This just in: Don’t let innovation be the enemy of improvement

Photo by Elisabetta Foco
Photo by Elisabetta Foco

In the push for wild ideas that get public attention, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. What companies and products need to focus on is improvement, not innovation.

The iPod was a better looking mp3 player that could be personalized. Virgin America didn’t do anything beyond providing stellar service to customers who were used to an industry that treated them badly. Starbucks decided to serve strong coffee prepared to order and gave customers a comfy chair in its cafes to enjoy it. Those aren’t mind-blowing ideas. They’re elegant improvements in industries that badly needed any improvement at all.

So don’t chase far out innovations. Most of that is just a flash in the pan that gets a lot of buzz for a short period of time and then dies a quick and meaningless death. What you want is a steady hum of improvement that inches up a step at a time. And those steps will add up not only to a staircase of innovation, but a meaningful long-lasting impact that makes the world a better place.