Sometimes it seems like organizations, even large enterprises, live and die by their ability to implement innovations that completely redraw the market landscape, putting them at the forefront. But do these disruptive innovation examples reflect the strategy that all companies should adopt?
Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars had barely been on the road a month this March when a vehicle in fully autonomous mode was involved in a collision with a human-operated car in Tempe, Arizona.
Despite the company mushrooming from a tiny startup to a global transportation company in under ten years, completely disrupting the urban transport-for-hire model in the process, one single failure was enough to completely derail, at least temporarily, a major new area for the company – unmanned transportation.
Continuous vs disruptive innovation examples – what both approaches can teach us
The Uber incident is just one of many disruptive innovation examples that highlight the limitations of the approach.
Without an ongoing process for managing innovation – a comprehensive innovation management software offering – companies must rely instead on ad-hoc, dramatic ‘disruptions’ to prove their creativity to potential customers and the market at large. However, if those sparks of creative genius do not quite come to reality as anticipated, as in the Uber incident, the ‘day after disruption’, when it inevitably arrives, is likely to be a rude awakening.
Another example of a company in a similar position was the British Airways/Air France Concorde. Supersonic travel, the ability get from New York to London in 3.5 hours instead of 7 hours was truly a groundbreaking innovation. Concorde stopped there, however, and didn’t advance their offering any further. As a result, Concorde stagnated and eventually perished. Relying on a disruptive innovation strategy alone is placing all of a company’s product management ‘eggs’ into one fragile basket. To stay at the cutting edge of an industry and still leave room for Murphy’s Law to occur (whatever can go wrong eventually will), continuous innovation management needs to be adopted as a formal, robust discipline.
Continuous innovation management
You may be wondering: what is continuous innovation and why does it matter?
UC San Diego defines continuous innovation as “Modest, incremental, ongoing upgrades or enhancements of existing technologies, services or products”. The Institute of Quality Assurance defines it as “a gradual never-ending change…Put simply, it means ‘getting better all the time’.” Six Sigma and Toyota’s Kaizen have embraced the core tenets of continuous innovation, but regardless of what you call your program, for continuous innovation to work, the change need only be marginal – as long as it is consistent and ongoing.
While many business executives have been formally trained in the concept, finding a dedicated software package to actually implement it can be a challenge at the best of times. Yet possessing a clearly identifiable toolkit for implementing it is essential to its success.
disruptive innovation examples, by contrast, traditionally involve a situation in which a company makes a dramatic change that unseats the dominant players from their positions of power. Such disruptions are often pivots (reactions to changing market conditions). Although this is not necessarily the case, given the typically frenetic nature of the kind of early-stage, high-growth operation that this space is typically comprised of, planning and strategy are often forced to take a back seat to decisive action in the quest to engineer fast change in a given industry.
To successfully set expectations, innovation should be at the leading edge of hype
Continuous innovation is not just important for optimizing business processes that result in a market-leading product or service offering.
To successfully position your business as a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘talker’, it is also important that your company’s actual market innovation leads the buzz that will naturally follow it as it goes about the process of creating innovation that changes the way things are done. This is very difficult to achieve when innovation strategies rely on unplanned spurts of disruption driven by short-term planning rather than by a systematized process.
Consider the case of the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the most talked about buzz-words in technology for the past number of years.
Although the IoT is on track to have 50 billion connected devices by 2020, a massive achievement by anybody’s reckoning, so much hype has been generated around the various things it might achieve that many analysts are already placing it on the downside of Gartner’s ‘trough of disillusionment’, the stage after the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ in emerging technologies’ trajectory towards maturity. Largely unresolved concerns, such as the technology’s massive potential cybersecurity concerns, have no doubt contributed to this.
Although one, of course, can never completely control the hype generated around an exciting and innovative product, public relations (and your consumers’ expectations) can be managed much more elegantly when innovation has permeated an organization in a controlled and steady manner. Such practices allow generous amounts of time for quality control, market research, and other practices that help ensure that when new ideas are introduced to a company’s product line, for example, that they are sufficiently mature for the current needs of the market.
How can the innovation process be better managed?
To some, the entire concept of managing innovation sounds like an oxymoron. Imposing disciplined workflows and processes on a concept that most people associate with spontaneity and the free-flowing generation of ideas seems counter-intuitive.
Yet as was explained above, there are good reasons why innovation must be carefully nurtured to avoid subsuming the entire company with a ‘brilliant’ idea. A smart organization will create an innovation process which combines various disciplines, including a continuous cycle of customer insights, strategy, R&D, release, business development and back again.
Companies that embrace digital transformation (as all companies should be doing) will make use of digital tools to consolidate not just the innovation process, but will also take advantage of those tools to add expert reviews, evaluation metrics and internal/external testing, to bring an idea all the way from conception to implementation. Rivier University outlines the innovation management process using these 5 steps:
- Idea Generation and Mobilization – Whether coming up with a new idea from scratch, improving an existing idea or coming up with a solution to a problem, the process can’t proceed without ideas.
- Advocacy and Screening – Not all ideas are created equal. An idea can be a great one, but if it isn’t financially feasible or easily accomplished, it might not make sense to dedicate resources to it at this time.
- Experimentation – Test the idea. Create a prototype, or run an innovation pilot. This can prove an idea’s suitability, but can also lead to tangential breakthroughs and additional ideas.
- Commercialization – The idea has been developed, and proven to work. Without a market to sell the idea to, though, your idea will go exactly nowhere.
- Diffusion and Implementation – This stage ensures that the idea finds a home. It also lets the organization receive feedback, ROI metrics and other benchmarks to allow the organization to determine the next set of customers’ needs and begin the innovation process once again.
Qmarkets advanced collective intelligence solutions, including our innovation and idea management software editions and the our Q-360 solutions, provide a comprehensive set of tools for managing the brainstorming and idea generation processes all the way through to implementation of your golden idea. With an organized means for plotting the steps taken along the road-map to innovation, Qmarkets’ offering can help make sense out of the initial chaos of the innovation process.
These include tools to formally track the idea along its complete life-cycle; means to track the inputs from dispersed units within a large organization; and the ability to create full-fledged innovation ‘campaigns’ to poll the entire reach of your company for their feedback during the development process.
Don’t let disruptive innovation be your only strategy for affecting change in your industry. Take the reins over your team’s creativity and adopt a formalized system to bring order to your continuous innovation.
If you’re interested in learning more about continuous and disruptive innovation examples in action, or want to learn how Qmarkets can help you develop the optimal innovation strategy for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us today. A free software demo can also be organised on request.