At Data Marketing 2016 this week, a speaker referenced Business Author Oren Harari’s now famous quote on innovation that prompted me to open this blog rethinking his research on innovation. “Edison’s electric light did not come about from the continuous improvement of the candle.” Harari documented the tech trends of companies trying to distinguish themselves from each other during the tech boom.

Yet, today’s startup ecosystem has matured and this is challenging business leaders to rethink their operational workflows. So, are businesses still chasing the next great innovation that will change their business or are they trying to improve their core operational processes for efficiency sake? Should we do both?

I’ve been working as a developer and marketing consultant for 15 years helping both large and small companies gain efficiencies across their digital channels by improving data insights and building out applications accordingly. I’ve witnessed clients generating higher return on investment when they pursue data driven strategies to their technical investments.

However I’ve found that the majority of the time, companies are still pursuing innovations for innovation sake:

a) An innovation comes in an easily recognizable form to business leaders; it’s a new digital channel, a new product, a new value proposition. Most businesses would rather have a new product they can sell than predictive forecasting models to improve merchandise buying.

b) Innovations clearly resonate with an organization’s existing customer base despite emerging growth areas and preferences.

c) Disruptive innovation is a silver bullet for many organizations; while the long tail efforts of continuous improvement can generate higher return.

In the SEO world, technical search engineering has always been about specificity based on a number of PageRank factors versus content innovations. And, while content matters, our job as SEOs remains in the continuous innovation around the ranking factors both on and off the page. The potential service innovations are as relevant today as they were over a decade ago.

My conclusion is that founders and business leaders who prioritize both continuous improvement methodologies and data insights from their customer and developer communities will see greater return with a continuous innovation strategy as new opportunities emerge the internet industrial revolution.