Understanding innovation and green marketing

Disrupting disruptive thinking

Thinking “disruptively”. Every entrepreneur claims to be at it, busily devising the next Uber or Spotify. Even non-entrepreneurs are expected to at least recognise such path-breaking innovation when they see it. Yet over the two decades that the theory of disruptive innovation has been knocking around in business circles, the idea has morphed, mutated and, in some cases, become hopelessly muddled.

So argue the authors of this fascinating Harvard Business Review paper. First things first, disruptive innovation isn’t just any old idea that happens to break the mould. It’s much more specific than that. “Disruption” describes a process whereby a small, low-resourced company challenges a larger, incumbent business in a very particular way. The pattern runs something like this: the larger company focuses on improving its products and services for its more demanding (read “most profitable”) customers to the exclusion of others; a disruptive business then comes along and creates a (usually cheaper) alternative for those who have been overlooked; after gaining a foothold in the market, the disruptor then starts going after the incumbent’s higher-end customers; disruption occurs when the larger company realises that it is out of step and so adopts the new entrant’s innovation at...

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