As we move into 2014, we must remind ourselves about what we already know while keeping on eye on what’s changing. Doing so can make the difference between disrupting and being disrupted.
When I originally wrote this article for FastCompany, I wanted to highlight several present day realities:
- The world is changing – and innovating – faster than ever
- Many companies continue to fall into well-known innovation traps
- Disruptive innovation requires that we look outside as well as inside at our assumptions, capabilities, and (increasingly outdated) organizational models
Here’s a summary of my original article with my top three favorite strategies…
2013 was a banner year for innovation. Twitter went public. 3D printing went mainstream. Tesla turned a profit. Start-up money flowed.
So what did we learn last year that we might apply and extend into the next? Here are three strategies for keeping innovation flowing and the business growing.
1. Cannibalize yourself.
2013 saw the bankruptcy of a global brand and innovation icon. Kodak invented the digital camera in their Rochester labs. But the company sequestered the technology from the start, fearing it would lead to the demise of film. It did. It just wasn’t Kodak who commercialized and then capitalized on the disruptive innovation. They viewed themselves as a “chemical company” to their dying end by holding onto film while they struggled to get into the saturated inkjet printer market. Don’t view killing off profitable products as a problem. If you don’t eat your lunch and reinvent yourself, someone else will.
2. Simplify life for customers, not yourself.
A couple of years ago Netflix announced that its DVD rentals and streaming video service would separate into two distinct offers. Sure, dividing up its two business models would make life easier for the company internally. But customers hated the idea since they had to split their existing subscription into two and pay for each separately. Netflix listened and apologized. Outraged customers returned in 2013 and Wall Street responded (the company’s stock jumped almost 300% last year). The lesson: Keep things simple for customers even if it means absorbing the complexity.
3. Solve “unsolvable” problems.
Tackling small problems leads to incremental innovation. Focusing on seemingly insurmountable challenges inevitably lead to solutions that create new categories and markets. TruTag Technologies’ edible bar codes, introduced last year for example, address the growing pharmaceutical counterfeiting crisis in developing countries – and the World Economic Forum selected the company as a Technology Pioneer to watch in 2014. Incremental thinking rarely changes the world.
Not all of 2013’s lessons were new, a commentary itself on the state of innovation (as Blockbuster, Borders Books, and Blackberry for example can attest). As we move into 2014, we must remind ourselves about what we already know while keeping on eye on what’s changing. Doing so can make the difference between disrupting and being disrupted.