What Kind Of Innovation Is That?

Tsahi Levent-Levi/Flickr

Tsahi Levent-Levi/Flickr

Last week, Forbes reported that the father of disruptive innovation, Clayton Christensen, who wrote the original text on innovation – The Innovator’s Dilemma, said that he may have regretted the use of the word “disruptive”, and may now be working to replace it with something like “quantum” instead. Methinks that people are having a bit of trouble¬†with the meaning of the word “disruptive” because if you ask me, its 100% accurate, and backtracking or revising isn’t going to solve the problem. If you ask me – innovation can be both disruptive and non-disruptive.

Both plain old innovation, which I consider nice little incremental changes to your existing products and services which make things better, and disruptive innovation, the kind of mind-blowing stuff which can literally destroy your business, are necessary directions for your company. It’s essential that you explore both of these paths.

I think that those who feel that only disruptive innovation is innovation need to take a breather. As I mentioned in The Innovation Blind Spot – what’s innovative to company A is old hat to company B. By the same token, what’s disruptive to company A is nothing to company B. Its all a matter of context. Not all innovation is disruptive. And that’s OK.

For example, Uber is disruptive to the taxi industry. But If I lifted the Uber business model and used it to deliver pizza, would it be disruptive to the pizza industry? Maybe the whole, press a button on an app on your phone, pizza arrives, payment is all done in the background might be innovative, but would it be disruptive? I’d say no. Pizza is pretty much delivered like that today, using an app is a small, incremental innovation.

Disruptive innovation exists along with the regular stuff. Your company really needs both to survive and thrive – so ensure that your ideas fall into the right bucket. Just make sure that you pay attention to the disruptive stuff first – that’s the truly dangerous stuff.