What is Continuous Innovation?

As products have gone from being delivered in a box to being delivered over the Internet, there’s been a dramatic shift in how customers consume, demand, and interact with products. This fundamentally changes how products need to be built.


It’s always been about customer pull

While we have gone through many different product development methodologies over the years, the key thing to keep in mind is that what drove us to change in each of these previous shifts wasn’t simply changing for changes’ sake or simply because a group of people got together and decided to do things differently.

All these previous shifts happened in response to a change in how customers consume products which in turn created a spike in demand. To respond to this spike, we had to fundamentally change how we built products–from staged to iterative to continuous.

As products went from being delivered in a box to being delivered over the Internet, it was no longer enough to simply build what customers said they wanted, because by the time you built that, you learned that what they really wanted was something quite different.

In this new world, the only way to ensure you built what customers wanted was to engage them continuously.

The stakes are much higher this time

The old way of building products used to work at a time when there were huge barriers to entry and few competitors. Even if you got the product completely wrong, you had time to course correct and get back on track.

But fast forward to today…with the Internet, open source, and cloud computing, it has become cheaper and faster than ever to introduce new products which means there is a lot more competition than before—both from incumbents and new companies starting up all over the world.

In the old world, failing to deliver what customers wanted led to failed projects. But in the new world, continually failing to deliver what customers want, leads to total business model failure.

This is because customers today have a lot more choices than they did before. If they don’t get what they want from your product, they simply switch to something else.

On the other spectrum, the most successful companies today realize that good ideas are rare and hard to find. And that the best way to find the next big idea is to quickly test lots of ideas.

While the early adopters for this new way of working were certainly high-tech startups mostly building digital products, over the years continuous innovation has been increasingly applied in many different domains and it works even at massive scale.

The new unfair advantage

In this new world, speed of learning has become the new unfair advantage.

Companies that learn fast, outlearn their competition and get to build what customers really want. By doing this continuously, they stay relevant to their customers and see their business models thrive and grow.