How to Get Rid of Innovation-itis

Do you have innovation-itis?

If so, you’re probably not alone.

Let’s talk about how you can instill a pragmatic, achievement-based innovation mindset within your team and across your company.  First of all, innovation doesn’t mean you have to invent the next light bulb!

David Aaker, in his book Brand Relevance, organizes innovation into a three- type continuum, which he describes as follows:

Incremental Innovation:  noticeable impact on brand preference (modest improvement that will affect brand preference)

Substantial Innovation:  New category or sub-category (an offering enhancement that is so noteworthy that a group of customers will not consider a brand that is not comparable. (Heavenly Bed at Westin)

Transformational Innovation:  Game changer (the basic offering has changed qualitatively to the extent that existing offerings and ways of doing business are obsolete for a target segment or application, and existing competitors are simply not relevant.  (Tide (Ariel outside the United States) introduced a synthetic detergent technology that made soap powders obsolete.)

I would argue that business teams and senior executives struggle and even become disillusioned with innovation because of the wrong expectations.  They strive for the transformational innovation at the expense of achieving and implementing the incremental or substantial innovation.

One remedy:  if you pay attention to how people and customers actually use products and/or solve problems, you may find opportunities.  The fancy word for this is ethnographic research.  But, you can get important learning even if you don’t have a big research budget.  There are cost-effective ways to cultivate and maintain a fact-based, outside:in perspective.  Find them and use them.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at two recent marketplace examples: water fountains and baseball bats.

Elkay EZH2O Bottle Filling Station (

Elkay EZH2O Bottle Filling Station (

I bet you’d think that water fountain manufacturers would be stymied when it comes to innovation.  Not the folks at Elkay.  By studying usage, they discovered something important:  it’s pretty hard to fill a water bottle at a standard fountain!

So they made a bottle filling water fountain, which caters to “green” consumers and waste-management conscious facilities: Continue reading