Disruptive innovation – When innovation is threatening

disruptive innovationEven though this term was was coined in 1997 by Harvard business school professor, Clayton Christensen, many people are just starting to learn about it. According to many sources, disruptive innovation is one of the most important innovation theories of the last decade. In Christensen’s own words, disruptive innovation is “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors.”

An example of disruptive innovation

In the mid to late 1990s, Yahoo! dominated the web. Everyone was excited about the future of the startup technology company, and Yahoo! was supposed to be “the next big thing.” In his essay What Happened to Yahoo, Paul Graham, founder of Viaweb, which then became Yahoo! Store, talks about working for the company in its early days. “It was supposed to be what Google turned out to be. “ When Google emerged, Graham recalls suggesting that Yahoo! buys Google.

“I and most of the other programmers in the company were using it instead of Yahoo for search. He told me that it wasn’t worth worrying about. Search was only 6% of our traffic, and we were growing at 10% a month. It wasn’t worth doing better.

I didn’t say “But search traffic is worth more than other traffic!” I said ‘Oh, ok.’ Because I didn’t realize either how much search traffic was worth. I’m not sure even Larry and Sergey did then. If they had, Google presumably wouldn’t have expended any effort on enterprise search.”

This is a clear example of disruptive innovation.

Anticipating disruptive innovation

According to, for a truly disruptive innovation, big companies often won’t even notice you until you’re way ahead of them – at which point copying is fruitless. For nearly the past decade now, Yahoo has tried every which way to “copy” Google, and it got them nowhere in terms of actual market share. Yahoo recently gave up and outsourced it all to Microsoft.

Disruptive innovation is something that innovators and business managers should always keep in mind, especially as the corporate world gets more competitive than ever. According to Innovation as a Threat, a report by the MOTIS calss os 2009, “ to manage and keep-up during a time of technological innovation is not an easy job, especially nowadays when all companies continue to launch new products in order to differentiate themselves. However, there is a heavy risk that a lot of companies will not be able to manage their innovation – customers will not be interested in using the new product. To try to avoid or, at least, to prevent disruptive innovation and then be able to efficiently manage the innovation process, companies should have a great knowledge of the market they want to deal with. They should evaluate all the best opportunities, consider all the possibilities before deciding on a strategy that may not be right for the company.”

Avoiding disruptive innovation with OneDesk

At OneDesk, we recognize that innovation is the key to driving a business to success, yet, can also have the opposite effect. What may be an innovative technique to one company, may not be true for another. Our software was designed around the premise that every company should understand what the market wants before working on the product.

With OneDesk, companies can easily bring their business partners, and even their customers into the development process. Social collaboration tools, voting, polling and a comprehensive feedback and requirements management suit help companies fully understand what the market wants, what the whole team is working on, and more importantly, why they are working in them. With OneDesk, everyone can collaborate and work on developing the next innovative product. Try OneDesk for free today and strengthen your business.

We want to know: Do you fear that your company will have to deal with disruptive innovation?

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