Over the past twenty years I have been involved in a number of initiatives dealing with disruptive innovations. One of the major challenges in managing disruptive innovations is that even if you are sure that change is inevitable and you must therefore embrace the new ideas and technologies, you really don’t know what lies ahead. You don’t really know how quickly the new innovations will be adopted in the marketplace. You cannot answer lots of the questions people will have, both inside and outside the organization.
Sustaining innovations are different, because you are essentially improving existing products and services while continuing to sell to and support a similar client base. But, with disruptive innovations, the new offerings you will be developing are likely to be quite different from what you’ve done in the past. Since one of the reasons for embracing a disruptive technology might be to help expand your markets, it’s quite possible that you will also be reaching out to different kinds of customers through different kinds of sales and support channels.
Beyond a certain point, waiting is not a viable option. A company that is already consumed with managing its existing operations, may see the new innovation as more of a distraction than an opportunity. But, this is generally a mistake, sometimes a very costly one. Once the buzz is in the air, universities and research communities, as well as entrepreneurs and VCs are likely well on their way in developing the new technologies and figuring out their marketplace implications.
So, when it’s become clear that major changes are inevitable, whether you like it or not, it is important to get on the learning curve, and seriously consider your strategy options. How will your industry change over time? What are the implications for your company, and what should you do about it? How quickly should you move? The answers to these questions and the ensuing actions you take are likely to be critical to the future of the business.