The Power of Little Ideas Harnesses the “Third Way” of Innovation


Almost every single business owner has been told to innovate, but what do you do if you are a business that can't innovate like those fancy, cash-loaded startups in the magazines? You follow the "third way" of innovation. You follow the principles of "The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation" so that you can find and profit from the "little idea" that will help your business thrive now and in the future.

The Power of Little Ideas Harnesses the "Third Way" of Innovation

If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

What is innovation? If you ask people, they will refer to the latest startup or the newest gadget. The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation asks us to consider an alternative approach. As the book points out, innovation doesn’t have to involve startups, tech geniuses who made the next Facebook in their garage, or abandoning your business to build the next robot. It can involve a process of highly profitable and consistent steps that ensures your business’s survival now and well into the future.

What is The Power of Little Ideas About?

The core concept of The Power of Little Ideas is what the book calls a “third way” to innovate. Businesses have been accustomed to the idea that innovation involves fancy technology that entirely disrupts the market. When businesses discuss innovation, they talk about Uber, Airbnb or Netflix.

They don’t talk about Gatorade, Lego or Novo Nordisk.

These companies also innovated, making lots of money in the process. They also managed this innovation without spending millions of dollars (in most cases) or completely overhauling their business model to do it. They made small, low-risk changes.

The kind of “small change” that The Power of Little Ideas is talking about isn’t a popular new feature on an app or new development process designed to enhance a product. The kind of “small change” discussed in this book is designed to enhance the customer, not the product.

One other unique feature of the “small change” discussed in this book is the market. As the book’s case study of Gatorade and Novo Nordisk shows, innovation doesn’t require a brand new or underserved market. It can involve the very customers you already have now.

So, the innovation in this book is low-cost, low-risk and centered around current customers.

If you’re still scratching your head at this concept of innovation, The Power of Little Ideas will show you why and how it works. It offers case studies and strategies for starting down the path to  this “third way of innovation”. In this model of innovation, businesses take a balanced approach. They don’t exhaust their resources chasing the next gadget. They don’t overload their products with new features and add-ons. They take small risks that offer immense value so the business and its customers can make a profit.

Author David Robertson is a speaker, professor at The Wharton School, and host of the podcast “Innovation Navigation”. Robertson is a former faculty member and LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology at Switzerland’s Institute of Management and Development.

Co-author Kent Lineback is a former manager turned executive coach who has collaborated on many business books.

What Was Best About The Power of Little Ideas?

The Power of Little Ideas provides a practical alternative for businesses unable (or unwilling) to engage in expensive and risky innovation. The book speaks to business leaders and managers who face pressure to be innovative while also saving money and maintaining the current business.

This is tricky. It can also be disheartening if you don’t have an innovative work culture around you.

This book helps you figure out how to navigate through that obstacle. It provides case studies that don’t focus on the “flashy” aspect of innovation, but the practical aspect that can be applied immediately to a business.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Power of Little Ideas makes it clear in several areas that this book isn’t for everyone. The authors remind readers that their “third way of innovation” isn’t the only way. It’s a possible option if you fall into a certain category. (As an example, the book claims this method would not have saved Blockbuster.) This is clearly outlined in the first part of the book. The ideal business for this book has an existing market and wants to enhance its value with that market through innovation. It doesn’t provide advice on how to make the next Facebook or Uber.

Why Read The Power of Little Ideas?

As detailed above, this book is designed for the business wanting to innovate but without the resources (money, time, risk tolerance or work culture) to pull off a full-scale innovation effort. That said, the book doesn’t focus on businesses that just want to enhance their product to get new customers. The book’s contribution to innovation is more nuanced than that. The Power of Little Ideas focuses on enhancing value to your customers through a “little idea”. This “little idea” involves a series of decisions and actions that enhance the overall value of a business to its existing market. That is the “third way” of innovation. A little idea leads to consistent small changes for an important product in an established market.

This specific path to innovation can be highly useful to those businesses looking for a low-risk and high-value innovation effort.

Get discounts and special offers on new and classic business books with an Audible Premium Plus membership. Learn more and sign up for an account today.


Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

3 Reactions
  1. The biggest innovations came from a small idea. It is good practice to come up with a steady stream of ideas for innovations.

  2. The greatest products started with a small idea. That is where Facebook, Amazon and Google came from. So be sure to nurture ideas.

  3. However, ideas are only good if you act on it. If it remains as an idea, then there is no good with that.