We often hear that innovation is needed to face local and global challenges, to seize new and unexpected opportunities as they arise and to make the world a better place. The term innovation has almost incorporated in everything we do. However, there has been limited discussion about its approaches and the effects innovator dilemma have on our work and, in particular, how we think.
This article will address innovation what is it, different approaches of innovation, what to choose and some of the drawbacks of innovation. Based on my experience with “Mawhiba program“, innovation and creativity were one of the most important topics discussed in brainstorming sessions. To start with I had some useful background information. But I realized that I should search more about the topic, to explain my point of view in academic approach.
“Mawhiba” is a program thet empowers gifted students to learn more advanced and in-depth learning experiences than they do in their regular schools to motivate them to discover more concepts and unleash their potential beyond school constraints.
Innovation is the successful implementation of novel and useful ideas. Innovation should be an integrated part of our daily lives. As Thomas Edison said “There is a way to do it better- find it”.
I submit that innovation in and creativity when applied on an organization is easier said than done. To transform and change the entire enterprise’s traditional thinking it is neither without cost nor easy or simple. Innovation, however; should be viewed as an investment with great pay back, rather than to be viewed as mere cost.
Even though returns on the short run are not always evident, the payoff from innovation and creativity can be achieved by changing of the behavior and thinking of the entire organization, not only the bottom but also the top.
This video explain what an innovator is:
Over the past few decades, we have seen several kinds of innovations that have changed our lives and the market. As we consume those innovations, we might not even have noticed. They have simply shifted as a necessary part of our daily lives.
An article about Disruptive innovation by Professor Clyton Christensen, suggested an interesting theory about innovation it is called (Disruptive Innovation). This theory is an innovation-driven way of thinking, and it was praised by many entrepreneurial companies’ leaders as their guiding star.
This article support the idea that innovation give everyone the opportunity to be more entrepreneurial and creative, leading to new, more open, effective and efficient world as Steve Jobs said “Innovation is the ability to see changes as an opportunity not threat”.
On the other hand, most people think of innovation as a way to strengthen old traditional systems, it is viewed as a bubble they would be the quickest to ignore it when things go wrong. Based on what the entrepreneur and professor Erik Vermeulen mentioned in his article about the Centralized versus Decentralized way of thinking.
Therefore, I believe people should be smart using innovation in unpredictable and creative fields instead of using it in to reinforce traditional systems. Innovation must be appreciated.
Evolution of disruptive innovation
Can small, young companies beat an industry giant on its own terms?
Creating and coming up with innovative ideas, innovators mainly choose between two approaches of innovation.
1- Disruptive innovation:
Many entrepreneurial companies improve its products to appeal to more customers (overlooked segments) delivering more suitable functionality. An interview with Scott Anthony president of innovation insight blog for Harvard made it clear that disruptive innovation means making products more simple, convenient, accessible and affordable and then the company start to take over the markets and creating new segments. As he said “It is not about making it better it is about making it simpler, cheaper, more accessible and more affordable”.
Disruptive innovation starts only on low- end or new- market and often born from a need that exists in niche market that is neglected by current market offering, companies have to look for unsatisfied customers.
2- Sustaining innovation:
In contrast, sustaining innovation focus on upgrading and improving of existing products and services performance based on feedback from current largest customers, to attract higher paying customers leading to ignore low paying customers. Supporting this idea Chris Mayer, Professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy, in his journal (Sustaining Innovation in the Midst of Success) suggested that improvement process must be part of the organizational culture resulting operational excellence and success of organizations.
Based on the research I did and as professor Clyton Christensen explained in an interview about disruptive innovation is that innovators do not discover new products or services; they distinctively redefine what an existing product or service is and how it is provided to the customer. For example, Swatch simply redefined their product and why customers should buy it; they did not discover the watch. Giving the evidence above disruptive innovation means a new opportunity that should be applied on the most valuable time, not necessarily a breakthrough invention.
To answer the question above, disruptive companies can often rise simply, quickly because their larger competitors overlook them. Even though, they do not compete for the same customers, but eventually, the entrepreneurial company takes over the market.
To understand the difference more, watch this video:
What is the best example of disruptive innovation?
To provide the best example that matches the theory of disruptive innovation. There has been a constant debate among innovators.
Some that think of Uber as a disruptive innovation but, studying the theory, my answer would be no. I conceive that For Uber to be a disruptive innovation it has to start either from low end or new market footholds. But Uber did not originate in either one. Moreover, Uber elements seem to be sustaining innovation because they are an upgraded version of taxis.
One example is Netflix. The few first years of Netflix, it only appealed to a certain customer groups: “Movie buffs who didn’t care about new releases, early adopters of DVD players and online shoppers,” as Clayton M. Christensen says.
In late 1990s, when Netflix launched a mail-in subscription service the company entered a market covered by big companies such as Blockbuster, without realizing. Having the advantage of moving upward Netflix was able to appeal to giant companies core audience by providing a wide range of content selection that anyone can watch at low price, on-demand and high quality.
The following pictures show how Netflix beat Blockbuster by using a disruptive innovation approach:
To end with, for big companies the only potential way to fight back Netflix is to launch their own disruptive innovation.
Innovative dilemma of choosing between sustaining or disruptive innovation
To achieve success Innovators always have hard time choosing between those approaches.
The “innovator’s dilemma” is the tough decision any company faces when it has to choose between holding onto an existing market by doing the same, yet slightly better (sustaining innovation), or target new markets by joining new technologies and adopting new business models (disruptive innovation). In order to create long-lasting business advantage while achieving cutting-edge innovation within a company the latter should aspire to achieve both evolution and revolution.
Reading a research about the framework of disruptive innovation by Faisal Rsool , I concluded that companies need to listen to their customers in order to continue successfully with their sustaining innovations but they need to look at niche markets and how they use their products in order to identify disruptive innovations and embrace them. In other words, sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation do not necessarily need to be alternative to one another, but rather complementary measures.
For more explanation, watch:
Who is responsible for coming up with disruptive innovation ideas?
Over the years many mangers has discourage their employees from inventing new ways of doing things, pushing them to stay within established guidelines and following procedures.
Scott Anthony conversed about that the greatest responsibility lies on Senior management to make space for disruption.This prove that everyone have the power and ability to build a sense of identity and innovation that they are passionate about. Instead of being anonymous workers in a known organization they must simply explore and exploit disruptive models. There are endless possibilities, nothing can stop you.
Information in this info-graphic can be helpful for management to understand and apply the disruption approach:
Finally, I confirm that the best way to success in adopting a disruptive approach is to take simple small steps “Invest little, learn a lot” by Scott Anthony. Disruption theory does not and never will, explain everything about innovation specifically or business success generally. Back to what Professor Clayton Christensen said “The failures are not evidence of the deficiencies of disruption theory; they are simply boundary markers for the theory’s application”.
After deep research I find out that the full theory of disruptive innovation should only be applied when certain conditions are met. Although, this theory as any theory has some drawbacks, but I assume that reading more about the theory will help. And this theory is not limited to the business industry; I assure that it is important for the success of other industries, professions and fields.
Book Video Club, 2015, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen”. (Online video) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUAtIQDllo8
Christensen, Clayton M. , Raynor Michael E. & McDonald Rory, (2015). ‘ What is disruptive innovation?’ : Harvard Business Review 93, no. 12. (pp.44–53) https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation
Erik P.M. “Why Digital Technologies Boost Creativity “Centralized” versus “Decentralized” Thinking about Technology” https://hackernoon.com/how-digital-technologies-help-us-be-more-creative-innovative-b5e264ef3749
Faisal Rasool, Pisut Koomsap, Bilal Afsar, Babrak Ali Panezai, (2018) “A framework for disruptive innovation”, foresight, Vol. 20 Issue: 3, pp.252-270, https://doi-org.sdl.idm.oclc.org/10.1108/FS-10-2017-0057
Harvard Business Review, 2013, The Explainer: Disruptive Innovation. (Online video) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbPiAzzGap0
Harvard Business Review, 2012, Disruptive Innovation Explained. (Online video) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDrMAzCHFUU
Harvard Business Review, 2008, How to Spot Disruptive Innovation Opportunities. (Online video) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGzXWO_anLI
The Woolmark Company, 2016, The Innovator. (Online video) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtHZyJTfvHc
Mayer C., (2016). Sustaining Innovation in the Midst of Success: Journal of leadership studies https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jls.21453