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Innovation Doesn't Have to be Disruptive to Work

Posted on July 30, 2014

Ground breaking change. Drastic overhauls.

These are some of the phrases that come to mind when you think about innovation.

People want to see this incredible new product.

It walks! It talks! It does the laundry you’ve been putting off for days!

It’s disruptive!

Now, we’re not saying that disruptive innovation is a bad thing; it's part of what keeps our society advancing and thriving. It’s just not an option for every organization, especially ones that are heavily regulated. Disruption is hard to manage and even harder to get through an iron-clad approval process.

Innovation is a tricky feat and does not have a clear trajectory. But one thing most of us get tripped up on is that innovation is only successful with big and dramatic ideas.

But it turns out, some of the world’s most successful companies are where they are because they focus on small changes.

Here are a few reasons to start "sweating the small stuff" when it comes to your innovation management program:

Small ideas can have huge impact.

Small innovations are little tweaks or additions to an already existing process or product. They can be as simple as changing the type of paper you use for your printer. It’s an easy solution that can be implemented by ordering the $.09 paper versus the $.11 paper. This may not seem like much, but over time it can have a massive impact.

Small ideas keep you competitive.

Not only do big innovations take a long time to organize, but they are also easily copied.

Take Fashion Week for example. Every year, the "it" item out of Fashion Week is in some major retailer practically the next day, totally knocked off.

Small innovations are usually specific to the organization and situation. They are your competitive edge, and they are harder to detect. Whether they save you time or money, they put your organization slightly ahead of the companies that don't pay attention to the details.

Big ideas often are made up of small supporting ideas. Without these small details, your large scale innovation won't survive through the tacky mall store knockoffs.

Innovation breeds innovation. You have to get the ball rolling.

Once your organization establishes a track record of implementing little ideas, employees will be more inclined to share new ones with you.

Once small changes have progressed, the entire organization will run better. People are no longer worrying about day-to-day efforts and are now able to look at the bigger picture. Large scale innovations are more likely to happen successfully in organizations that already perform at high levels. This wouldn't be possible without the small, detailed innovations.

If you're just starting out with innovation management at your company and you're feeling stuck, stop trying to focus on the large scale, mind-blowing innovations. Begin investing your time in smaller improvements to gain momentum in your program to begin seeing results. The bigger ideas and improvements will naturally flow from there.

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