This is what Jean-Marc Schoettl shows in the article he published in the Revue Française de Gestion N° 197 of October 2009. Jean-Marc, an eminent specialist of the disruption of business models, is a consultant and lecturer at Montpellier Business School, HEC, ESCP Europe and Paris Dauphine. Through his analysis of the successes of IKEA, he brings a paradox to bear: even though the disruptive innovation is radical for IKEA’s competitors, it is progressive for the company itself. It is the result of multiple innovations created by the company to respond to operational problems which arose during a period lasting from 1945 to nowadays.
Here are some of the innovations analysed by Jean-Marc. In 1945 Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, inaugurates the first catalogue. He does it to make up for the lack of commercial efficiency present in the door-to-door selling of products as diverse as pens, nylon leggings and leatherwork. In 1947 he incidentally starts selling furniture. From the start his prices are competitive because he steers clear of the costs of intermediaries by selling directly to consumers. In 1953 he opens his first store in order to display the quality of his merchandise. He is bound to it by an arms race on prices started by a direct competitor which he counters by showing the superiority of his products. He invents self-service in warehouses to reduce customer waiting times. Indeed he had just opened a store in Stockholm whose success had caused unacceptably long queues. He imagined kitted furniture to make transportation in the cars of consumers easier: the encumbrement incurred made loading furniture in these vehicles a real mind-boggling puzzle.As is demonstrated in IKEA’s case, disruptive innovations are the product of a chain of successive innovations. The key is in recognising the worth and potential of original ideas even though they are initially conceived in order to resolve a temporary problem. They require the courage to depart from the traditional mental schema heralded by all competitors. They demand lucidity and perseverance. Financially they are feasible by all companies. However only those with enough creativity and courage can succesfully carry them out.