An innovation is a new answer to an old question.
A paradigm shift is a new question, and thereby a new answer.
When the first iPhone came out we were all absolutely blown away. I had a friend named Mo who was really into ‘all that stuff’ [most people were not back then] and he had watched the keynote…so he informed me that we were all about to experience a miracle.
He was right.
See…the first iPhone was a paradigm shift. It was asking a new question which was: What is a phone?
The iPhone is what Peter Thiel calls Zero to One, smartphones like that didn’t exist before [zero] and now they do [one]. Subsequent manufacturers of smartphones are improving something that already exists [one] and improving it [adding n]
Subsequent phones were ‘merely’ innovations [new answer to an old question]: How do we make the phone better?
That is why our eyes have not lit up like they did the first time.
Paradigm shifts and innovation are both crucial.
There are countless high achieving, well respected, remarkable businesses that are built on each.
And different products within those businesses that may be a result of one or the other. [i.e. The iPod was an innovation…how can we put songs in your pocket easier and cooler than the other guys?]
The simple idea is this:
Be very clear with yourself and with your team about which one you are going after, and then plan and serve accordingly.
Paradigm shift: new question, new answer
Innovation: old question, new answer