Most consumers are content with upgrading to the next iteration of their favorite product; companies retain their customer’s loyalty by offering constant improvements of the items they already know and love. What really sets markets on fire, however, is innovation – the introduction of truly new and unprecedented options that transform how consumers experience the world. In today’s digital economies, innovations in technological services and products disrupt industries and identify their free-thinking CEO’s as the next clear leader of the sector.
Iteration vs. Innovation
The business reliance on iteration as a growth builder was often driven by necessity; there simply weren’t options other than ‘more of the same’ to accomplish corporate goals. Way back when, for example, horses were lined up in a relay to carry information one at a time across vast distances. When Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, swift and accurate long-distance communications became commonplace. Morse’s contribution to the communications field was the first in a long line of innovations that have moved the world through telegraphs, telephones, television, and now the Internet and beyond.
In between each innovation, however, was a series of iterations, as newcomers adapted and improved existing tools and products. Morse’s telegraph iterated into Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, using the same wired conductivity to transmit different types of electronic signals. Even the television is an iteration of communications science, transmitting images as well as audio. Both the telephone and the television went through a series of iterations (trunk lines, party lines and rotor dials for the phone; larger pictures, black and white to color, remote controls for televisions) before innovation again pivoted the industry in an entirely different direction.
Innovations within industries frequently reinvent how things get done, but don’t always represent true disruptions. Morse’s system was eventually superseded by radio as well as the telephone but as an innovation, in many ways, it, too, represented a different format of the same foundational technology.
Innovation vs Disruption
Perhaps the best example of a truly disrupting innovation in the communications industry is Apple’s iPhone. When it was introduced in early 2007, the inaugural iPhone was the first device that put both radio and telephone into a single handset, and it added Internet access to boot. With an iPhone, millions of people could ditch all their other technology – phones, radios, stereos, etc. – in favor of this one, simple technological disrupter.
Apple’s iPhone not only disrupted the communications industry, but it also established an entirely new industrial digital sector that continues to expand with innovations today. In the 12 years since its introduction, the iPhone has also replaced the movie theater, calculator, encyclopedias, and innumerable other services as its library of apps expanded to encompass ever more technical opportunities.
Why Seeking Disruption is Good
According to Deloitte, every company should be working to disrupt their market by introducing new options that change how their customers experience their world. For some companies, disruption might be easier than for others. Start-ups, in particular, may have an edge on the disruption opportunity because their offerings are inherently innovative – they are often established precisely to offer a previously unimagined (and therefore innovative) response to a very real, existing problem. Larger corporations face more challenges because their production lines are already developed to produce their existing portfolios; they often spend their resources trying to protect their legacy products rather than innovate to provide better their customers with better options.
One thing seems clear, though: organizations that are willing to explore outside their comfort zones are often the ones able to expand their truly innovative ideas into disruptors of their sector. By eliminating established parameters in favor of imagination and creativity, tomorrow’s industry disruptors are already rethinking how the world moves forward.