What is an innovation disruption and should you try it?
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What is an innovation disruption, and should you try it or ditch it?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have heard of the term ‘innovation disruption’ or ‘disruptive innovation.

But do you really know what it means, and more importantly, is it worth chasing?

Disruptive innovation theory is complex and confusing, so almost everyone makes up their own definition and loosely calls anything that creates a disruption in an industry a disruptive innovation.

And when it comes to disruptive innovation companies, most of us would label a company such as Uber as a great example of disruptive innovation.

But according to the academic definition, Uber doesn't tick the boxes!

What the heck?

The basic definition of disruptive innovation is when a small company or start-up focuses on one or a few select customer needs or desires that have been ignored by a big company. 

The disruptor then provides a better solution for the overlooked areas and usually does it at a lower price. 

The disruptor then starts to branch out and cover more of the complete service that the big company was offering while addressing the previously ignored customer needs.

When the big company finally cottons on and takes the disruptor seriously, and adopts the disruptor's offerings, then that's when an innovation disruption has occurred.

So let's come back to Uber.

Because the taxi industry hasn't adopted the technology that shows people where your car is and how long it will be to get to you (thereby dealing with the need and desire to see when the car will turn up) then, technically, Uber is not an innovation disruptor.

Which makes you think something's wrong with the definition of innovation disruption, and it needs changing.

I've got a better idea. Just ditch it.

Ditch the term disruptive innovation and use words that your team will understand and buy into

Because most people are afraid of innovation, most people don't want to change, and most people are scared of the term disruption. 

After all, we're creatures of habit and seekers of comfort.

That doesn't mean we don't do innovation, and we don't look for disruption opportunities. 

Instead, we simply call it something else, something less threatening. Something that has a lower perceived threat and lower perceived level of difficulty.

Recently, I wrote about the power of having innovation synonyms to call innovation something else for this exact reason. 

All because we (over 90% of the workforce) have a prevention-focused motivation preference. This means we are motivated not to make any mistakes or take risks at work.

Let's face it, for most of us, innovation disruption screams 'danger, danger, danger' at full volume.

So rather than thinking disruptively, start thinking constructively.
Here's how:

  • Find the need, pain point or frustration ignored the most in your industry.
  • Look for alternative solutions that could create better (cost or customer experience) results.
  • Find your industry's limiting belief that has created a subpar solution. Hint - When someone says, ‘that's the way everyone does it’, or ‘that's the only way it can be done’, you're looking in the right area.
  • Could some technology or automation provide a leap in output or improve customer experience?
  • If you had to start from scratch again, with a limited budget but no constraints, what would be the number one thing you would like to change in the industry?
  • If a critical component, step, or part of your business had to be eliminated, how would you salvage the situation to make it even better? Would you substitute a component or step? Would you have to simplify? Would you need to automate? Would you need to add to it? 
An innovation disruption is an excellent bonus outcome to have due to innovating. However, most successful disruptive innovation companies don't go into business to disrupt something. 

They simply start with the intention to provide a product or service that caters to the customer's unmet or ignored needs and desires.

Focusing on the customer's unmet and ignored needs and desires is a much better place to start a business reinvention and won't send people hiding under their desks worrying about risk. 

In the worst case, you will discover a critical commercial insight or create an improvement innovation. And if the need is important enough and has been ignored by everyone, then you could be onto a disruptive innovation.

Who knows, you may become one of those elite disruptive innovation companies.

But please, let's not use the term innovation disruption until it happens.

Let's just call it constructive thinking, so no one gets scared and protests.

Nils Vesk

PS: If you want to learn how to validate your ideas before building them so that you don't risk anything or waste time, read this.

PPS: Save your spot for my Reinvention Strategy Session Training here (spots are limited).

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About Nils Vesk

He's the founder of Ideas With Legs.

His  clients call him a Reinvention Renegade. Nils Vesk is an international authority on innovation and the inventor of the ‘Innovation Archetypes Process’.

Around the globe, leading companies such as Nestle, HP & Pfizer turn to Nils to share his proven innovation techniques for formulating commercial insights, ideas, extraordinary customer experiences and irresistible products.

Nils unpacks the million-dollar innovation principles used to create rapid growth for the future.

Nils is the author of a number of books including "Ideas With Legs - How to Create Brilliant Ideas and Bring Them to Life", and "Innovation Archetypes - Principles for World Class Innovation".

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