Updated: Oct 8, 2020
In the recent article 'Incremental Vs. Disruptive innovation' I introduced the primary difference between these two types of innovation.
Knowledge is the starting point for incremental innovation, which aims at creating a better, faster and cheaper version of the current product or service (status quo).
The starting point for disruptive innovation is creativity. Differently from incremental change, disruptive innovation aims at creating a different solution to a customer problem. This solution takes form in a new product or service.
As well as suggesting a different solution to a well-known customer problem, disruptive innovation enables businesses to re-frame their understanding of the client's problem.
The ability of an organisation to re-frame the perception of a problem depends upon creative thinking.
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It's worth here to highlight three different but complementary ways of business thinking:
Strategic thinking: focusses on the competitive advantage of an organisation, it developed through the 70's and 80's. (Internal view of an organisation).
Design thinking and human centred design: focus on the customers' needs. (External view of an organisation).
Creative thinking applies both to the internal and external view of an organisation and is a mental posture rather than a theory.
The result of disruptive innovation is not a polished new product or service, but rather a prototype a new 'raw' version of a new solution.
This point is critical. Here is where disrupting innovation meets incremental innovation. Creative thinking has done its course; now rational thinking is accountable for turning a prototype into a finished product valuable to the customers.
Despite what we might think, incremental and disruptive innovation are not mutually exclusive, and one is not better than the other; they play a different part in the innovation journey of organisations. In maintaining a sustainable innovation effort, organisations need to master both disruptive and incremental innovation.