Part Three: Is Disruptive Innovation Dying?

by Lolita Foster, Senior Content Developer, West Cary Group

In part two of this blog series, we examined the importance of value creation in modern innovation. Today, we take a look at the disruptive power of shock and awe.

The Magic of Wonder: Awe

There are some notable exceptions when it comes to modern disruptive tech – with the aforementioned iPhone being a prominent example.

Interestingly, the device was released the same year as Apple TV and was arguably the most disruptive technology of our century. With it, Apple gave consumers something they didn’t even realize they wanted (which may seem to blow my theory wide open, but just wait). 

It wasn’t simply a better iPod or a faster smartphone. It was a personal computer in a pocket, complete with a multi-touch interface. The invention forever altered human behavior, and every smartphone since has been at least in some small measure a response to it.  

As the story goes, the leading mobile manufacturer of the day, RIM (now BlackBerry Limited), didn’t even believe the iPhone could be created. Impossible, they said, to design a device with such a large touchscreen and equip it with any sort of useable battery life. When the iPhone was unveiled, internal panic at Blackberry Limited was massive.   

“You can always find examples where management was stupid and didn't move fast enough,” says Chris Outram, founding partner of OC&C Strategy Consultants. “But I don't think anyone can get away with claiming they don't know about impending changes in technology or new product entrants. Any company whose managers don't think regularly about how its competitors might take its knees off isn't doing a very good job.”

By all accounts, BlackBerry Limited is testimony to this. In the second quarter of 2014, it announced a net loss of $207 million, just days after a new handset launch. At its peak, the company had posted revenues that reached $5 billion. 

Therein lies the secret and what I believe to be the key to disruptive power: the element of surprise. Innovations like streaming services didn’t shock consumers. The technology was known about; it simply wasn’t desired. In the case of the iPhone, not many – not even those in the know – believed.

But what catches us off guard these days? In this era of big data, companies are in a constant state of high alert for someone to take their collective knees off, and they evolve accordingly. Any chief marketing officer worth his or her salt is, at this very moment, incorporating analytics, mobile, social and cloud technologies into company architecture and processes to prevent this from happening. In fact, a recent CMO survey found that spend on marketing analytics is expected to increase 60 percent this year.

And so it goes. Consumers tell us what they need. Businesses and marketers, in turn, crunch numbers, perfect algorithms, analyze trends and assess every channel to listen, create and deliver. Which means for good or for ill, the wonder behind innovation may be a thing of the past.   

Next Week, Part Four: The Dawn of a New Age

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