In the past, you couldn’t sit at a meeting table without hearing the expression “competitive advantage“. Soon after, it was the Balanced Scorecard, today, it seems, one of the newest fashionable expressions is “disruptive innovation“, actually a very trendy phrase when spoken in public.
But is it possible for anyone who mouths this concept, to even know what it’s about and could they at least give some disruptive innovation examples?
And no, Steve Jobs’ iPhone innovation is not the only example! It has to be a different one.
Here’s a disruptive innovation example that never gets exemplified:
The horse saddle!
But before we can explain that, let’s understand disruptive innovation: Concepts first, disruptive innovation examples later!
What is disruptive innovation?
When it comes to process innovation, we are talking about adding value to an existing process.
In this context, process improvement and change management may in some cases be considered innovative.
But when we talk about disruptive innovation, we are talking about abandoning the previous process, actually more than that, making it obsolete. And not just the process, but the whole business model that used it, affecting an entire industry, like the classic example of disruptive innovation that occurred with the emergence of the iPhone.
In short: Disruptive innovation does not add value, it creates a new value!
To use one of the favorite words of ‘show-offs’ in corporate meetings: It creates a new ‘paradigm’.
Disruptive innovation examples: Horse saddles
Even if you’ve never ridden a horse, it’s easy to imagine how difficult it would be to do this without using a saddle.
Throughout antiquity, until about the fourth century AD, people rode on horseback with just a simple blanket, which was unbalanced and cumbersome. Cavalries were not taken very seriously in battles.
It was only around the 5th century AD that this Chinese invention (from a century before) arrived in the West, through Byzantium, and was then adopted by the Franks later.
The disruptive innovation was so much that, some say, it was responsible for the introduction of feudalism in Europe.
What used to take years to learn: to ride horseback, without falling off all the time, and then to use it in battle, was now done in 3 or 4 months. A new war process began!
The world was changed completely because of a strip of leather with a metal ring at each end: the saddle!
And, the Chinese did not need a BPMN editor for that!
Other disruptive innovation examples
Disruptive innovations have the strange reputation for destroying industries.
The sad thing is when the real creator of the disruptive innovation, Kodak for example, destroys itself.
It was Kodak who created digital cameras; they were responsible for the collapse of companies that failed to take advantage of the innovation, then they foolishly continued steadily producing acetate films for an increasingly smaller market.
K7 tapes and vinyl records vs. CDs and DVDs
Just mentioning the subject, for those who know about this form of media from the 60s through to the 80s is enough. How disruptive innovation occurred is already understood very well, nothing else needs to be said.
Music Streaming Sites
Another music industry disruptive innovation. Do you remember that at the outset this concept generated protests and even had people arrested for downloading music on the Internet?
Today everything has more than stabilized, along with video and movie streaming too, as NETFLIX will not let us forget!
In fact, the entertainment industry itself is one of the best disruptive innovation examples!
SaaS companies and collaborative software
You no longer buy software and install it on your computer; you use CRM systems, BPM software, spreadsheets, and cloud-based text editors.
Likewise, you don’t signal for a taxi, or call to make hotel reservations or search for airfare prices.
The difference is that most SaaS companies were not like that before innovation happened.
They knew how to use disruptive innovation in their favor, perhaps alerted by one of those people who memorized one of the “fashionable expressions”, and at a board meeting, shouted at the top of their voice, “We need to become SaaS!” – but didn’t even know entirely what the acronym meant….