What is Disruptive Innovation?

What is Disruptive Innovation?Many companies dream of developing the next big jump in innovation. They want to create the next iPhone, the next Swiffer, or the next viral app. Successfully creating and capitalizing on disruptive innovation requires a commitment to the changes it causes. This includes changes inside the organization, which can cause discomfort and turn “the way things have always been done” upside down.

What is Disruptive Innovation?

A disruptive innovation is defined as an innovation that creates a new market and value network, eventually disrupting an existing market and displacing established firms, products, and alliances within an industry.

An innovation that’s revolutionary may shake up an industry, but that alone doesn’t make it disruptive. A jump in technology that doesn’t displace an old solution may be an important innovation, but it isn’t disruptive. It’s not until original market leaders and products are replaced with a new way of doing things that the term “disruptive” begins to apply.

It’s important to note that disruptive innovation doesn’t usually come from existing market leaders. By its nature, a disruptive innovation comes from outside and shakes up existing processes, products, and paradigms.

The Evolution of Disruptive Innovation

Almost by definition, disruptive innovation doesn’t come from goals, visions, and plans. Instead, sometimes an organization has to capitalize on a nasty surprise or setback, which leads to an entirely new way of doing things.

Uncertainty and surprises are not something that a company normally welcomes, but disruptive innovation requires them. When you’re going to produce a product or service that approaches a problem in an entirely new way, there’s no way to plan or know in advance where you will end up. You often have to go with the flow.

There are some ways to look for the types of surprises that bring disruptive innovation. If you’re interested in finding a new framework that will shake up your industry, here are some tips:

  • Find Customers Using Your Products or Service the Wrong Way. Often, customers are the best source of innovative ideas. They have a need for your product, and perhaps your product isn’t quite perfect for them. So they adapt it and use it in an unusual or unique way. Paying attention to these customers can help you see things differently.
  • Listen for Market Misperceptions. Has a media outlet or individual recently reviewed your products and services and said something about them that seems totally off base? Before you write them off as someone that “doesn’t get it,” consider if what they are saying is a new way to position your company or services.
  • Look for the Silver Lining in Negative Reviews. No one is perfect, and no organization has a product or service that meets every need. If you get a review that highlights a shortcoming, take it seriously and consider how you can adapt your product or service to meet the missed need. You may go from being in the middle of the pack to leading your industry.

Disruption Takes Time

While the media often makes disruptive innovation seem like an overnight success, the reality is this type of mindset takes time to develop. You have to embrace surprises and setbacks and learn from them. Your team has to be willing to set egos aside and evaluate every part of a product or process.

Creating an organization with the risk tolerance, confidence, and ingenuity to tackle disruptive innovation is a process. You need regular innovation projects to build creativity and familiarize your teams with the innovation lifecycle. You also need the right tools in place to carry out innovation initiatives.

Once you establish a habit of innovation in your organization, you’ll still find that most of the new ideas are not disruptive. That’s normal and should discourage you. You never know when you’ll hit the gold mine and come up with the next Uber.

Once you do create a disruptive innovation, be prepared to fight for it. Established players in your industry will not simply move aside to make room for you. Like AirBnB and Uber, you may find yourself facing legal challenges and other major obstacles.

You also have to face the reality that a disruptive innovation will change you too. No organization comes through a truly disruptive change and is the same at the end. When you can embrace that kind of change, you’ll be ready to create and survive a disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovation takes time and resources. To learn more about disruptive innovation, download our infographic today!



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