Frederik Van Lierde

Innovate Without Disrupting: A Startup's Guide to Incremental Success

Thinking big doesn't always mean starting from scratch. Discover how small tweaks and focusing on what customers really want can be your best innovation strategy. Innovate Without Disrupting: A Startup's Guide to Incremental Success
For people starting their own businesses, 'innovation' usually makes them think of huge, game-changing ideas or new tech that shakes things up. 

Innovation doesn't always mean you have to flip the whole market upside down or come up with something totally new. 

Often, the best kind of innovation is the kind that makes small tweaks to what's already there, making things work better or making customers happier.

Misconception of Disruption

Many entrepreneurs think that real innovation means completely transforming an industry. But thinking this way could make them overlook smaller, but still important, opportunities to improve their business. 

Yes, big, disruptive changes can make a huge splash, but they don't happen often and can be pretty risky. This kind of innovation usually needs a lot of resources and often involves changing the existing market methods completely.

Example: Fidget Spinner
This simple toy, which has a centre part you hold and several flat, arm-like parts you can spin, became super popular in 2017. It wasn't because of some high-tech feature or a brand-new design; the fidget spinner just hit the spot for people looking for something to fiddle with to relieve stress or keep their hands busy. 
Its popularity exploded thanks to social media, where people loved sharing videos of different tricks and spins.  A straightforward item, with good timing and a strong social media game, can become a huge hit online without needing any fancy innovation.

Incremental Innovation

Making small, smart changes to improve what you already have is what incremental innovation is all about. This approach works really well for startups and smaller businesses because it doesn't require taking big risks or spending a lot of money. 

Instead of trying to invent something completely new, companies work on making their current products or services better. Even though these changes might seem small at first, they can really add up and make a big difference. They can make products better, customers happier, and operations smoother. 

By sticking with this strategy of making gradual improvements, businesses can slowly but surely make themselves stronger in the market and stand out from the competition.

Initially a DVD rental service, Netflix transitioned to online streaming, constantly updating and refining its platform and content delivery.

Over the years, it has incrementally improved user experience through better recommendation algorithms, a more user-friendly interface, and a wider range of content, including its own critically acclaimed productions. These steady updates helped Netflix adapt to changing consumer demands and technological advancements. Consistent, small-scale improvements can lead to substantial long-term success.

Customer-Centric Innovation

Putting the customer first in innovation means focusing not just on new tech or products but on making the customer's experience better. This method is all about really getting to know what customers want, what they like, and what they say they need, then using those insights to make real improvements.

When you innovate in areas like customer service, how you connect with people, and the whole customer journey, can make a big difference to your business's success. 

By making the customer experience a top priority, businesses can build stronger bonds with their customers, which leads to happier customers, more loyalty, and in the end, a stronger and more lasting business.

Customer-centric innovation understands that the real value for customers isn't just in the products or services themselves, but in how these offerings make their lives better or easier.

Amazon started out as an online bookstore, but it didn't stop there. It kept changing and improving its services by really listening to what customers had to say and keeping up with what they needed. 

Some of the smart changes it made included personalized recommendations, making its website easy to use, and adding a lot more types of products, all because it paid attention to what customers liked.

Then, Amazon introduced Amazon Prime, which offered quick shipping and streaming services, and this changed the game for online shopping. 

These updates, always aiming to make things easier and better for customers, have turned Amazon into the giant online store we know today.  Paying attention to customer needs and making continuous improvements will lead to huge success online.

Integrating Existing Technologies

Often innovation is about using what we already have in smart and creative ways. This approach is profitable for startups and smaller companies because it allows them to innovate without having to spend a lot on research and development.

By taking technology that already exists and applying it in new areas of their business, or combining different technologies to address new problems, these companies can come up with unique and practical solutions. 

This strategy doesn't just cut costs and save time; it also leads to a world of new possibilities for innovation by reimagining and repurposing what's already out there.

Originally just a app for sharing photos, Instagram used the tech already in smartphones to transform the social media scene. They didn't come up with the idea of a camera phone or social networking from scratch, but they brought these technologies together in a way that was easy for everyone to use and really caught on.

As time went on, Instagram kept making small but important improvements, like adding filters, stories, and the option to send messages directly, always focusing on making the app better for its users by building on what was already there.  Integrating smartly available tech and listening to what users want has helped Instagram become one of the most loved and impactful social media platforms around the world.

Collaborative Innovation

Innovation flourishes when people work together. For startups and other businesses, joining forces can mean they get to mix their resources, knowledge, and different ways of thinking. 

This teamwork can lead to new, exciting ideas and solutions that might not be possible if everyone worked by themselves. And it's not all about the money. It's also about sharing what you know, understanding the market better together, and coming up with creative ways to tackle things. 

By collaborating, companies can take on bigger challenges, share the risks and costs of trying new things, and end up with innovations that help everyone involved. 

When working together not only leads to great discoveries but also builds a culture where everyone is excited to keep innovating and sharing successes.

Google + Nasa
A great example of teamwork leading to big breakthroughs is the partnership between Google and NASA on quantum computing. Google brought its software and algorithm smarts to the table, while NASA provided its deep scientific and tech resources. Together, they made huge strides in quantum computing technology.

This team effort pushed the limits of what people thought was possible, showing just how powerful collaboration can be in driving innovation.  The impact of working together towards innovative goals, leading to major breakthroughs that can change the future.

Final Thought

nnovation isn't just about the big, earth-shattering ideas. It's often the small, consistent changes and improvements that keep a business moving forward. 

Pay close attention to customer feedback, using existing tools in clever ways, and working together with other businesses, you can find unique paths to success. 

Incremental innovations allow your business to maintain a competitive edge. It's about being smart and adaptable, recognizing that sometimes, the most effective innovations come from refining what you already have rather than starting from scratch.

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  1. Small Innovations Matter: Significant breakthroughs often come from making minor improvements to existing products or services.
  2. Customer Focus Drives Success: Understanding and responding to customer needs leads to meaningful innovation and business growth.
  3. Collaboration Unlocks Potential: Partnering with others can spur creativity and lead to groundbreaking solutions in any industry.