Ways to distinguish yourself – #21 Balance Innovation and Continuous Improvement

All of us know that if you we want to make sweeping changes, we need to
innovate. Incrementalism (small improvements) won’t attract much
attention. Fedex became a success
story as they changed the expectations (absolutely, positively
overnight) of people, delivered on their promise and charged a premium
for it.

However, Innovation projects are never “complete” Fedex, since then has
embarked on continuous improvement of their “absolutely, positively
overnight” service. One such improvement is the transparency. Every
shipper or the receiver (or anyone with the tracking #) can find out
where exactly the shipment is at a particular point in time. Fedex
customers may not need all the information that they provide but making
the information available will only enhance the credibility of the

One more point to note is that radical innovations are risky too. Not
all of them succeed. So, you should ensure that there is a “tolerance”
for failure at your workplace. Second, you should be willing to
emotionally detach from this failure and embark on the next innovation
project. Whenever an innovation project succeeds, the next immediate
step would be to put that project on a “continuous improvement”
roadmap. Because no project is really “complete”

So, in summary a good framework can be

Innovation -> Continuous Improvement -> Innovation

Take a look at all the projects that are taking place in your own life
and it’s easy to categorize each one of them under “Innovation” or
“Continuous Improvement” If there are no innovation projects, there is
a serious problem. If there are past innovation projects that are not
under a “Continuous improvement” plan, there is an issue too.

The beauty is in balancing the Innovation and Continuous Improvement initiatives.