Are you a disruptive innovator?

If you are a start-up challenging an industry giant, that’s the way to succeed. Watch this short video outlining Harvard Professor Clay Christensen’s landmark theory:

The video speaks for itself. Or as one commenter put it: “Fantastic HBR explanation on the strategies that small companies use to disrupt larger companies. For large companies to fight back, they need to treat new initiatives as mini start-ups.”

Do you ask yourself what jobs customers need done? Are you segmenting customers by what they want done and not by size, products or demographics? Have you thought about developing basic low-cost solutions?  Do you agree with Professor Christensen that disruptive innovation create new markets and re-shape existing ones? Is this the best way to create growth for a start-up with giant competitors?

Video: Harvard Business Review – You Tube

30 comments to Are you a disruptive innovator?

  • Doreen Pendgracs  says:

    I have been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years now, and have used innovation and adaptability as my key features. I always try to be insightful and meet the client's needs. It gives me the opportunity to learn something new, and makes clients come back to me time and again.
    My recent post TCHO New American Chocolate — another great reason to visit San Francisco

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Presumably that means that you are a disruptive innovator, Doreen? Or, maybe not?

  • yearwoodcom  says:

    What an excellent explanation. Quick and to the point. This sort of thing happens in the service industry all the time. I saw (still do see) this in the association world where a long established association grows so large that it starts to lose site of it's members and then a new association serving the same audience starts up (largely by disgruntled former members) and offers exactly what members want, completely disrupting the original organization.
    My recent post Going Viral, It’s As Easy As 1,2,3

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      It's great and correct, isn't it, Debra. Great examples you give.

  • Jeannette Paladino  says:

    Catarina — I was fortunate to hear Clay Christensen speak a few years ago. Disruption has been an ongoing theme for him. In his talk he used Harvard as an example of a big, lumbering organization that needed to find new ways to innovate to keep attracting the best and brightest students and professors. Like companies, smaller colleges and universities are becoming more specialized and building their reputations in niche fields — technology, nursing, music, etc. So it's not only big companies that have innovators nipping at their heels.
    My recent post How to Monitor What Others Are Saying About Your Brand

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Exactly, Jeannette. That's what is pointed out in the video. Glad you have listened to Clay Christensen. It must have been interesting.

  • becc03  says:

    This concept is so simple and yet so intelligent. Large companies really do seem to lose the plot by losing sight of their customers and what they really want. I think I should start casing a few and start my own business! I am sure there is an entrepreneur in there somewhere.
    My recent post Guest posts are required

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Agree with you completely, Rebecca, that his theory is so simple and intelligent. Pity many entrepreneurs overlook it.

  • Guy  says:

    An excellent short video, Catarina, and highly pertinent. I agree that too many big companies focus on "adding more bells and whistles" to persuade customers to buy more / upgrade (just look at the PC software industry today – how many people use more than a very small fraction of the features of a typical Office suite?), and miss the opportunity to give customers what they really need.

    Disruptive innovation is about clearly engaging with (potential) customers and listening to them. But it's one step more than that – hearing what they say they want now (as few will look ahead) and then taking the leap into producing something that they will discover they want / need in a couple of years.

    What is interesting to watch is the number of big companies that encourage "skunk works" divisions in the business – remote from the normal product teams, and focused on "the next big thing." This enables these companies to continue servicing existing customers in the normal way, while preparing themselves to disrupt their own products with the innovations coming out of the skunk works.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thank you, Guy. Excellent points you make. Agree with you completely.

  • jacquiegum  says:

    What an excellent video,,,so short and simple. Makes one wonder why it isn't spoken of more often. It's really evolution, right? I've seen it happen with almost every type of professional organization

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Agree with you completely, Jacqueline. It's excellent!!

  • Leora  says:

    To tell the truth, I was distracted by the video's fine flat graphics. Simple animation (or seemingly simple but actually sophisticated) helps bring the point to the viewer. One has to be innovative in design as well!
    My recent post Social Media for Small Business: How and Why

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Interesting Leora. Have designed a multitude of broshures, layouted newspapers and so forth for decades. But despite that, I liked the message of the video. Personally would have preferred to have professor Christensen talk about his ideas for two minutes. But, for some reason, they chose to use graphics.

  • Pamela Heady  says:

    Seems like such a simple concept when you break it down like that. Interesting that major corps don't always have the right visionaries in place to be ready to be those disruptive innovators – but rather spend time and money trying to combat those DIs who have already put a dent in their profits.
    My recent post The 3rd Annual Colombo Marsala & Toscana Saporita Recipe Challenge!

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you agree, Pamela. Good points you make.

  • Greg  says:

    Hi Catarina!
    Disruptive is awesome. I think it creates nooks and crannies where innovation can insert itself. But people should began as adoptive innovators – it’s important to learn from the best and the past. I’d say bloggers, as challenging individuals by nature, forget this.

    Great stuff, and hope to hear from you!
    My recent post So, You’re Back at it: How to Take Advantage of a Post-Holiday Blogging Buzz

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you like my post, Greg, and that you are of the opinion that disruptive is awesome.

  • Susan Oakes  says:

    I am a big fan of jobs to be done Catarina. One reason is you focus on what the customer wants to achieve and then look at solutions, rather than have a solution and try and find customers. Also no surprise I like the low cost simple products or services rather than adding more features to try and beat the competition. 37 signals have done this well with their range of software products.
    My recent post Do Your New Customers Have Selective Hearing?

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you agree, Susan. Like what you point out.

  • patweber  says:

    There is an expression this video reminded me of: "When we stop getting better, we stop being good." It seems disruptive innovation in part refers to this.

    Valuable Catarina – thanks.
    My recent post Find Guest Blogging Opportunities that are a Perfect Match

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      My pleasure, Patricia. Like the expression "When we stop getting better, we stop being good".

  • Susan P Cooper  says:

    I loved the video for the same reasons Leora mentioned.

    Innovation can come for many sources and directions. One needs to always keep an eye out for new and interesting ideas. Who knows, it may lead to something new or a product people didn't know they needed… LOL. I think of the iPad and how it's changed technology landscape of today.
    My recent post When To Quit: Musing (Podcast)

  • Valerie Remy-Milora  says:

    Great video Catarina with a powerful and inspiring message. It is soo important to take time and research what our customers truly meed and want rather than assume we know.. Equally important is to stay connected with them so that we know when those needs change and can adapt to the new demands of our market. I'd much rather be a disruptor than disrupted! Thanks for sharing!
    My recent post Would You Feed Genetically Engineered Apples to Your Children?

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Yes it is, isn't it, Valerie. Good points you make.

  • Mark Brody  says:

    This is a great post, Catarina. Very much to the point and definitely speaks to the idea that if you're not innovating, you're not growing. A friend of mine introduced me to the term "Blue Ocean" and this is video is along the same lines as that theory.

    Thank you for sharing Catarina!
    My recent post Are you seeing clearly?

  • JeriWB  says:

    The only example I can think of that is remotely related to this is how dentist offices here in America tend to have their staff call and try to change appointments all the time. They act like it's offering a favor to allow the patient to come in at a different time. What's the worth of an appointment if they always try to change it? A a customer, I need the staff to do their job and honor my appointment ad not call to badger me to come in earlier. That's why it's an appointment. Anyway…
    My recent post Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Interesting point, Jeri. Have never come across that phenomena anywhere in the world. Must be something that applies to American dentists. Odd.

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