Incremental Innovation

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Iterative Innovation, Continuous Improvement, Evolutionary Innovation


Understanding Incremental Innovation

Incremental Innovation is a business strategy that focuses on making small, continuous improvements to existing products, services, or processes. These minor changes or upgrades are often driven by customer feedback, market research, or technological advancements. This approach is less risky than radical innovation, which involves creating entirely new products or services, and can be a more sustainable way for businesses to stay competitive.

Advantages of Incremental Innovation

  • Lower risk: As it involves making modifications to existing offerings, the risks associated with failure are lower.
  • Cost-effective: It requires less investment compared to radical innovation.
  • Customer retention: It helps in improving the existing products or services, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Quick to market: The changes can be implemented and brought to market quickly.

Challenges of Incremental Innovation

While incremental innovation offers numerous benefits, it also comes with challenges. These include the risk of becoming too focused on short-term improvements and neglecting long-term strategic innovation, and the possibility of competitors leapfrogging with a disruptive innovation.

Usage Examples

1. Apple’s iPhone is a great example of incremental innovation. Every year, Apple introduces a new model with slight improvements in features like camera quality, battery life, and processing speed.

2. Toyota’s production system, also known as ‘Kaizen’, focuses on continuous improvement, making it a classic case of incremental innovation.

3. Google’s search algorithm undergoes minor updates regularly to provide more relevant search results, demonstrating incremental innovation in technology.

Historical Context

The concept of Incremental Innovation has been in practice for centuries, tracing back to the incremental improvements made to tools during the Stone Age. In the modern business context, it gained prominence with the rise of ‘Kaizen’ or continuous improvement in Japanese manufacturing post World War II.


  • Incremental Innovation is not valuable: Despite being less flashy than radical innovation, it is crucial for maintaining competitiveness and customer satisfaction.
  • It hinders radical innovation: While it’s important to balance the two, incremental innovation does not necessarily prevent companies from pursuing radical innovation.


  • Incremental vs Radical Innovation: Incremental involves minor improvements to existing products, while radical involves creating entirely new products.
  • Incremental vs Disruptive Innovation: Incremental focuses on enhancing current market offerings, while disruptive creates new markets and value networks.

Related Concepts

  • Radical Innovation
  • Disruptive Innovation
  • Sustaining Innovation
  • Product Lifecycle
  • Customer Feedback
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