The Same, but Better: Vindicating Incremental Innovation in an Age of Novelty Obsession

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


At least eighty percent of new products are incremental innovations (Gobeli & Brown 1987). Still, radical innovation keeps attracting most attention in both academia and industry. This points to a chasm between the everyday work of most creative professionals, often referred to as Pro-c creativity (Kaufman & Beghetto 2009), where the stated goal is to reach solutions that are ‘the same, but better,’ and, conversely, what might (polemically) be called the ‘novelty obsession’ that seems to prevail in the design research community, not least in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and among opinion makers in industry and mainstream media. This ‘novelty bias’ (Glăveanu 2018) is further striking as consumers rarely prefer novelty as a goal in itself. Rather, they choose “novel designs as long as the novelty does not affect typicality” (Hekkert, Snelders, & van Wieringen, 2003, p. 111). This makes it thus more relevant to study more critically the creative practice of designing for incremental innovation as a goal in itself, i.e., how creative professionals through a design process reach a product that represents what Kolko (2007) calls ‘valuable newness.’ This presentation reports a qualitative case study of a leading European design agency tasked with designing exactly such a ‘same, but better’ product—a global daughter company website (Biskjaer, Dalsgaard, & Halskov, forthcoming). Based on interpretive coding of five videoed design meetings (6hs of video), the presentation offers a model of how professional digital designers, through problem construction and identification (Reiter-Palmon 2017), purposely delimit radical innovation by managing six forces that constrain their design space. In sum, these six forces––client, customer, competitor, catalogue, content, and context––comprise the six C model. In an attempt to help vindicate incremental innovation, this presentation argues that this six C model can be utilized by design and creativity researchers to articulate and analyze incremental innovation in a creative design process and by creative professionals in design and innovation to improve their understanding of how to better navigate the habitual, but underexamined practice of designing specifically for incremental innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventThe European Collaborative Creativity Conference (EC3'19) - Webster University, Geneva, Switzerland
Duration: 17 Jun 201919 Jun 2019


ConferenceThe European Collaborative Creativity Conference (EC3'19)
LocationWebster University
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'The Same, but Better: Vindicating Incremental Innovation in an Age of Novelty Obsession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this