Innovation has to be disruptive

Summary:Debating the myths of innovation with Geoffrey Moore--Silicon Valley's top IT consultant

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking and writing about innovation and debating the meaning of innovation with Geoffrey Moore--one of Silicon Valley's top IT strategists and author of many books.  (Geoffrey Moore's books.)

(Please see: Geoffrey Moore: Disrupting myths of disruptive innovation.)

Mr Moore had written a column for Sandhill.com, titled "Top 10 Innovation Myths." In it, he says that one myth is that innovation is disruptive.

"To be sure, authors like Clay Christensen and myself have spent much of our life's work chronicling the impact of disruptive innovation, but it is only one type among many. And the more established your company, the less likely it is a type for you to specialize in. Alternatives include application innovation, product innovation, platform innovation, line extension innovation, design innovation, marketing innovation, experiential innovation, value engineering innovation, integration innovation, process innovation, value migration innovation, and acquisition innovation."

I've argued that innovation *always* has to have the quality of disruption. It is something which causes everyone affected by it--to adopt it or die. Innovation is always the far far better way.

To some, it might seem that Mr Moore and I have fallen into a debate that owes more to semantics than opposing positions. However, I think that the semantic nature of the debate over innovation is not to be dismissed because the term is extremely important in Silicon Valley. Semantics does matter.

Mr Moore lives in the world of large enterprises and advises them on IT strategies. That is a far, far different world than the world of Silicon Valley--which is where several million people work in or work in businesses that support the thousands of startups.

And the startup culture values innovation above all else. And that innovation had better be disruptive or else why bother? You will not get funding if your idea/technology is not a disruptive innovation. And forget about trying to recruit a startup team.

All startups think they will change the world--or at least a several billion dollar part of the world. And you can only do that if a startup has an innovative technology--which means it has to be disruptive because you cannot change or impact massive markets with anything less than a disruptive innovation.

Try getting funding for a startup working on a 20 per cent improvement in CRM functions. Or try recruiting a motivated startup team for a venture that improves chip performance by 10 per cent. You won't be able to do it.

And just because large enterprises like to use the term innovation--it doesn't mean they are using it correctly. Large enterprises defend the status quo--they do not want to eat their own children--not matter how loudly they proclaim it.

- - -

(Geoffrey Moore's books.)

(Please see: Geoffrey Moore: Disrupting myths of disruptive innovation.)

(Please see: Innovation is disruptive otherwise it is not innovation.)

Topics: Emerging Tech

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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