Disruptive Innovation vs Incremental Innovation

By Brian Ling November 1, 2012

Other than the fact that disruptive innovation creates jobs and incremental (efficiency) innovation destroys them, Clayton Christensen, the guru of disruptive innovation (a must read by the way!) said:

…that many businesses and startups often make a mistake here, one that may, at first glance, appear counterintuitive. “Understanding the customer is the wrong thing to do — it’s confusing,” he said, before citing Peter Drucker’s assertion that customers rarely buy what companies think they are selling.

Instead, what’s really important is understanding the job that customers are trying to accomplish, and only once an entrepreneur truly understands the need that a product or service fulfills for the buyer can they optimize their business or product. He used IKEA as an example of a company that has been around for 30-odd years and by now probably should have been disrupted. Yet no one has managed to copy them and improve on the model. That’s because, Christensen says, of its true understanding of the job that their customers want to do: “I want to furnish this place today.” Once they understood that, simple as it may be, they optimized their entire store flow, their shopping experience around that.

So Disruptive Innovation is not about improving what your customer is doing, but more about understanding your customer’s objective and what he or she is trying to accomplish. Disruptive innovation then comes from applying this understanding in a mainstream manner by creating products that are affordable and usable, without necessary being the best (i.e. iPhone 1 etc.) in the market.

In many ways, the statement that Design “makes meaning” would be appropriate right now. When you can understand what your customer is trying to achieve, you can give meaning to the solutions, products, and services you are creating.

Via: TechCrunch

Brian Ling

Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.

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Cris Ehmann

Unfortunately I have to disagree here. Clayton Christensen has never claimed that disruptive innovation is about ‘improving what your customer is doing, but more about understanding your customer’s objective and what he or she is trying to accomplish’ As opposed to this statement, Clayton Christensen claims in his book ‘The innovator’s dilemma’ that a disruptive innovation causes the cessation of an already established value network. The cessation of an established value network has nothing to do with understanding a customer’s objective.


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