Blurred Line between Innovation and Improvement

When an organization decides to make changes, innovation and improvement soon follow. Most people experience a very blurred line between the two.

Innovation comes at the problem or opportunity for change with fresh eyes and creativity and seems to come in at least three forms:

  • Incremental—this innovation could be as simple as adopting a new practice or process. It is still powerful if it is widely and consistently adopted.
  • Disruptive—this innovation is an alternative approach that changes the game.
  • Transformative—this innovation changes the system’s paradigm and practices.

Improvement comes at the problem or opportunity with critical eyes and a keen awareness of quality. Improvement relies on best practices, benchmarking and process mapping.

Not all innovations are effective or appropriate for your organization. All improvements probably are worthwhile because they begin with an analysis of your current situation. But always choosing the surer bet of improvement over innovation could cost your organization the chance for a real breakthrough.

So is what you are about to do an innovation or an improvement? It is whatever you need it to be in your organization’s culture and however you perceive the nature of the change. The more novel your solution, the more likely your organization will perceive it as an innovation. However your organization might be more comfortable as a fast follower adopting the proven practices of others.

The marketing people were probably onto something long ago with the phrase new and improved. We need both. In the end, what matters is did you get the change you needed?