This depends on how innovative your company currently happens to be and what the drivers are for the innovations you want to pursue. How open are you to making changes in what your company does and how it does it?
A company that has been around for 50 years is more likely going to have gone through a number of changes already and at the same time is more likely to resist change. There are obvious exceptions to this and these exceptions occur because of the leaders at the top and the corporate culture. One of the best known examples of this is Procter and Gamble where they have embraced open innovation and completely changed their culture to an innovative and collaborative one.
Newer companies are more adept at adjusting to change. They need to change rapidly in the early stages in order to find their market niche and adjust to their customers needs. If they don’t,the new company will not be able to continue. On the other hand, the established company has an existing clientele, a known brand, and sales that are already keeping the company afloat.
Established companies may not be ready to cannibalize their existing bread and butter. If you aren’t ready to create or be part of the next generation of products there are others who see the opportunities and are ready to jump in and take your market share away. If you aren’t ready to turn your company around and bring out disruptive technologies you can continue with incremental improvements / incremental innovation. This is not a bad thing, as long as you continue to monitor your market, customers and what your competition are doing than react quickly if you see a disruptive technology taking off. In fact, most innovation is incremental. Even the Apple iPhone is a product of a number of incremental innovations. The phone capabilities of the iPhone are an incremental improvement on the phone Apple worked with Motorola on, the ROKR E1 which used iTunes. Than after the announcement of the iPhone Apple opened up their environment for third party developers to create apps for the iPhone. All incremental innovations!
Another route is process innovation which is easier to bring into established organizations than disruptive innovation. Unfortunately process innovation is harder to track and doesn’t get recognized as being exciting by consumers or the market; however, you and your customers will see the efforts in terms of reduced delivery time, increased quality and decreased costs.
Ultimately innovation can be achieved incrementally with small changes along the way.