If you ask a number of startups what they are hoping to achieve, undoubtedly you will encounter one that is going to “Disrupt” their industry.
Disruption is what Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and the iPhone did to their industries.
Disruption is cool.
Disruption is sexy.
And unfortunately, hardly any of these companies even know what disruption really is.
The main problem is that companies that deliberately set out to disrupt and industry usually think that being different from the incumbents and aggressive in their marketing is a sound strategy, because they can point to the disruptors above as examples that it works.
However, disruption is not a strategy you can plan for yourself.
Disruption is a force which shapes markets.
The companies who point to examples of other disruptors and say “we want to be like them” are suffering from both Survivorship Bias and Confirmation Bias. Unfortunately, they are ignoring all the other companies who tried producing something “better” and different, but failed.
Real disruptive innovation, as defined by Prof Clayton Christensen, relies on companies producing an innovation which was lower performance than the existing mass-market product, but more available to a subection of the market (such as by being lower cost but still usable, or having a smaller form factor but lower capacity).
It was the existing large companies which did not innovate fast enough that were disrupted. They suffered from disruption. It was not the innovative companies that set out to specifically disrupt the established companies.
The real innovation strategy is therefore not just what you will produce, but how you will prevent yourself from being disrupted.
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