Exactly what it says – minor tinkering with existing products to improve them gradually, without scaring the horses (customers or investors) and without incurring the costs of having to do a major retooling of production lines, retraining suppliers and customers.
In the DILC, what you’d mostly expect to see in phase 1 (as part of the background of innovation drift, regardless of lack of pressure), phase 2 and phase 3.
Varieties of Capitalism theory reckons co-ordinated market economies are better at incremental innovation than radical innovation, but it’s not that clear-cut…
From ‘techtarget‘; “Incremental innovation is a series of small improvements or upgrades made to a company’s existing products, services, processes or methods. The changes implemented through incremental innovation are usually focused on improving an existing product’s development efficiency, productivity and competitive differentiation. Many enterprises use incremental innovation to help maintain or improve a product’s market position. Incremental innovation has become a common tactic in the consumer technology industry, as companies strive to regularly improve personal devices with customer-friendly features.”
see blog post on “incremental versus radical innovation”
See also sweated assets, Radical Innovation