Radical and Incremental Innovation

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

Radical / Disruptive Innovation Incremental / Sustaining Innovation
Provides entirely new set of usage features and experience, and/or provides significantly better performance and/or significantly reduces 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 the Radical and Incremental Innovations.

Incremental innovation is most common form of innovation in most companies, the reason it’s so popular is because 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 new competition?
  • As we are doing 2016/17 planning what split are you seeing in investments in the two innovation types?
  • Do you have process to track and measure ROI from Radical and Incremental innovation investments?

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

2 Replies to “Radical and Incremental Innovation”

  1. Spoke to a colleague about this and the Doblin Framework to categorize types of innovation.

    Going beyond Radical and Incremental Innovation, Doblin breaks innovation types in 10 sub categories – very cool reading indeed. Thanks Andrew.

    Ten Types | Doblin – https://www.doblin.com/ten-types

  2. Normally we recommend this way: for serving the mainstream business, the company has gained the marketing leading position in the common sense. To satisfy those clients, you are supposed to provide the incremental innovations, like Intel offering new CPU year over year. But in the other hand, the big firm should always watch the disruptive tech. Those tech maybe show less capability compare the existing solution on the market in the short term. But considering they are always cheaper and more efficient in the big picture, high likely it will dominate or create a brand new market soon. The big firm should invest a small startup style team to try to apply the disruptive tech with various innovations, and test with the new market. Like Nokia, they never did anything wrong in their mindset. But they ignored the new technologies and new market, and in the end they killed themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.