Started With Incremental Innovation
You can gradually apply incremental innovation in your organization by:
1. Identifying Innovation Targets
Examine your products thoroughly so you can determine where to start. Usually, there are a lot of things that you can do with incremental innovation that are often quick and easy to execute.
However, this process may sometimes come as a challenge, especially when you feel overwhelmed with improving a well-received product or service line. Once this happens, think of adding value to your customers and the organization.
Determine the issues and bottlenecks that the brand encounters to see where you stand in addressing them. Translate your thoughts into features, and from there, work with your products and services and identify where you can apply the changes best.
2. Be Quick and Smart
Businesses nowadays recognize how pivotal it is to innovate, which means that you are not the only one in your industry thinking of applying incremental changes to your products and services.
Conduct related processes fast, and be sure to catch your market by surprise.
If you are the first to do it, think of appealing strategies to convince them to try it. Create an impactful and positive impression by focusing on your targets and be clever by setting success benchmarks. Doing so shows how serious you are in carrying it through.
Such can secure additional investment and backing from significant people.
3. Establish a Constant Stream of Innovation Along With the Proper Mode of Action
Organize tasks and devise a systematic method of doing them by making predictable pipelines and other relevant processes. See to it that all these mechanisms work well for collaboration and improvement.
Having a centralized process for all of these changes isn’t ideal for medium and large companies as it only slows and complicates the innovation. Every department has to be responsible and accountable for its incremental innovation work.
Don’t forget to share experiences, tools, and practices among participating business units to absorb necessary information quickly. Avoid creating silos to make incremental innovation collective progress for the organization.
4. Expedite the Process
Every business entity that wants to innovate, regardless of whatever innovation it is, should be diligent in expediting the pace of change in the products and services of the organization.
Innovation is not an instantaneous event. It is a process that takes time to implement, so innovation teams specifically perform improvements at a designated date.
Encourage your team to innovate often and expedite the pace of change by providing your people with the right tools along with enough training and workshops to make them knowledgeable in using your resources well.
Next steps: Incorporate incremental innovation into your organization with the help of Accept Mission’s innovation consultancy services. Book a demo with them now and utilize expert assistance in improving your products and services.