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Innovation: Don’t Mistake Incremental and Disruptive!

Which company or entrepreneur wouldn’t want to be innovative? We all know it is a must to survive and thrive today. Yet I see the misunderstandings when talking to my clients about it, whether they are entrepreneurs, middle size or big companies.

We usually start talking about innovation as if we all agreed on the same definition until we realize… we are not.

👉 Say out loud in a few words what innovation is for you Come one, play along! Do it, just for the sake of the exercise.

The official definition is… “to implement something new”. As simple as that.

But the term innovation comes from latin innovare which means « come back to, renew” and the verb novare from novus, means « change », « new ». The prefix in-, indicates a movement from the inside. So innovation can mean to renew, to change from the inside and could also imply improvements.

Was it the definition YOU had in mind? I bet it was related to game-changing technologies, products and processes… and that it actually has a broader meaning than you thought it had.

There are tons of ways to talk about innovation but to simplify, there are two main categories:

  1. Disruptive innovation

Something that radically changes the landscape: an invention, a new way of approaching business

  1. Incremental innovation.

Minor changes, the constant research of improvement.


This is the innovation we constantly hear about. The new technologies, the brand new approaches, the revolutionary products and business models. We can talk about blockchain technology, Tesla cars, the e-commerce revolution, neo-banks, or even the way we now take taxis (or don’t anymore).

Disruptive innovation is appealing, surprising and usually changes the way we are going to act. Yet, it is also incredibly hard and risky to go for it.

Well-established companies often think they need a little bit of ressource to make it happen, as their “performance engine” is already producing good result.

But the truth is, disruptive innovation requires RESEARCH. It requires to be, act, recreate, buy or build some kind of start-up.

It might require assembling a lab, a full time innovative team (which is NOT working on other projects), resources, an innovative strategic goal and much more. All of these elements are often overlooked.

Lots of companies think that giving 15–30% more time to their team to find creative ideas on different projects will trigger disruptive innovation. It is not enough. It costs a lot: time, people, change of processes and much more.

And for entrepreneurs, this kind of innovation requires a great understanding of the start-up world, customer research, pivots and the risk implied.

I always tell my clients : “Everything is possible, but bigger rewards come with a price. You just have to make a choice.”


Who cares about making small improvements? We want the game changing product or service, right?

But being innovative i

s also being in a constant improvement mindset.

If every employee, every manager, improves daily tasks, small features on products and services, or rethinks bits of the organization with their creativity, it creates a synergy that makes a company really innovative. It is that simple.

If you are a solopreneur, it is the same. Improvements here and there do make a difference. The WAY you do something. The way you approach your work. The way you give that speech. The way you advertise your product. You can be innovative in the little things too.

Every company and leader can work on those little improvements and observe tremendous results. Working on the culture, on improving processes, relationships, logistical subtleties.

What should you do then ?

Today, we overemphasize disruptive innovation and underestimate incremental innovation in the corporate world, also because of the media.

It is more appealing to say that Apple has a new revolutionary chip for their computer than to say that Allbirds has an interesting return process for its shoes and clearly improved it over the years.

Each company has to make choices for their strategy, and they can have a disruptive innovative strategy and/or choose to push incremental innovation.

But don’t be fooled, like that book the Slight Edge talks about, every small improvements matters and can have a compound effect over time! So consider the risks and implications of disruptive before you start dreaming about it and consider the awesome impact small efforts and ideas can have on the long run!

In any case, if you have a question about it, please message me, I would love to give you free quality advice with no strings attached.


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