What is innovation? Innovation is a journey that involves moving an idea to create value. Innovation can happen in many forms, whether it is an invention of a new product, a new way of design thinking, or even to counter a problem. It happens everywhere in businesses, universities, schools, and basically in our daily lives. The software updates on your phone, a pop-up reminder on your laptop screen, people are no longer renting or buying DVDs, but they watch Netflix instead. These are all innovations that we experience in our lives every single day. As for ISO 56000, Innovation Management is defined as Standardization of terminology tools and methods as well an interaction between parties to enable innovation. There are two types of Innovation which are, Incremental and Radical. Now let’s talk about Incremental and Radical innovation and the benefits of it.
What is Incremental Innovation? Incremental innovation is one of the most common types of innovation used in an organization. Incremental innovation is doing something that a company already do but make it better. It can be in the form of product improvement, process enhancement, or an extension to a market range. Innovation is usually incremental, gradual, and involves continuous improvements to the existing products, concepts, and services in the current market. There is nothing much changes in incremental innovation. It is just slightly better than the previous version of any products and services. Products can be made smaller, easier to use or even more attractive without changing the products or services’ core functionality. It always an act to make the products and services to be more competent through continuous improvement.
There are so many incremental innovations we can see and experience in our daily lives. Take television for example. We have experience watching our favourite movies with different television sizes over the years, from a classic heavy and bulky television to a slimmer version of it. Television is one of electrical products that constantly improved over the years, we can see how there will be new models available, but the core idea and the components are still the same. We can see how television evolves from watching Charlie Chaplin in black and white to watching a football match in colour. Years passed by, we can now enjoy watching our favourite Netflix series in High Definition colour with our smart TV that is connected directly to our home Wi-Fi.
Another example of Incremental Innovation is Cadbury chocolate. Cadbury chocolate is definitely everyone’s go-to snack if you crave something milky and chocolaty. Remember, when we were a kid, we used to see Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate and Cadbury Chocolate with many types of nuts on the nearest convenient store shelves. But now, we can see how they can come up with many types of chocolate flavors in the market, from jellybean to mixing it with candies that pop in your mouth, and the latest one is, they come up with Durian Chocolate.
One of the advantages of Incremental Innovation is, it is low in risk. Incremental innovation is low in risk because it is a continuation or an upgrade of the current products and services. It is something that the organization has done previously, and they already know the core functionality of the products and services they provided. Hence the chances of making huge mistakes are pretty low. Other than that, Incremental innovation is also affordable for the reason that they have done it previously. Hence, the organization does not have to spend so much on research and development to work on incremental innovation. It is mainly just an upgrade of the products and services without changing its core functionality.
Other types of innovation strategy are Radical Innovation. Radical innovation is quite complex compared to Incremental Innovation. Radical innovation involves a complicated process involving more difficult and risky methods and often creates a new market. It has never been done before, and because of that, an organization has to take a big leap and step change to come out with something new or something that people have never experienced before. Unlike incremental innovation, radical innovation replaces existing products with something entirely new and fresh than what we currently have in the market.
An example of radical innovation that we can see is the telephone. Back in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell had invented the telephone. The first telephone was to transmit speech electronically as a device to help those who have hearing problems because he was a teacher to the deaf. Over the years, we can see how a telephone evolved from a photophone, radio phone, cell phone, and smartphone. Back then, people had no idea about what the device is or its function, and it was a symbol of status, but now you can see that almost everyone, even a small child owns a smartphone. It was a radical innovation to start with, but with incremental innovation, a creator enabled to come up with an upgraded and better version of a telephone every year. Just look at the market now and how a giant telecommunication company is racing to create and sell the best version of a smartphone. It is a huge competition in the telecommunication industry.
One of the benefits of Radical Innovation is a change of the game. Radical innovation may sound crazy to some business owners as they need to develop a whole different idea, blueprint, and prototype. But bear in mind that radical innovation is a game-changer of the business. You might either nailed or flopped from making an invention in your business. As a business owner, you have to have a bigger picture before starting with radical innovation, study the market and the market audience to know whether it is going to work. Radical innovation requires an open mind and a willingness to accept changes. Not only that, before starting with radical innovation, you have to know that changes mean leveraging your subordinates and assets competencies. Not only that, Radical Innovation requires a lot of creativity and a brainstorming session. Do let your subordinates in the loop about it and let them share their opinions and creative ideas.
Radical or incremental, an organization must first develop a plan before thinking of doing innovation of its products and services. A good company will do thorough research on which types of innovation strategy they should take to help the company grow in line with the current digital and technology era.