Think Like a 'Disrupter'
Most managers fiercely believe that creating growth through innovation is fundamentally a risky, random endeavor. Indeed, there is a general sense that a fog enshrouds the world of innovation, obscuring high-potential opportunities and making success fleeting.
Yet peering through the innovation fog in the right way begins to illuminate patterns. For example, eBay, the University of Phoenix, Toyota Motor, Craigslist and Wal-Mart Stores appear to be very different. But each actually followed a particular pattern to create a booming business.
The pattern goes like this. Start with a solution that makes it easier, simpler and more affordable for customers to solve pressing problems in their lives. Bring that solution to a group of customers that established market leaders consider insignificant. Follow an approach that makes it difficult for those market leaders to respond.
We call this disruptive innovation. We've seen the disruptive pattern play out in more than 50 different industries. Some industries—like automobiles, retailing, media and computing—feature wave after wave of disruptive change.
Our research and field work suggests that following a disruptive strategy can give a company a disproportionate chance of creating a blockbuster-growth business. Today, companies like Procter & Gamble, Intuit, Cisco, Dow Corning and many others are using disruptive patterns to increase their chances of creating attractive-growth businesses.
How can other companies write their own disruptive success stories? We have found the following five principles to be a good starting point.
1. Look for the "job" that can't be adequately or affordably done.
One core element of succeeding with disruptive innovation is learning to look at markets in new ways. Remember a simple principle: Customers don't really buy products; they hire them to get "jobs" done in their life. To find growth opportunities, then, look for customers who are frustrated with their inability to get an important job done.
For example, Intuit's QuickBooks software made it easy for small-business owners to achieve an important job: Make sure the business doesn't run out of cash. Some alternatives, such as pen and paper and Excel spreadsheets, didn't work so well. Professional accounting software packages were confusing and filled with unnecessary features. QuickBooks did the job better than any alternative and quickly took over the category.