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Why is novelty overrated for digital innovation?

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Ivanna Gurmak
Nov 10, 2023
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If you're immersed in the tech industry — developing apps, seeking software services, or simply exploring — you've likely encountered numerous proposals emphasizing innovation. This might include creating cutting-edge software, pioneering innovative technology solutions, or any other variation around innovation, breakthrough, novelty. 

But is innovation truly what you need?

How do we define something to be new? Ecclesiastes questioned: Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us. What is the source of novelty? What is innovation? What is digital innovation? It is a buzzword with 1,880,000,000 search results on Google. In the review of 227 articles integrating insights from eight different disciplines, digital innovation is defined as:

The creation, adoption, and exploitation of an inherently unbounded, value-adding novelty (e.g. product, service, process, or business model) through digital technology.

According to a study on the novelty of software products, one can be seen as original by both software specialists and members of the public because of three main factors affecting the perception:

  1. А new context of use, where the software is designed to be used in a new physical or social environment, 
  2. and the use of a new technology providing new functionality 
  3. or a new way for users to interact with the product.

The myth of constant novelty

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What is the source of novelty in nature? Evolution. A powerful blind process generates new forms in the melting pot of natural selection. Survives the fittest? No! It doesn't matter how strong you are if you don't successfully pass on the genes.

How could this paradigm be applied to the business world? Let's break away from the pathos of the headlines and look at the business landscape of the technology niche through the lens of Darwinism.

Do you remember Google+, Google Glass, Windows 8, Vista, Phone, Segway? Chances are, you might not recall these products as vividly as they aspired to be remembered. The survivorship bias blinds us – we see only winners of the evolutionary race and quickly forget the brands and products that dropped out of the race. 

Or do you know the story of the most luxurious warship in the world, Vasa, built in 1627 for Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden? Let me remind you, it sank in its maiden voyage because it simply flipped over. This is an example of a design engineering flaw made in a rush for novelty that has made it one of the most bizarre museums of human blind confidence centuries later.

These are examples of how disruption can be destructive. However, failure is an integral part of progress. This is well known in the startup world. So how to balance the desire to create the next breakthrough while not becoming the next tech failure?

Life is about reproduction, so business is about sustaining itself, not only about short-term peak and then oblivion. It is a marathon, a long run, with lots of day-to-day routines of survival and adaptation. In today's business world, many companies see the value in focusing on improvement and staying sustainable for the long run. They understand that emphasizing stability and functionality strategically leads to lasting success. This strategic shift is substantiated by statistical trends, indicating a growing preference among enterprises for a measured approach, prioritizing steady growth over the relentless pursuit of continuous innovation. This shift aligns with the idea that, in the ongoing journey of business, a balanced approach focusing on endurance and adaptability is key for lasting prosperity.

Innovation: by steps or by leaps

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How does evolution move: by steps or by leaps? Do new lifeforms appear instantaneously or gradually? Incremental innovation in software development is similar to evolutionary gradualism - it is like taking small steps forward, making tiny improvements along the way. On the other hand, the evolutionary model of punctuated equilibrium is similar to revolutionary innovations that disrupt the usual way of doing things. 

In business, just like in life, it's all about balancing small changes (for quick profits) and big changes (for long-term success). Think of Microsoft Windows OS — it has both slowly improved over time and had big, game-changing updates.

In the tech world, some ideas win, and others lose in the race for user approval. In the dynamic tech landscape, where some ideas triumph and others falter in the race for user approval, many companies in the tech and services sector employ IT managed teams. They leverage these services to bridge knowledge gaps and adeptly navigate both incremental and revolutionary changes in their industry as both approaches can benefit by using outsourced IT managed services. 

The importance of building on existing ideas

The significance of building upon existing ideas is well captured in Newton's famous quote: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants," a sentiment that extends beyond evolution to the realm of code. Much like the adaptation of living organisms ensuring the survival of future generations, the mobile apps on your smartphone's initial screen are the ones that have stood the test of time.

As a reverse example, you can watch firsthand as years of built-up practices, a huge part of its IT managed team, functionality, audiences, and advertisers leave Twitter. Despite attempts to navigate uncertainties on platforms like BlueSky (which, by the way, doesn't seem drastically different from the Twitter we know), or alternatives like Post or Mastodon, a true replacement is yet to emerge. As we witness the twilight of what was once the greatest news app, it prompts reflection on the impact of trailblazers who inspire ideas, engineers who shape technologies, and managed software development teams that adeptly tailor products to meet evolving environmental demands.

Balancing novelty and incremental innovation

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How do you find a balance between novelty and slow change? Remember that evolution is a journey of trial and error.

Navigating the delicate equilibrium between embracing novelty and fostering incremental change is a nuanced journey within the ever-evolving landscape of technology. Achieving this equilibrium requires acknowledging that evolution is inherently a process of trial and error, where lessons learned from both successes and setbacks pave the way forward.

Faced with strong corporate influence, being adaptable becomes a powerful response. It serves as a leveling factor against monstrous entities armed with unlimited budgets and boundless human resources. In this context, the strategic selection of individual teams and the incorporation of managed technology services become invaluable. These approaches offer a tailored and precise response, enabling organizations to harness innovation effectively while navigating the challenges posed by the rapidly changing technological terrain.

Ultimately, the art of finding equilibrium rests not just on the ability to introduce novel ideas but also on the wisdom to integrate them seamlessly with incremental innovations. It's a dynamic interplay that acknowledges the significance of both disruptive breakthroughs and the steady evolution of existing technologies, ensuring a sustainable and adaptive approach to technological advancement.

Efficient problem-solving

Do you want the shortest possible history of the most effective, innovative application of a not-so-new technology? Could you imagine the Ukrainian military adoring the Discord VoIP platform for communication? It took some outsourced managed IT services to arrange everything, but the fact remains. You have a real-world problem – the need for accessible, stable, and secure communication – and that's when the good old tried and tested game voice chat unexpectedly steps in.

Amidst the clamor of headlines, rave reviews, and social media likes, a fundamental truth persists - media buzz, no matter how loud, is ultimately irrelevant without the great user's experience when interacting with your application. Do they sense that your application understands and efficiently addresses their needs? Are they aware that you've recognized and solved a problem they might not even have known existed? The essence of digital innovation lies not just in novelty but in the ability to provide meaningful solutions that resonate with users on a personal level.

Conclusion

Follow the ancient wisdom of Mother Nature – tread cautiously (proceed step by step) when uncertainty clouds the path, and boldly leap (instigate disruption) when encountering a blue ocean (an ecological or business niche devoid of competition) and a window of reduced risk and abundant opportunity. Not sure that your capabilities meet your needs? If there's uncertainty about whether your capabilities align with your needs, consider reaching out for a strategic consultation or enhancing your team with our proficient IT managed team services.

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