by Denee Busby, April 6, 2015

Disruptive or Sustainable Innovation? That is the Question.

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Ok, Let’s first quickly rehearse the foundation of these two opposing yet very high profile business ideas. 

Disruptive Innovation

Disrupstive innovation is innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. These are innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

Sustaining Innovation

Sustaining innovation evolves existing markets and vale networks with better “value”, allowing the players within to compete against each other’s sustaining improvements. Sustaining innovations may be either “transformational “or “evolutionary.”

The climate in the world of product development has forced out the traditional mindset of “business as usual”. Looming out to shadows, has been a consistent force of evolution, of the way successful companies are now approaching their goals of growing market share and continuing to drive more lean NPI processes. Next generation ideas have migrated outside of the four walls of engineering. Customers, suppliers, vendors, and internal engineering groups, now all have a say in what innovation looks like, and how final picture that is painted. Technology has become the catalyst that is moving the needle of how the industry must move forward.

As I interface with customers every day, the question of how the solutions my team provides can add value to the companies’ evolution, ease its demanding growing pains, and assist in its constant need for improvement, is a topic that cannot be escaped. My response to this prompt always includes some element of the follow up question, “What does your current software and technology infrastructure look like? Have you positioned yourself a company prepared for disruptive innovation or sustaining innovation?”  Now that may seem abrasive, but the question helps me identify if there is alignment out initiatives to the goals of those we partner with.

The radical age of open sourced IP has thrust the product development world into thriving on new platforms that simply weren’t required years ago. Collaboration, crowd funding, new age material requirements and intermediate level global supply chains have literally changed the face of how quality products are conceptualized and created. The climate simply can’t support lengthy cycles of testing and design rework. Customers have become more conscious, and demand is now being driven by their individual values and needs. If this chant is beginning to ring true, you perhaps can identify some elements of your internal workings that may be crippling or supporting your defined path of innovation. Now, maybe, one can bear witness to why it is necessary to understand where you currently shake out in the mix of it all and which of these ideas can define, shape or even begin to alter your current technology infrastructure. Disruptive or Sustainable innovation that is still the question, and the market impact as technology charges forward, has been proven to pack a deeper punch the more progressive the technological structure.

Is consistent progress on existing ideas your focus? Are you built to add continuous value to technology that is transforming or evolving? Or are you answering new questions and solving new problems, breaking the mold of technology and revolutionizing the way innovation is defined? There is a storm of change that has hit the shore of product development, who will endure, who will survive? Food for thought at minimum..

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