The Modifying Innovation Style

“Let’s refine and optimize what we already have and make improvements as needed.”

Some people like to move forward one step at a time. They like to solve problems by building on what they already know is true and proven. They emphasize the Modifying style. People who favor this style tend to be efficient and disciplined. They seek solutions by applying methods that have worked in the past. They provide a group with the stability and detail-orientation it needs to do a quality job, ensuring that the full potential of an idea gets developed.

Gretchen Price, Director of Finance for the Health and Beauty Aids Division of Procter & Gamble, used the Modifying style to develop a new financial planning system:

"The area we focused on was our profit forecasting role, which is our primary financial planning vehicle. It all comes together in this forecast, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people who provide a piece of information. What we've been able to do is really streamline the process, allowing some simplification in functional areas. We even took what, for this particular area in our company culture, are radical steps – like eliminating the frequency of our forecasts. So we’re providing better information to the company for decision making purposes and people feel a lot better about it.'"

A Modifying Moment in History

Back in the gold rush days of the 1850s, a seventeen-year-old immigrant tailor noticed that miners quickly went through scores of their wool trousers. He went to work sewing overalls made of a stiff canvas that could stand up to wear and tear. Suddenly, his services were in huge demand. Several years later, he substituted the canvas material with a French fabric called denim, and dyed it indigo blue to minimize soil stains. Sales of his pants and overalls skyrocketed. He had invented blue jeans. His name was Levi Strauss.

A Famous Modifying Innovation

Joseph Gayetty refined and improved sanitary hygiene in 1857.

His new toilet paper was composed of flat sheets. Before Gayetty's invention, people tore pages out of mail order catalogs - before catalogs were common, leaves were used. Unfortunately, Gayetty's invention failed. Walter Alcock (of Great Britain) later developed toilet paper on a roll (instead of in flat sheets). Again, the invention failed.

In 1867, Thomas, Edward and Clarence Scott (brothers from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) were successful at marketing toilet paper that consisted of a small roll of perforated paper . They sold their new toilet paper from a push cart - this was the beginning of the Scott Paper Company.


Modifying At a Glance

How does this style support innovation?

  • By building on what others have done, without “reinventing the wheel”
  • By motivating a group to focus on realistic, short-term success
  • By being dedicated to keeping change relevant to current needs

How can this style hinder innovation?

  • By being too tied to present circumstances and not seeing less-obvious opportunities
  • By not questioning assumptions
  • By not being open to radical new possibilities

What key questions does this style ask to stimulate new ideas?

  • What can we do to refine and optimize what we’ve already invested in?
  • What has been done before that we can improve upon?
  • What would simplify this?
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