Sustaining Innovation (SI)

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Evolutionary Innovation, Incremental Innovation, Continuous Improvement


Understanding Sustaining Innovation

Sustaining Innovation, also known as evolutionary innovation, is a strategy that focuses on making regular, incremental improvements to existing products, services, or processes. These improvements can range from minor tweaks to significant enhancements, but they do not fundamentally change the nature of the product or service. Instead, they aim to improve its performance, efficiency, or customer appeal.

Importance of Sustaining Innovation

  • It helps businesses maintain or increase their competitive edge.
  • It can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • It can result in cost savings and increased profits.
  • It fosters a culture of continuous improvement within the organization.

Challenges of Sustaining Innovation

While Sustaining Innovation has many benefits, it also has its challenges. For instance, it can lead to complacency and a lack of radical or disruptive innovation. It can also result in an overemphasis on efficiency at the expense of creativity and experimentation.

Usage Examples

1. A software company regularly updates its software to fix bugs, improve user interface, and add new features. This is an example of Sustaining Innovation.

2. A car manufacturer introduces new models each year with improved fuel efficiency, enhanced safety features, and updated design. This is another example of Sustaining Innovation.

Historical Context

The concept of Sustaining Innovation was first introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’. He contrasted it with Disruptive Innovation, which involves creating new products or services that eventually overtake existing ones.


  • Sustaining Innovation is less valuable than Disruptive Innovation
  • Sustaining Innovation hinders creativity and experimentation


  • Disruptive Innovation: While Sustaining Innovation involves making improvements to existing products or services, Disruptive Innovation involves creating new products or services that eventually overtake existing ones.
  • Radical Innovation: Radical Innovation involves making significant, groundbreaking changes that can transform an industry, while Sustaining Innovation involves making incremental improvements to existing products or services.

Related Concepts

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