Disruptive Innovation vs. Disruption
In business ‘disruption’ refers to two competing concepts:
- A creative thinking method popularized by Jean-Marie Dru (Chairman at TBWA\WORLDWIDE) in 1992;
- A strategy framework developed by Clayton Christensen (Professor at Harvard Business School) in 1994.
What is the difference?
A Different Scope
In True Disruption, an article Dru argue that Christensen’s definition of disruption is too narrow.
Here’s what disruption means for Dru:
Disruption refers to everything that is not gradual change.
If you want to dig more into this creative process, I’m a fan of Dru’s book: Beyond Disruption.
Here is how Christensen defined disruption in a HBR article:
“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.
Disruptive Innovation vs. Sustaining Innovation
We often misunderstood the contrast between disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation.
This is just not me being picky.
Using these terms accurately matters. It helps you being prepared to make strategic decisions. You want to understand in what competitive situation your company is.
Here is the main difference:
Sustaining innovation occurs when companies innovate in order to satisfy better the needs of customers in an existing market. They improve performance and offer better products and services.
Disruptive innovation targets unserved customers or low-end customers whom, because they are not so profitable, are not well served by established companies.
You can think about both types of innovation like that:
Sustaining innovation is head-on competition. “Let’s do better than our competitors.”
Disruptive innovation is sneakier. It’s driven by lateral thinking. “How can we do things differently?”