I just recently read a white paper on the idea of incrementalism as it relates to big businesses.  Incrementalism at its core means this:  to make small, often unplanned changes over a long period of time.  For some companies, this way of thinking works well.  You've got a winning strategy, why change it.  The most basic example of this way of thinking would be to examine the process of creating a website or a blog.  Many people start a website, add a little bit of content each day, and incrementally move forward in creating a so-called "finished product."  But the problem I constantly find in terms of incremental thinking, is that the "finished product" is never actually reached.

I believe in big ideas and big changes.  It constantly keeps people interested, connected, and consistently guessing.  I appreciate innovation, experiments, and calls to action.  In today's society, ideas that break traditional boundaries and barriers are the ones that turn out trends.

let's look at some of today's Big Breakers vs. Slow Movers.

The What You Want, When You Want It Category

Redbox vs. Blockbuster:  Capitalizing on cheaper movies, more locations, and no-hassle membership, Redbox has completely destroyed Blockbuster in recent years.  Blockbuster moved incrementally in marketing and distribution relying too much on their brand name.  Redbox was innovative and broke ground with a new form of movie rental and distribution, people caught on, and the rest is history.

iTunes vs. Best Buy:  Cashing in on ease of use and accessibility, the iTunes store allowed individuals to buy music by the track, legally, and downloadable directly to an iPod.  They cut out the middle-man and made it unnecessary to drive to the store, buy a full CD, and download it to your computer.  Best Buy missed out on legal, digital distribution, leaving the market open for Apple to dominate the industry.

The Music Industry

We see incrementalism all the time in the music industry and a lot of the time we don't even notice it.  Bands are consistently capitalizing on the current trends.  Many of today's bands are just getting lost in the shadows of similar, but more popular bands.  Bands like Fall Out Boy have amassed thousands of bands holding tight onto their coattails in an attempt to make a quick buck.  The artists that are going to pave the way for the future of the music industry are the ones that are daring to be different.

Lady Gaga:  Different - hugely successful
MGMT:  Different - hugely successful
Kanye West:  Different- hugely successful

Cell Phones
Cell phones are all the same.  Except for one- the iPhone.  A huge idea; this thing has a full-web browser, apps, a video camera, a iPod.  It blew competition out of the water.  Apple didn't take an existing phone and incrementally improve on it like most companies - they created something completely unique and new.

The future depends on big ideas and big innovations.  The current economy could not only use them, but it desperately needs them.  We are the future of business and we will decide the direction of the economy.  It's time for us to move past incrementalism and move more towards imagination.  The internet has allowed us this option and it's the people who understand this who will truly benefit.  

My challenge to you.  Find a way to make a big, positive change in your life today.  Incrementalism can only work for so long.   Eventually you'll lose interest in yourself and people will lose interest in you.  Make it happen.  Make a change.  In such an oh-so-similar society, those who stand out will be the ones who succeed.
9/25/2009 03:59:34 am

Big ideas are the way to go! I agree with you about iTunes and Redbox-people get what they want and fast. And with the iPhone, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Apple has done a very good job creating big ideas in the last few years. If only the iPhone wasn't so expensive, then it could be accessible to more people.


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