Monday, October 13, 2008

What are the Essential Characteristics of a Disruptive Product or Service?

I posed this question in an earlier blog (see September 30 post) and said I'd do more research on the subject. After asking the question to groups on LinkedIn, I found that two main sources of information were consistent: 1) check the wikipedia definition on the subject; and 2) Clayton Christensen basically is the father of the idea.

From the wiki definition:

A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is a term describing a technological innovation, product, or service that uses a "disruptive" strategy, rather than an "evolutionary" or "sustaining" strategy, to overturn the existing dominant technologies or status quo products in a market. Disruptive innovations can be broadly classified into low-end and new-market disruptive innovations.

By contrast, a "revolutionary technology" introduces products with highly improved new features into the market. This is the innovation that most often replaces the incumbent [automobile - horse drawn vehicle]. In addition, a "sustaining technology or innovation" improves product performance of established products. Sustaining technologies are often incremental; however, they can also be radical or discontinuous.

Other than one angry commenter on LinkedIn (go figure), there were a few interesting comments. Particularly, I liked Jody Wilson's comment about Step - Stretch - Leap.

Surprisingly, however, what I didn't find (even after some serious googling) was a laundry list to check against if you wanted to build a disruptive product or service. What this confirmed for me is that the characteristic of disruptive is nothing that can be planned or programmed. Rather it is a whole combination of elements working together at the right time and in the right ways that produces a disruptive nature.

Ahh, the beauty of synergy -- where one plus one equals three or more.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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