Businesses are no stranger to the challenges of innovation: What are our customers’ needs? How can we develop more effective processes, ideas, or technologies to meet those needs? How can we be a better, more efficient business? And most importantly, how can we accomplish this in a new and original way?
In an article for FedEx Small Business, Mack Institute corporate partner Michelle Proctor emphasizes the importance of choosing the right approach to these questions. Proctor hones in on two styles in particular: incremental innovation, which are improvements in everyday operations; and revolutionary innovation, which creates more risk but also more long-term competitive advantage.
According to Proctor, the first method is best suited to new and growing companies, who are still trying to find their niche in the market. For established firms, however, revolutionary innovation is key. Involving breakthrough ideas and big investment, it’s the style that reinvigorates a business and keeps dynamism levels high. Without real breakthrough innovation, companies will struggle to maintain their edge, as new entrants and rivals can easily copy incremental improvements.
The lesson for business leaders? Choose the style that works for you— but remember that often, you need a mixture of both. (Even large firms must retain an entrepreneurial mindset.) Improve the day-to-day operations to keep ideas fresh, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Looking beyond immediate ROI, and instead cultivating the habits of innovation, can lead to unparalleled success.
Michelle Proctor is Director of Innovation at FedEx.