Incremental or Breakthrough Growth

I watched an interesting piece on BBC Breakfast TV the other day. The reporter was at a business in the North of England involved in glass moulding in various ways. The Managing Director – clearly a guy with an appetite to change talked about some small incremental changes that he had made to the business that were delivering some positive results.

These included:

  • Increasing the thickness of the glass in front of the ovens thereby retaining more heat in the process of heating the glass and reducing energy costs
  • Introducing a bonus scheme for the staff rewarding productive effort
  • Introducing a time, at the coffee break, when staff can discuss any problems and challenges

These all show initiative of course but in isolation will provide, at best, incremental improvements. Let’s go back a few years and assume we had a peek at the Blockbuster Video chain Management Meeting. Being thoughtful souls the management reviewed:-

  • The merchandising instore and the ease of access to buying DVD’s / Videos for their customers
  • The basic cost of DVD’s from two suppliers with the Procurement Director committing to get a 5% decrease in cost from both by the end of the forthcoming month
  • Discussed the installation of a new picking system at their warehouse designed to improve this process and save valuable time – quantified by the Operations Director

A useful and productive meeting and one could assume all of these initiatives will have a positive effect on the numbers – but then……



However worthy your incremental strategies and goals they can be destroyed at a stroke by market changing ideas and initiatives developed by businesses who use Creative Thinking as part of their management toolbox. The burning question for Blockbuster is ‘did you review streaming and ascertain its effect on your market?’. If they had today’s ‘Netflix’ could have easily been ‘Blockbuster.'

So what can you do to insulate yourself against these ‘game changers?’ Become a game changer yourself by:-

  • Not wasting your valuable management time on the minutia within the business – and get dissatisfied with incrementalism
  • Start using your brain and the collective brains of your team on creative thinking – start thinking ‘what if we could’? and ‘what barriers do we need to overcome to achieve that’ and ‘how do we overcome them’? instead of ‘it can’t be done in this market
  • Look at other businesses and any ideas (in other markets) that have game changed – what were the things that they/it did? – how did they/it achieve that? – what if this is transferable to my business – don’t believe that things are not transferable after a bit of initiative and thought is applied. A meat-packers ‘cutting line’ spawned the idea that created the first car assembly line!!!
  • Look at all explicit material relevant to your goals and market too. What technological developments are taking place? Don’t believe there are any? Think and look again

All of this is particularly pertinent and relevant in the Millennium. We are in the age and time of Digital Disruption and this will radically affect and change many markets and companies. Those that have no strategy to compete and those that do not continue to look to change and lead will follow and fail. Toys R Us being the latest to suffer from their changing market to which they have not adapted to quickly enough. They now have financial problems and will have a real job catching up, if they get the chance (which I think they will). Far better if they had thought ahead and shaped up ahead of Amazon etc.

By all means do as our glass company is doing and look for those incremental gains but don’t ignore the changes that are going on around you EVERY DAY – spend your valuable management time looking at this and training your team to handle the day to day. Therein lies a successful business

We help businesses get ahead and stay ahead in their markets. If you would like a free/ no obligation meeting or discussion with us, or would like to attend one of our upcoming free Workshops on this and other key subjects please get in touch at: or call us on 0116 232 5231.  Alternatively contact me personally at the contact points below.

David Turner

Managing Director

07747 023610

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