Radical and Incremental Innovation

October 28, 2015

Yes, Old topics die hard! I was re-reading some old articles about types of innovations, and measuring the effectiveness of different project investments and thought of posting this to the wider community to get some help & feedback.

Radical / Disruptive Innovation Incremental / Sustaining Innovation
Provides an entirely new set of usage features and experience, and/or provides significantly better performance and/or significantly reduces the cost Relates to enhancements or small improvements in the existing products or services
Example:  Zipcar car-sharing service Example:  Avis car rental preferred members can skip lines and go straight to a car
Radical change can significantly change the basis of competition in the favor of the innovator Incremental innovation can be small cost-cutting or adding content or feature improvements in existing products or services


The diagram shows the cycle of Radical and Incremental Innovations.

Incremental innovation is the most common form of innovation in most companies, the reason it’s so popular is that it has reduced risk and faster time to market in comparison to radical innovation. I think, once a company has an established product it usually has built up considerable amounts of human capital and competencies so it continues to devote time to making it better or reducing costs. Which in turn opens doors for new competitors/innovators.

  • How do you protect your firm/product from the new competition?
  • As we are doing 2016/17 planning what split are you seeing in investments in the two innovation types?
  • Do you have a process to track and measure ROI from Radical and Incremental innovation investments?

Lastly, if you don’t mind can you share an example of radical innovation in your group/company?

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