Foster disruptive innovation

N°206a – Synopsis (8p.) – Radical Innovation
Foster disruptive innovation
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Game-changing innovations frequently dethrone incumbent players… However, there are many potential pitfalls along the way. How to overcome these challenges?

What entrepreneur has never dreamed of winning fame and fortune by revolutionizing an entire industry? Indeed, radical innovators upset the established order. They start by making discreet inroads, then change the rules of the game to their advantage. Dell in PCs, Southwest Airlines in air transportation and Intuit for personal finance software are among the brands that are now legendary for building an empire upon disruptive innovation.

This type of innovation is not the unique prerogative of start-ups. Longstanding businesses also ensure their longevity by daring to reinvent their offering on a regular basis. General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Apple, are examples of companies that use radical innovation to stay in the lead in fiercely competitive industries.

Disruptive innovation is not a panacea. The incredibly high rate of failure certainly incites caution. Yet, to regain a foothold in a given market, a revolutionary strategy could be just the ticket. And the competitive advantage that arises from successful innovation is often worth the risk. Concrete case studies reveal three main ways to optimize the chances of success:

- Dare to launch a less-than-perfect offering. When they are first launched, disruptive innovations often target a low-end niche neglected by market leaders. Companies able to invent a viable economic model for this segment can thus create new demand in a hitherto untapped market. If the requisite technology can subsequently be developed to meet the needs of a much larger population, these innovators are then in a position topple the market leaders.

- Prepare to play the long game. Turning a disruptive innovation into a blockbuster success can be a long process. Companies that venture along this path must generally prepare for an incompressible period of waiting.

- Transform the company culture. The biggest obstacle to disruptive innovation is the very mindset that made past successes possible. Adapting the criteria by which success is measured is no less important than thinking up a potentially revolutionary idea.

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