Walk into one organisation committed to innovation and you will see a lot of focus on small steps operating under the “we do things a little better every single day” philosophy. Walk into another organisation committed to innovation and you will see a lot of focus on big leaps operating under the “we look to create radical change whenever we need it” philosophy.

But which organisation has the right approach to innovation?  We believe that the answer is that some of the time they do and some of the time they don’t – because the best approach is a combination of both.

A focus on incremental or exponential innovation has a lower chance of success than a strategy where both types of thinking are valued.

The organisation that can see the next big thing at the same time as seeing how to extract real value from the things that they currently do will increase their chance of successfully innovating.

In our experience organisations which are really clever with regard to innovation will do three things.  First they will have conversations which cover important issues such as “what percentage of our time should we spend looking for the next big thing?”  second they will consider things like “who are the people in our organisation which would like to focus on step innovation rather than leap innovation?”  and third they will encourage people to both explore and exploit to an appropriate level.

Like any really interesting dance, successful innovation is the combination of both leaps and steps, thinking big and thinking small, moving forward at the right pace for the right time for the right organisation.


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Written by Lisa Smith

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Lisa is a professional thinker dedicated to helping people unlock their innate creativity and to empower them to think differently – for themselves. She is passionate about building innovative cultures and about harnessing and engaging talent to create thinking communities. Lisa holds an MBA, specialising in organisational change and innovation, which forms the nucleus of her work. She relishes opportunities to share the Minds at Work thinking strategies with government bodies, socially responsible corporate, educators, community groups and farmers, helping them to turn their big ideas into realities.