If you disrupt and can’t sustain, you don’t win. – Gary Pisano
Gary Pisano, in his article: In Defense of Routine Innovation, argues that the world is so caught up with disruptive innovation that we forget that most of the profit from innovation “does not come from the initial disruption; it comes from the stream of routine, or sustaining, innovations that accumulate for years (sometimes decades) afterward.”
Great article and I totally agree.
However I would like to highlight something that is implied with this article but not overtly stated. Disruptive innovation is risky. Yes, design thinking’s iterative approach can help mitigate some of the risk but there are still risks involved.
So should organizations casts their sights on disruptive innovation they would need to balance the risks of disruptive innovation with the more steady returns from incremental innovation activities. This is so that the business can still be sustained should the disruptive innovation fail. Which on many occasions will fail.
My best analogy at managing innovation is very similar to how you would manage your stock portfolio. Balance the tried and proven blue chip companies with the fast growing (high PE ratio) but risky emerging companies. When you do so, it will be your first step towards smarter innovation management.
As you may know from our last post, we worked with ETPL (the technology transfer arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore) to develop 10 wearable prototypes for the Next to the Skin Technology Showcase.
What was notable in this program was not just the 10 meaningful wearable solutions, it was also how design was integrated as a strategic activity in the formation of the program, the way it was run, and the value the program offered the business.
We kicked off this Design Led Innovation program with a 3-day Design Thinking Boot Camp where teams of investors, designers, engineers, scientists, technologists and commercialization people got together to create a shared vision of what the future of Wearables could be.
We also got the scientists out of their lab and into the field to observe or speak to humans doing what they do best. We gave the participants one of our Design Thinking Tools, the Observation Card, and showed them how to be amateur ethnographers for a week.
Through this ethnographic activity, we manage to get the scientists and technologists in our teams to shift their thinking from one that is technology driven, to one that is user centered and focused on how their customers would experience the benefits of their technology.
After that, it was a design implementation activity where we worked with the core team, the scientists, and external industry experts to fine-tune the design of the 10 wearable propositions. It was a fully iterative process filled with mad scurrying and sleepless nights. Luckily we had Apples and chips to keep us sane!
Anyways, this short video pretty much documents the process of how we did it. Do have a look and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below?
Can’t see the video above? Check it out here on YouTube.
Stay tuned to our website for the full case study where we will be showcasing the complete project and the deliverables soon.
In the recent months two significant technological driven disruptive events have happen that could bring about the downfall of two of Singapore’s largest corporations. Singtel, or Singapore Telecoms, is the first and biggest Telco (they own all the infrastructure) and Comfort one of the largest taxi operators in this island nation.
Singtel chief executive Chua Sock Koong, at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, has called on regulators to give Telcos like Optus the right to charge or the use of Apps like WhatsApp and Skype on their networks. [Source]
Not only has this got the majority of their customers fuming mad (customers already pay for bandwidth), the company had to do release a statement to clarify that despite what the CEO said they were not going to do it. [Source]
Unfortunately the damage has already been done, particularly when you look at it from the point of view that WhatsApp leverage on SingTel’s network for “free”, and through this, Facebook bought them for USD $19 Billion.
Image Source: TechInAsia
More recently, the GrabTaxi App is going to do the same thing that WhatsApp did but to the taxi operators here in Singapore.
For too long, Comfort has relied on its market dominance and has stagnated in improving its services. The usefulness of its electronic terminals (developed in the early 2000s by ST Electronics and running Windows CE) for bookings is probably at an end.
The arrival of GrabTaxi has quickly shown how outdated parts of Comfort’s business model are. Seldom have I seen a market so quickly disrupted. To survive and thrive, Comfort needs to refocus on its core business, that of leasing cabs to drivers.
It needs to compete on offering better rental rates to drivers, and on providing cabs that are more reliable than other operators’. This means, among other things, a reversal of its policy of hollowing out its maintenance crew, which has seen an inexorable replacement of experienced local mechanics with cheaper foreign labour, and which many drivers have complained about.
It’s not about just focusing on their core business, but it’s also about listening and understanding the needs of their customers. GrabTaxi is shifting the power dynamics from the Taxi operators back to the Taxi drivers (who just want their fares quick) and most importantly to the customers (who just want to get to their destination as soon as possible).
This is two great reasons why companies, particular those invested in infrastructure and systems, need to take a customer centric approach to running their business and innovation. Both Singtel and Comfort need to move away from the thinking that they are infrastructure providers or owners to providing customer experiences.
For Singtel, it is all about ensuring people can stay in touch in the most efficient and low cost manner. For Comfort is about getting people to their destinations above all else.
In both cases the companies were so preoccupied with running their organization and business they forgotten their real value to their customers.
The amazing thing was that these technologies like WhatsApp or Skype (and even to a certain extent GrabTaxi) have been around for ages. Had they listen to their customers (in all cases people were already yelling at them) they would have been sensitive to it and with all their resources could have easily developed their own competing product.
So Innovate or Die, or perhaps in this case, they better buy these companies that make these Apps as soon as possible.
I stumbled over a great Q&A over at Quora. Someone asked about what to do with their great ideas and inventions so that they won’t get cheated. I’ve decided to reproduce the question here and the answer by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, as I often get asked the same question but in many different ways.
If I invent something which has a chance of earning billions if brought to market, what should I do to prevent others from cheating me out of what I deserve?
History is full of people who killed themselves after inventing something legen-wait for it-dary because they found out they earned much much less for it than what they actually deserved. Suppose I invent something great, what should be my plan of action to earn as much as I can and gain proper recognition for my invention.
Jimmy’s (almost legendary) answer:
Before I answer your question directly (and I promise I will) let me just offer the opinion that young entrepreneurs often think this is a real problem which faces them, when in fact the opposite problem is much much much more likely to be the case: far from other people seeing your thing as “legen-wait for it-dary” as you put it :-), no one will care about you or your idea at all.
Notice that this is more true the more paranoid you are about it. Just a few days ago I got a 3 page pitch letter from someone who simply described to me in stereotypical buzzwords how I could add synergistic brand value to their revolutionary value-add concept that would blah blah blah – 3 pages with absolutely no information whatsoever about what the hell the person wants to do.
I remember when I first had the idea for a freely licensed encyclopedia written by volunteers. I remember a feeling of urgency and panic because the idea seemed so obvious that I thought lots of people would be competing with me, so I rushed out and hired Larry Sanger to work for me as editor in chief of the project, and we launched Nupedia as quickly as possible. Nearly two years later, with the project generally unsuccessful at that point, no one else was competing with us at all. My panic about someone rushing to compete with me was not justified.
Now, to answer your question directly because, despite my view that in general this isn’t really the problem that you face, sometimes it is, and it’s worth a few words about that.
First, if your idea is the sort of thing that could be reasonably patented, then you can work to file a patent. I’m not a big believer in this for most things (particularly not software or dot-com ideas, where I find patents to be useless for protecting startups and pernicious for the industry as a whole), but if your legendary concept is a genuine scientific/engineering invention, then by all means, get a patent.
Second, and I’m stealing this line from Facebook (probably Mark Zuckerberg said it first, I don’t know): Move fast and break things. This is particularly important if there are “network externalities” in your idea, or any other kind of genuine “first mover advantage”. (Though notice: both those concepts are much much much overused.)
Just get moving and don’t look back.
Ok, so that is my direct answer, but now I want to go back and remind you of my first answer. THIS IS PROBABLY NOT THE PROBLEM THAT YOU REALLY HAVE. Far far more entrepreneurs have lost out on great opportunities because they were so paranoid about someone stealing their idea that they were unable to raise capital, unable to get started, unable to actually DO anything.
I would also like to add that ideas are cheap, it’s the execution that counts. The world is filled with great ideas, many of which are similar. It’s what you do with it that really matters. So go DO something today, no matter how small!