‘Better’ is the more practical approach to innovation in general

It all starts with the question: How can I make this better?

Framing is important and when talking about innovation that usually means deciding between incremental and radical change. Yet for most businesses, they don’t want to hear about change. They want the world they exist in just the way it is, especially if they’ve had some level of success.

But which is the more practical approach? Better or different?

Let’s take Zappos for example. On the surface, Zappos is just another online store that sells a lot of different products. The difference with them is how they operate. And how they operate is meaningfully different than a store that offers lower prices. Their mantra is to ‘Deliver Happiness’ and it makes a meaningful difference to consumers as well as it’s employees.

An example from the auto industry. Tesla Roadster. Is it better than a Ferrari? Porsche? It depends on who you ask. Both are cars, but the most distinct difference being that one of them runs on electric batteries. One’s better for the environment, but you may not care about that when deciding between one or the other.

Let’s take Google+ as a recent example. Is it better than Facebook? That’s what the users are comparing it to because of the obvious similarities. Google thought hard about ‘what sucked about social networks’ and ‘how to fix it’. Did it improve it? Everyone has their own opinion but the fact is they’re still not done.

And that’s the point:

Better is the more practical approach to innovation because nothing is ever done. Whether a product, service, business process, customer experience, etc; we can always improve them.

Better, usually takes a more trial-and-error approach. You try things and see what works. This is very practical.

Going from ‘better to different’ is a huge mental leap. And though trying to be different might make you appear different, it’s not as simple as wearing red when everyone is wearing black. Without getting philosophical, but a Ferrari is better and different than a Tesla. Heck, they’re both better and different from others in their own way. Just like Zappos is better and different than other similar retailers, so is Amazon (Zappos parent company) in it’s own way.

We can compare products and services all day long but deciding if something is better and different than something else is really a matter of perception. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s better. But better, is always different.

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  • ‘Better’ is faster/simpler/possibly cheaper

    • There is something to that Mohan. It’s a practical point of departure. A great example of doing things ‘better’ is Apple which has the attributes you describe.



  • Given your question—which is the practical approach—I wholeheartedly agree, but this presumes that practical is the most important criterion for a company or organization about to make a decision regarding innovation.  It may or may not be.  I practical, accepted step toward making things better that is wholly insufficient for member’s or customer’s needs may be a very poor choice to make.

    • Hi Jeffrey (@jcufaude:twitter),

      The practical approach implies increments. As in satisfying customers needs the same way just a little bit better than before. As I understand from your comment (and I also agree with), the problem, is staying stuck doing the same stuff when customers needs change. That’s the challenge, I think, to staying relevant. Better yet, is creating/anticipating these changes. The question is, how do we anticipate needs? How do we go from satisfying to creating new needs?

      Thanks for the comment,


      • I support the IDEO approach (and one others also use) to anticipating/uncovering needs:  lots of on the ground observation and discussion of/with end users, as well as exploring broader trends that may have implications for the product or service being considered, but have yet to be applied intentionally to it (application innovation from one arena to another),