Innovative solutions: big ideas or small projects?

Innovative solutions: big ideas or small projects?

Wojciech Drewczyński
January 25, 2021  | 5 min read

How is it that Facebook or Google went from tiny companies to market giants? Behind their success there is an idea, stubbornness and a wise business attitude. In this article, you will learn about the last one.

2020 showed that nothing in business is a given once and for all. For some, the new reality turned out to be an opportunity for expansion.

The companies that were the quickest to adapt to the new reality came out of the pandemic situation unscathed. The most crucial success factors were satisfying customers' real and vital needs and the speed of adaptation to changes and flexibility.

Despite this, some companies still had an approach of doing new projects the "old way." They had to be large and complex so that competitors would not copy them. In times of high market uncertainty, this is not the best approach.

If the project fails, it may turn out that the company has lost time that it could spend on a more effective adaptation to market needs. It may also turn out that despite our good intentions, demand for a new solution is weak after delivering it to the market.

In such a situation, we may have to commit even more resources to improve the product or make a pivot.

Such situations happen quite often. Especially in the case of projects of innovative nature.

It is much better to put in place projects of a smaller scale, but one you can deliver to the market faster.


What is the difference between big and small ideas?

It is the fundamental question you need to ask yourself.

The answer is not as simple as you may think.

Let us take a simple example of a small project.

  • Several of your current customers are reporting the same problem in quick succession.
  • They need an extra simple tool to streamline repetitive activities.

The project does not appear to be complex. You can also deliver it quickly. The venture seems to have growth prospects. And what is essential, it will be interesting for other clients as well. In such a case, the project should not be a large undertaking.

Now let us change the perspective a bit.

  • A new, large business partner who is in an industry you are unfamiliar with comes to you.
  • A client asks for a tool to automate specific business processes in his area.
  • Additionally, the company works on systems you have not encountered before.
  • Also operates in several different locations, languages, and time zones.
  • The client needs a solution that works on mobile devices and desktops. It needs to be available for all platforms.
  • The customer will provide a list of more detailed requirements at the next meeting.

Working on the project will need different work teams on the client-side. Compared to the work done for current clients, this project will be huge. You can see it at first glance. It will need much more resources and time to complete.


Create small solution

There is an easy way that could simplify such a project.

It would be enough to define well the problem that you need to solve.

On this basis, it would be possible to create a smaller solution, which you could launch quickly. Moreover, it would allow business benefits almost immediately, not after several months of work.

Check our blog post about Design Sprint to learn more on how to use such an approach.


Business lessons from Facebook and Google

Suppose someone told you right now that you should do something of the scale of Facebook or Google.

You would consider it something unrealistic. A hugely difficult and large task.

These are powerful platforms that are handled by tens of thousands of people. But go back a few years and remember their beginnings.

What was a more difficult task when Google launched: making a simple search engine or creating a portal like Yahoo!? Which idea was more significant?

Two programmers with a $10,000 budget they got from their professor could not compare to the giant.

Remember the beginnings of Facebook? A service for Harvard students.

If you consider its reach, it was a tiny venture. It could not compare to MySpace in any way.

At the time of their establishment, these services' creators did not think that one day they would become so vast and important.


Small innovations made tiny companies able to grow

If someone said to Larry Page and Sergey Brin: make a search engine that will work worldwide, they would shake their heads. The same would be true of Mark Zuckerberg, if he was told to make a service bigger than MySpace.

The little things that were Google and Facebook became big only over time.

They evolved from small projects. They developed step by step. They were straightforward and offered only a fraction of what is available today.

Founders added more functionalities over time.

With more small innovations, they were able to grow.


Start with small steps

It must be the same with your ideas. They are like children. You must teach them to walk before they can run.

There are no shortcuts in this case.

Sometimes you must hit a bump in the road to know what to watch out for. You must pass all the stages before your idea enters the adult life.

Are you dreaming of a big international venture when you have never ventured further than your hometown? Do you think it will be easy? You have completed a few small projects, and you have decided to set your sights on the big fish?

They can pull your boat down with their momentum.

Start with small steps.

  1. Grab some more significant partners, try to operate on a larger scale.
  2. Find people who know the business and can help you.
  3. Grow as much as you can. As your experience will grow, you will gain momentum.


What is the value of small innovations?

Big ideas are cool. There's a buzz about them. They change the world around us.

But they are also very expensive, challenging, and take much time. And as much as you would like, you cannot exclusively do big things.

By doing so, you will neglect what is only seemingly less important.

When the number of the small tasks you need to take care of becomes very large, it will be difficult for you to handle them all.

Small ideas are essential for several reasons:

  • You do not have to waste much time getting them done. A week, a day, a few hours - this is sometimes how long it takes to do something innovative. And you can spend the rest of the time on further development.
  • Done is better than perfect. It is one of the most significant benefits of small ideas - they work. So, what if you introduce a crucial function to your super-secret project when you launch it only in a few months. A working thing is better than a perfect one. People can use it right away.
  • You can create a testing ground: sometimes, before you introduce changes on a large scale, it is worth testing. A small project will be perfect for this. It is also smart for big companies to work in such a manner: do something in small groups, and check what works the best.

Already so many benefits and we are only halfway!

  • Updating small projects is much easier than massive systems. In the business world, as in nature, it is not the biggest and the strongest who survives, but those who are the fastest to adapt to changing conditions. Small projects are flexible.
  • They are cheaper! Maintaining a simple idea will be much less expensive than hiring more people to work on a project which will come out in a year.
  • They are simple to talk about, and that is their most significant advantage. You will not have to explain to anyone how it works.

And last but not least...

  • They can become big ideas: thanks to the fact that they work, they are cheap, flexible, and can test different options. Over time your small innovations can turn into something big. All they need is a chance to exist.


If someone tells you that your idea must be big, ask them if you have time to do a massive project. Your competitors are working on such a project but who cares? You must be quicker and more flexible.

Your small but innovative idea may be more important than the big things your organisation expects.

Big ideas are not bad, but your customers need solutions right now.

If you do not have the right experience, do not go at it alone. Our team can provide you with support, help you to act and learn new ways of working with innovations. Let us solve your customers' problems together.