People often confuse disruptive innovation with technological breakthroughs, and this even though both concepts are completely different. Here is a clarification of both concepts that you should keep in mind:Technological breakthroughs :
They are new technologies that provide better performances than existing technologies do. They supersede and replace existing technologies. But they do not create a new market. New technologies are in fact usually invented to improve a product or a service in an existing, mature market. That is why they involve incremental innovations and not disruptive innovations.
Disruptive innovation :
Disruptive innovation is an innovation that leads to the creation of a new market. These new markets differ radically from existing markets. Their essence lies in changing the customer’s concepts. They usually provide much better advantages to customers at a much lower cost. They are very often based on existing, tried and tested technologies, despite the appearances.My advice:
Do not wait for a disruptive innovation to come along to look for new growth drivers. The process of creating new technologies is long and costly. And yet you can boost your business’ growth simply through a disruptive innovation, without needing to invest heavily in R&D. Take my advice: carry out a low-cost disruptive innovation in a niche – this will give you the means to create a new market where you are the standard to follow.Some examples to illustrate my point :
1.Disruptive innovation without technological breakthroughs:
- The software on which social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are based was not the result of a technological innovation. It was instead the fruit of a conceptual innovation: facilitating the creation and sharing of contents by the users themselves. This disruptive innovation changed our way of living. It started the transition from the Web 1.0 to the Web 2.0 (the interactive web).
See also: Disruptive innovation, the takeoff of Facebook explained
- The iPhone revolutionized the concept of mobile telecommunication. However the technology that it uses was already around before it was launched. Apple created the iPhone without creating any technological breakthroughs.
- Read about other examples:
Disruptive innovation: redirect existing technologies
Sustainable competitive advantages in the agricultural sector are within reach
The secret to Amazon's success in disruptive innovation
2. From technological innovation to disruptive innovation:
- CCD technology :
CCD technology is applied to components that are used for capturing light signals and turning them into electrical signals. It makes them 10 times more sensitive to light, as compared with standard silver photographic film. Such technology was first used in very powerful telescopes to help them capture the light signals of very distant stars.
The invention of CCD technology was a technological breakthrough since it meant that an entirely new technology was available for capturing light. But it was not in itself a disruptive innovation: it was an incremental innovation in the field of telescopes.
The disruptive innovation happened when CCD technology was used for other purposes: digital photography and ultimately sharing pictures through the Internet, computers and mobile phones. These new activities have revolutionized our way of living. Without CCD technology there would be no pictures on the internet…
- Flash memory :
Flash memory technology is used in memory cards. It has been applied to USB keys (flash drives), digital cameras, cell phones, etc… These new memory cards have partly replaced RAM (Random Access Memory) and regular computer hard drives. It was a disruptive technology because it allowed a significantly better compromise between access speed and price. Flash memory technology was initially used as an incremental innovation: its purpose was to replace the hard drives and memory technology used in computers.
The disruptive innovation happened when flash memory technology was applied to the USB keys that are found in audio players (replacing the original Walkman) and especially in Smartphones (iPhone). The disruptive technology made improved data storage possible. The disruptive innovation made inventing the iPhone, a telephone which revolutionized the way we use telephones, possible…