Effective Innovation Management: Disruptive vs Incremental Innovation

If you’re a business owner, you’ll understand that innovation is an effective way of improving ROI (return on investment).

Effective innovation takes many forms, including disruptive innovation and incremental innovation. Whichever you choose will depend on the goals of your company. We’ll review the pros and cons of each, but first, let’s look at why innovation management is so important during the change process.

Why is Innovation Management Important?

By organizing innovative practices, you can help to safeguard and future-proof your business. By putting proper processes in place, not only can you help to empower your employees to continually innovate and improve, but you can also manage large-scale objectives, creating manageable goals.

Choosing to use a management tool to help you with the innovation process will help you mitigate many of the risks involved with change. This is because, according to Qmarkets, an innovation management tool can help you leverage the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. This then allows you to identify, develop and implement ideas that are useful for you and your business before you begin.

By using an innovation management tool, you can:

  • Create a culture of innovation that leads to repeatable results
  • Breakdown organizational silos
  • Engage stakeholders with challenges and opportunities
    • Overcome bureaucratic barriers

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Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation involves making larger changes to your organization. This can involve launching new products or expanding to new markets. One good example of this would be Netflix, which adopted disruptive technology to revolutionize the video rental marketplace.


  • Expand your market through new innovations
  • Improve current practices and policies (including business models)
  • Open up new markets and make significant improvements in short time periods


  • Success is never guaranteed and expanding to a new marketplace without significant analysis of that market is always risky
  • Competition in the marketplace is high, so you’ll need to make your idea stand out above more established options
  • You’re fighting against an established status quo and companies who will have an interest in you not succeeding

Incremental Innovation

Incremental innovation involves making small, continual improvements that offer a cumulative benefit to your company. One example of incremental innovation would be the iPhone. Apple’s product was not the first smartphone to enter the market, but Apple were the first company to gain mass popularity thanks to gradual and incremental improvements to the technology.


  • Encourages brand loyalty through gradual improvements (e.g. software upgrades)
  • Helps your company remain competitive while growing sales from existing products and services
  • Protects your current business model
  • Ideas are easier to sell to key stakeholders
  • Process is generally more affordable


  • It’s difficult to get small changes noticed in a crowded marketplace
  • It can be difficult to tell how different your product really is after the change
  • Your competitors are likely to be making similar (if not the same) changes to try and stay ahead

Which is Right for My Business?

Incremental innovation is the most common approach used by businesses today. This is because it’s cheaper and easy to implement in businesses that are averse to risk and change. However, for start-up businesses, radical innovation is common, as it allows the new business to appear as a direct competitor to an established marketplace.

The solution you choose should depend on your business goals. If you’re looking to improve on the competition, gain market share or steadily increase profits, incremental change may be best. But, if you’re looking to disrupt an industry by exploring an undiscovered market or different approach, then radical innovation is the way forward if you want to bring those new products and technologies to market.

Whichever method you choose, ensure that you deploy an innovation management tool to help implement the change. Although there are negatives associated with both methods, using software to help you can mitigate risk and increase the chance of you receiving buy-in.

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