Why Disruptive Innovation is Not a Strategy

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In light of our learning about disruptive innovation and reading about companies like Apple who have used it to their advantage, I found an article claiming that disruptive innovation is not a strategy and that companies should stop striving for it. The author, Soren Kaplan, explains how while many companies are striving to create disruptive innovation strategies, the inherent vagueness of the term makes it a lousy strategy. It’s not a linear method or process, and there is no way to capture how to do it.

The idea isn’t new- originally introduced in 1942 as “creative destruction” by economist Joseph Schumpeter, and it has since become an accepted paradigm, until Jill Lapore started to chip away at the idea. She believes that the concept of disruptive innovation “has been used as an argument for blowing up the broken healthcare and education systems, which minimizes the fact that these long standing institutions are complex social services delivered by human beings, not just stale technologies ready to be displaced by the next big thing.” 

The author also goes on to explain how even one of the greatest innovators of all time, Steve Jobs, didn’t try to change the industry when he started Apple. He was quoted saying “When we created the iTunes Music Store, we did that because we thought it would be great to be able to buy music electronically, not because we had plans to redefine the music industry.” Kaplan goes in to cite the founders of Google as well, claiming that they too started with a basic vision, not a grand idea of disruptive innovation and changing the world. 

Do you think that disruptive innovation is a sound business strategy? Is it something to strive for or is it just something that happens?

2 Responses to Why Disruptive Innovation is Not a Strategy

  • I agree with the idea. Although it is possible to create a culture of innovation and creativity, it is flawed logic to assume that an organization can plan on disrupting markets on call. What can be done is to cultivate the employees mindsets and approaches and provide them with the resources and empowerment necessary to create new things. Those creations, even if they take place, aren’t guaranteed to be monetized. In plain terms, you can only lead a horse to the water.

  • I agree with Mohamed that some companies will be more innovative than others, and that directly depends on their culture. However, even though Steve Jobs didn’t intend to redefine the music industry, that’s because it’s really difficult to determine if a product is going to be successful when the general public doesn’t even know they need it. He knew the iPod’s design, bundling package (software with hardware), music store and business model were unique and extremely innovative, but other than making predictions based on some preliminary research, you will never know a products’ success until you launch it. I don’t think that disruptive innovation is a sustainable business model because that would require predicting the future. However, I think you can strive for sustaining extreme innovation, which will most likely disrupt a market eventually if it is successful in creating that culture.

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