When Continuous Improvement is Bad for Your Company

Think about it. Google, the iPhone, Facebook, the microwave oven, the CD player…. None of these were a result of continuous improvement.

I’m all for getting better at the fundamentals, but as a stand-alone business strategy, continuous improvement is “me-too.” Working hard to get better at what your competitors do is a first class ticket to being a commodity, and that means your’re forever competing on price. Research In Motion is a good example — they have made their Blackberries better and better, but in the meantime, they’ve been leapfrogged by Androids and iPhones.

Breakout strategies involve going beyond continuous improvement and taking a sharp left-hand turn, or at the very least, concentrating on how to differentiate your company based on increasing value, not reducing cost. Risky? Yes. But if you want to break out of the commodity rut, it’s what you need.

Spend less of your time (and your organization’s) on fixing problems and continuous improvement, and spend more time on raising the bar and innovating.

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