Many businesses live and die on the speed at which they introduce new ideas. From an outsider’s point of view, this may sound like a call for immediately pushing out as many products or services as possible within a short period of time. In reality, balancing innovation with business realities is a far more intricate task.

Balancing new ideas and the paralysis of choice

Successful business management requires innovation. It’s not a call to create new solutions to problems every few years, but instead a reminder that stagnation is the antithesis to a business’s health. Even adopting new products that are similar to existing solutions is a step forward.

Yet many business owners enter a state where they become paralyzed by their options and often fail to make important decisions in a timely manner. This important factor in how leaders respond to challenge is part of a greater paradox regarding business safety and option paralysis that can doom an otherwise healthy endeavor. Maintaining performance during a period of solid results seems like a positive move, but becoming complacent will almost certainly lead to a downturn despite the apparent strength of recent performance.

Success stories often extol the virtues of intelligence or mastery over a subject, but it’s just as important to examine the factor of innovation in any given business leader’s history. Having an intense skill set does not prevent a leader from making poor business calls and those who experience success often chase new ideas. Finding a balance that satisfies an industry’s need for solutions without flooding the market and dooming your existing services is a delicate balance to strike.

As such, the initial shock of choice paralysis prevents the more dangerous half of paralysis in which exuberance for change dilutes brand identity or puts a single company’s services in competition with one another.

Sustaining innovation and returns

Nearly every industry is driven by a need to produce solutions to problems incrementally without major upsets caused by outlying factors. Without major shake-ups brought by changes in technology or social unrest, minor variations of existing products and a slow incline towards new ideas provides a better path to growth in markets that might seem otherwise unlikely.

Even the medical field suffers from product cannibalization without careful consideration for its release of products like pacemakers. To some, the idea of slowing medical advances to meet business goals seems too outlandish to be true.

Yet making large changes in the medical field runs the risk of sidestepping medical advisory boards and research committees. While not every business has to remain this aware of their limitations, it goes to show how a traditionally help-oriented mindset can stand opposite the needs of a business.

This folds into sustainable innovation, which is just as important as being able to innovate incrementally. Knowing where to push and in what direction to move a business, with the hopes of remaining relevant in a decade, means knowing the sustainability of your market while watching the rise and fall of trends. Pushing for endless gain in the short term undercuts future sustainability in a major way, which then serves only to leave a business scrambling for new ideas while battling competition and attempting to maintain relevance as new sources of revenue taper off.

On a greater scale, a lack of sustainability has long-term repercussions on the industries that it floods and can even ripple out into the world as a whole. For example, prices of solid state hard drives were tied to the availability of solid state memory for a great many years, often throttled by phone and hard drive manufacturers fighting for the same supplies. As supply suddenly rebounded, prices dove sharply and manufacturers who gambled on rarity to ensure stable prices had to react to wide availability, forcing a change in business goals.

So while there are no hard and set rules in pushing businesses to innovate, waiting until it is too late or introducing every available idea as soon as it is ready will both leave a business treading water until certain doom. Like in many other facets of life, balance is key.