Wharton Prof. George Day advises that big and little innovations are critical to sustaining corporate growth. His thoughts on how to close the 'growth gap' appear in a Knowledge@Wharton article (free registration required) describing how a portfolio of long-term and short-term objectives need to be identified, along with the change management route for incorporating ALL these factors when planning ahead.
Successful companies look to repeat the very thing that delivered results, one example of how even risks that pay off can turn an organization cautious and incremental. Conversely, a company in decline - seeing a widening gap -- may take an excessive risk, hoping for one 'massive I' that saves the day. Somewhere in-between the two is a prudent set of large and small bets -- a good strategy for this weekend's Kentucky Derby wagering as well.
Day points to GE and McDonald's (both Imaginatik clients by the way) as prime examples of robust corporate innovation management portfolios. Both companies have learned from big initiatives, some occasional duds but a persistent innovation strategy which has led to market leadership positions.
One could (and should) also argue that corporate innovations extend beyond the concept of little and large. Both big and small I should be spread out across all the innovation dimensions - to ensure that not only variable sizes of innovation, but to spur innovations in all aspects of your organisation. The more dimensions employed in innovation, the more competitive your edge can be in the long run (or the home stretch).