Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation

Develop evolutions while seeking revolutions

Disruptive innovation means to reinvent a technology, business model, or simply invent it all together. There are many great example for disruptive innovation, but our three favorites are Waze, Airbnb and Uber. Disruptive innovation generates new markets and values, in order to disrupt existing ones.

Disruptive innovators significantly alter and improve a product or service in ways that the market did not expect. Thus, firstly by discovering new categories of customers, and secondly by lowering costs and enhancing quality in the existing market. They do this partly by harnessing new technologies but also by developing new business models and exploiting old technologies in new ways.

As opposed to disruptive innovation, sustaining innovation, seeks to improve existing products. Meaning, it does not create new markets or values, but rather merely develop existing ones.

The “innovator’s dilemma” is the tough choice any company faces when it has to choose between holding onto an existing market by doing the same, yet slightly better (sustaining innovation), or capturing new markets by embracing new technologies and adopting new business models (disruptive innovation).

In order to achieve cutting-edge innovation within a company while creating a long-lasting business advantage, the latter should aspire to achieve both revolution and evolution. In other words, disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation do not necessarily need to be alternative to one another, but rather complementary measures.

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