Iteration versus true innovation

October 5, 2016By Behind the Shelf Blog, Brand Marketing

by Dave Wendland

One of my all-time favorite innovators was my father who never stopped dreaming and scheming until he passed four years ago. His philosophy and mantra was simple, “I have ideas I haven’t even thought of yet!”

In this post I’m drawing distinction between iteration and breakthrough innovation. I won’t tell you that step changes and iteration are not necessary, but dramatic growth comes from true innovation. Something that either attracts more shoppers to a category, adds to the market basket, or delivers a revolutionary new solution to a problem.

Iterative development starts from a base product or concept and then adds step changes to the original concept over time. Sometimes the iterations can be separated by relatively short periods of time while others may be years apart. Often this iterative approach is useful for products that may have been prematurely launched or simply haven’t lived up to their market potential. By adjusting features (e.g., packaging, messaging, delivery method, pricing, etc.), increasing demand may follow. The key to making this decision comes down to: (1) quickly iterating the product based on learnings and (2) consistently measuring each iteration based on a defined success metric.

So, what is “breakthrough innovation?” Rather than beginning with a pre-existing product and an eye toward incremental change, breakthrough innovation starts with a problem that needs to be solved. And it is this solution-based development that can be transformational for an industry, a company, a brand, or a category. Such innovation may not happen overnight…but when the “a-ha” moment occurs, it’s time to set the wheels immediately in motion to vet the idea and get started.The commercialization of a solution converts creativity into innovation.

Remember, without continual product development, there is no creativity; without optimization, there is no profit; and without commercialization, there is no innovation. The commercialization of a solution converts creativity into innovation. Therefore, to move any idea to an implementable solution requires a thoughtful, disciplined approach. We follow our comprehensive methodology, Concept through Commercialization™.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “There's a way to do it better — find it.” Whether through iteration or breakthrough innovation, the key to success often lies in reaching beyond the status quo for better results. Thinking of ideas you haven’t even thought of yet!