Incremental innovation – definition and examples

Incremental innovation is a succession of very small upgrades or improvements that a company makes to its products. The company makes the small improvements at regular intervals.

The term may also apply to services, methods, or processes. Innovative companies carry out many small improvements over time to maintain brand loyalty. They may also do it to hold onto market share. In other words, they want consumers either to buy their new upgrades or keep their existing products.

Customers are more likely to hold onto an existing product if there is an interesting software upgrade, for example.

Incremental innovation is a strategy that helps companies maintain or improve their competitive position over time.

Incremental innovation is common among high technology companies. In the hi-tech consumer market, people are always keen on new products features.

Furthermore, consumer technology makers are always introducing new features to existing products.

Therefore, any company that fails to introduce small improvements at regular intervals will lose out significantly.

TechTarget says the following regarding the term:

“Incremental innovation is a series of small improvements or upgrades made to a company’s existing products, services, processes or methods.”

Innovation means thinking up and creating new ways of doing and making things. It also includes creating new products. It is a crucial part of many successful businesses.

Incremental Innovation
Incremental innovation is common among technology consumer companies and makers of electrical devices. Medicine and medical device makers are also well-known incremental innovators.

Incremental innovation vs. other types

This type of innovation is often a better investment than other innovation types. In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, many managers underrate the benefits of a series of small improvements or upgrades.

In this context, the term ‘marketplace’ means the same as the abstract meaning of ‘market.’

According to Decision Innovation, overall innovation failure rates are extremely high, i.e., 70% to 98%.

Incremental changes to existing products have a much lower failure rate.

Regarding incremental and other innovation types, Decision Innovation writes:

“Contending with this level of failure makes incremental changes look attractive when considering the risk associated with innovation investments.”

Incremental innovation – existing products

Incremental innovation focuses on existing products. The aim is to improve an existing product’s efficiency, features, productivity, or competitive differentiation.

Competitive differentiation is a positioning tactic a company undertakes to set its product apart from competing products.

Companies use this type of innovation to help maintain market share and position. They may also use it to improve the product’s market position.

It has become a common tactic among consumer technology producers. Smartphone and other consumer technology makers compete fiercely to improve devices with new features.

Video – incremental innovation

This Innovative Medicines Canada video explains what incremental innovation is. It focuses on life-saving medicines.