Yesterday was my birthday. And amongst the many cards and gifts I received were two particularly wonderful presents. I got an iPod Shuffle from my wife and her sisters. And from my brother I received tickets to see Spam-a-lot, the Broadway version of cult-classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. These gifts are an interesting contrast. I half-expected the iPod Shuffle. My wife knew I really wanted one and if I didn’t get one for my birthday I was going to buy it myself. The tickets to Spam-a-lot were a complete surprise. It was an amazing gift that I never would’ve considered a possibility.
Examining these pair of objects and their circumstances, I’ve realized innovation is much the same way. I know it sounds like I am going out on a limb here, but think about it. One may innovate by evolution, continuously pushing the envelope in a predictable, but desirable way. Apple’s new batch of colored iPod Minis are such a case, or Wendy’s going healthy like all the other fast food restaurants and offering fruit bowls.
There is also innovation by revolution, something completely unexpected and absolutely perfect. To continue the iPod analogy, the Shuffle with its pack-of-gum size and necklace chic is pretty revolutionary. Or another such innovation is perhaps when Wendy’s started giving customers the choice of switching out their fries for salad or chili in their combo meal a few months ago.
Both types of innovation are necessary. Yes, we need amazing unforeseen products, but we also need more powerful and more efficient varieties of technology we already possess. And either type of innovation can be successful for a business, if the choice is made to pursue such. I gave Apple’s iPod and Wendy’s restaurant as examples. What do you consider prominent cases of Evolutionary Innovation and Revolutionary Innovation?