Using Disruptive Innovation for Social Change




This article talks about how Mark W. Johnson (Clayton Christensen’s business partner) says that disruptive innovation is not about being better than what currently exists. He says disruptive innovation “transforms a complicated, expensive product into one that is easier to use or is more affordable than the one most readily available.You know an innovation is disruptive when a new population has access to products and services that previously were only affordable for the few or the wealthy.”

A subset of disruptive innovations called catalytic innovations is introduced and described as “providing good-enough solutions to inadequately addressed social problems.” An example would be the MinuteClinic which provides affordable walk-in health services for common health problems. The idea of the MinuteClinic lead to the creation of other walk-in clinics that serve people who cannot afford health care.

As business students we usually focus on the profits to be earned from a new idea or technology, but I think it’s interesting to look at the social changes we can achieve. What other examples can you think of where disruptive innovation was used for social causes? How do you think disruptive innovation can be used for social change in the future?

One Response to Using Disruptive Innovation for Social Change

  • Though not as noble as the minute clinic, I think that personal health trackers (Nike+ FuelBand, FitBit, etc) are an example of disruptive innovation working to make things more accessible. Before these personal health trackers, people had to see dieticians and sleep specialists to learn if they were eating and sleeping well. Now, these trackers, which are conveniently worn on the wrist as a small bracelet, allow people to take control of their own health by tracking food intake, exercise, and sleep patterns for under $200, which is a one time cost just to buy the band. Everything else is conveniently linked up through a free app, thus making these health trackers a disruptive innovation that’s inciting some positive social change.

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