How important is innovation versus evolution? Do nonprofit organizations today innovate or evolve? Successful organizations recognize that both innovation and evolution play a similar role and define it as "deliberate evolution."

Adam Legge, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber, introduced me to the notion of deliberate evolution as it applies to his organization.

"In my view, innovation is evolution," Legge said. "They are in many ways the same thing. Evolution is adaptation and change based on our needs, environment and other forces. Innovation is perhaps a more deliberate evolution, as innovation is simply the taking of something already done or in existence and making it better."

As we look at our own organizations, can we deliberately evolve them to take something already done or in existence and make it better rather than falling into the trap of always creating something new in the name of innovation? Consider the following:

Products: In order to truly be focused on our customer, the member, we should be focused on the best of our products and eliminate anything that does not contribute to member value. By deliberately evolving a core set of products, are we creating value and meeting the changing needs of our members?

Product utilization: Do we know how many members use our products? Suppose only 1 percent of the membership is using a certain product, but it provides a high level of satisfaction. If that product requires 20 percent of staff time to maintain, can those resources be dedicated somewhere else?

Product decay: If your organization is creating a new product to get out of a financial rut, member decline or other issue, it is not only the wrong reason but also siphons away resources from good products. Organizations that deliberately evolve do it from an offensive posture and not a defensive one. Anything that distracts from the core business and could cause decay should be seriously evaluated through a product development process.

Product development: In the book by Dr. Robin Karol and Beebe Nelson, "New Product Development for Dummies," there is a staggering statistic that showed in 2006, 150,000 new products were brought to market. Fewer than 5 percent of those products became a hit, and only 15 percent had a life span of more than five years. Creating a process to vet new products will not only increase the odds of success but also ensures that precious resources are focused appropriately.

Product philosophy: One of Google's philosophies is that "it's best to do one thing really, really well." Google also goes on to say, "through continued iteration on difficult problems, we've been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements." Your organization's mission, its reason for existence, is the "thing" that it should do really, really well. Keeping the number of products narrow and focused on the mission of the organization allows for continuous improvement. What is your product philosophy?

Deliberate evolution helps organizations stay true to their core without a ballooning set of products, but ones that are true to its mission. Satisfaction with a nonprofit organization's products is the key to long-term loyalty and revenue growth.

Research conducted by Telefaction Data Research showed that "customers who rate you a 5 on a scale from 1 to 5 are six times more likely to buy from you again, compared to "only" giving you a score of 4.8." Can we afford to be less than a 5 to our members?

How is your organization going to deliberately evolve today?