Disruptive Innovation – Goliath turning the tables on the Davids

This MIT Tech Review article talks about how large corporations are increasingly employing ‘disruptive innovation’ themselves in the fight for corporate survival, at times pitting internal sectors and units against each other.

I’ll be posting about some of the innovation research I’ve been doing over the next few weeks, using this blog to catalog and discuss some of the papers I’ve found, and document a game development project based on them.

There is a wide range of variation in the innovation literature, and rather free-wheeling set of definitions of what “innovation” is and what different adjectives in front of that mean. “Disruptive Innovation” is one of the poster children for this, with a wide range of definitions. The one used in this piece “making the complicated simple, making the expensive affordable, driving growth by transforming what exists and creating what doesn’t” is not exactly helpful. The more traditional definition is one of an innovation that creates a new market, or marketing strategy. In any case, regardless the definition, the article makes some important points about the role reversal going on in several industries as strategies that a few years ago, in the heyday of ‘consumer-driven’ market strategies would be anathema, are embraced today in the spirit of ‘if you build it, they will come”. Steve Jobs was one of the first to buck the “customer driven market” philosophy, famously saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Much of this seems to be less about “externally” disruptive innovation in the sense of Christensen in The Innovator’s Solution (creating new markets, or servicing under-valued customers) than about “internally” disruptive innovation related to shifting from a product-based strategies to service-based strategies, by traditionally product-based companies. IBM has been one of the most successful examples of this. Ultimately though, this article ends much as it began, with a vague definition of disruptive innovation leading to John Madden-esque revelations akin to

Pushing beyond core competencies. “Give up old ideas if you want new ideas” check…

Embrace business model innovation. “Do something new, to get something new”. Yes…

Manage the old and new differently. “Gee raising a kid is different from maintaining a marriage” Shocking…

“The evidence suggests that incumbents are waking up and recognizing that they can’t cede markets to new entrants”. Yes, and as Madden would say, “its hard to win if you don’t score more points than the other guy”…

Reading your horoscope can give keener insight! Come on innovation mavens! When are we going to get beyond “The key to innovation is being open to change” and “successful innovations attract more customers than unsuccessful ones.”


About Paul Vebber

"If you read about something, you have learned about it. If you can teach something, you have mastered it. Designing a useful game about something however, requires developing a deep understanding of how it relates to other things."

Posted on December 7, 2011, in innovation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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