Continuous improvement vs Innovation in the Organizational Context

All members of an innovative organization should have a solid grasp of both continuous improvement and corporate innovation. However, delving into the details of these concepts and, more crucially, exploring how they can complement each other might bring about some uncertainty.

Here’s all you need to know about these concepts within an organizational context.

Continuous improvement vs innovation: the definitions

Innovation is the process of generating ideas and turning them into a reality. Conversely, continuous improvement is an overall philosophy that focuses on finding ways to improve existing processes, making them more efficient and effective.


The similarities between Continuous improvement and innovation

Both continuous improvement and innovation strive to enhance the prospects of an organization, requiring full participation and support across the entire company for successful outcomes.

Furthermore, the main driving forces of innovation are customer experiences, revenue growth, and product development - all of which are considered fundamental features of continuous improvement too.

In fact, incremental innovation and iterative approaches actively focus on improvement by building upon existing products, whether they be internal products or innovations currently available in the market. 

Meanwhile, many of the goals stemming from continuous improvement - such as reducing defect frequency - are often accomplished thanks to innovation.


The differences between Continuous improvement and innovation

Despite their similarities and fundamental goal to build a better organization with a company-wide approach, continuous improvement and innovation do have many differences too. 

Innovation is largely about products whereas continuous improvement primarily focuses on processes, although it also extends to people. One of the main differences between the two concepts is that continuous improvement works with existing elements while innovation sets out to unearth new ideas.

By addressing existing elements, continuous improvement may aim to reduce waste and defects while also boosting productivity, customer support, and employee morale. In this sense, it can redefine a company culture. Innovation can achieve these objectives but is also the key to redefining markets by introducing new products - whether they be radical innovations or architectural innovations.

Meanwhile, continuous improvement is often focused solely on the organization itself. Innovation, on the other hand, has to take market circumstances into account. 


Using continuous improvement and innovation together

One of the easiest ways to separate innovation and continuous improvement is as follows;

  • Continuous improvement asks “How can the company do this better?”;
  • Innovation asks “How can the organization bring a better product to the market?”.

Once you accept their differences, you can also see how their symbiotic relationship can develop. Given the correlation between burnout and reduced innovation, using continuous improvement to create a better environment for employees could also boost the frequency and quality of new ideas.

Similarly, while innovation is often customer-centric, it can often make improvements on existing products or behind-the-scenes elements that ultimately allow the organization to deliver better products to the client. 


For the best results, a dedicated innovation management platform that can incorporate elements of continuous improvement is essential. KICKBOX is the ultimate choice, which integrates methodologies and templates to guide organizations to greatness. Book a demo to see its capabilities now.

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