When I first read Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article last year, I was like … why does this woman dislike Clay Christensen so much?
Quote: If you saw the episode of the HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley” in which the characters attend a conference called TechCrunch Disrupt 2014 (which is a real thing), and a guy from the stage, a Paul Rudd look-alike, shouts, “Let me hear it, DISSS-RUPPTTT!,” you have heard the voice of Clay Christensen, echoing across the valley.
However, in the last twelve months, I’ve heard this word used in so many nonsensical ways that I’m beginning to relate to her negative response to it.
By definition, a disruptive innovation is one where the product is currently not good enough to satisfy the needs of most potential customers. However, as related technologies improve, the product becomes good enough for many potential customers. An idea that utilizes the cell phone to enhance client acquisition is NOT disruptive. 90% of Americans have cell phones. An idea that utilizes virtual reality to enhance client acquisition might be disruptive.
This is not to say that utilizing the cell phone to enhance client acquisition is a bad thing. In fact, it is an important thing. But it is an example of incremental innovation.
What makes The Innovator’s Dilemma such an interesting book is the fact that there is no solution to this dilemma. Most of the time, incremental innovation adds more value than disruptive innovation. It makes sense for companies to allocate more resources to incremental innovation. If you are Google or Facebook, maybe you have inside information to inform your guesses as to the next disruptive innovation so your shareholder trusts you to make venture investments on their behalf.* For everybody else, I think incremental innovation is a worthy calling.