Inventors and business owners are always looking for incremental innovations. What exactly is an incremental innovation? It’s an innovative idea that adds value to a product, process or technology in one small step, rather than the same old thing being upgraded time again. Incremental innovations allow businesses to easily and quickly distinguish themselves from their competitors and maintain or improve their overall market position.
Moreover, more frequent improvements can also enhance a product’s visibility and thus sustain greater interest in consumers. However, with so many ideas floating around, how do you know when it’s time to take the next step forward?
One way of gauging whether you need to take another step forward is by assessing your current market position relative to the size of your competitors’ markets. If you are in a field with very limited competition and the total market share is relatively low, then you have plenty of room to make your mark. But, if the field has plenty of established players, and the shares of the new entrants are high, then you’ll want to consider making an impact with something different. For example, if your market shares very little share of the total market for cell phones but the sales of those devices are skyrocketing, it could be time to look at joining forces with a manufacturer of cell phones who has a strong foothold in the new markets you’re targeting. You can introduce a new product or a series of new products, make some strategic alliances or enter into joint venture partnerships to accelerate growth.
How to Innovate and Succeed: Incremental Innovation
But, sometimes the line between being innovative and being successful is very fine. In such cases, it’s usually necessary to look for incremental innovations. These are innovative products or processes that are smaller but have the potential to make a bigger impact. This kind of innovation can help create a stir in the open innovation arena and, depending on the type of innovation, can go unnoticed for a period of time until a larger competitor brings the innovation to the attention of the investing public.
As an example of an incremental innovation, the late Polish bookseller and writer Jan Karski referred to it as “Coca-Cola Momentum.” The phrase came to light after the successful launch of the soft drink in the Polish market. Karski believed that the beverage was so successful because it offered something more to the consumer than what was found in the traditional brands that consumed from him. In addition to boosting the volume of the drinks sold, Karski also saw the company’s incremental innovations as having the potential to change the way Polish consumers thought about and accessed coffee.
Innovation is a vital part of any business. It’s what separates the winners from the losers and can help you to really gain a competitive advantage in your marketplace. But, sometimes the line between being innovative and being successful is very fine. In such cases, it’s usually necessary to look for incremental innovations. These are innovative products or processes that are smaller but have the potential to make a bigger impact than you would think!
Incremental or Disruptive Innovation?
Incremental innovation may be seen as disruptive when a company makes a huge investment in a particular area in order to realize large benefits within a short time frame. However, some see it as a necessary step when confronted with an established way of doing things. After all, even the best-established firms could fail. They would need incremental innovations in order to continue to lead the pack in their given field. In terms of beverage products, a major change came about after the success of Oolong Tea. The tea was originally made from a plant that was unknown to the Asian markets.
- Then, it was learned that the plant came from China and that its leaves had caffeine. Suddenly, this caffeine-rich beverage became the talk of the town. The beverage was soon followed by other radical innovations such as the coffee drink, flavored coffee, and various types of instant teas. Each new product brought in more sales for the company. This kind of response is usually considered to be good for the economy.
- Some incremental innovations are disruptive and some incremental innovations are not. When incremental innovation is disruptive, it can be seen as a necessary step when confronted with an established way of doing things. When incremental innovation is not disruptive, it may be seen as incremental but in reality the company making the investment will realize large benefits within a short time frame.
- Of course, not all incremental innovations are welcomed by all entrepreneurs. Some believe that the large influx of cash and venture capital into these businesses could have negative effects on the growth of the companies. While some see value in these kinds of investments, others are critical of these changes, saying they affect the competitiveness of certain businesses. The key here is that the entrepreneur must know what he or she is doing, which is different from the previous methods of innovation.
- Regardless, some believe that the benefits of radical innovations outweigh the disadvantages. Innovation is still a relatively new concept. In order for an industry to truly reap the benefits of incremental innovations, it is important that a business have the know-how and the ability to think creatively. If the right entrepreneurs are involved, then there is great potential for a successful implementation of any radical ideas.