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Disruptive Innovation as a Competitive Advantage—How to Get Started

Companies are always competing for the number one spot in global markets. And it always seems as if there’s a handful of big-name players shadowing over everyone else, unshakeable from taking the lead—the older brothers that show you the way but love to give you a hard time.

There will be intense competition all around. If taking the lead was easy, well, there wouldn't be much competition or a market at all, would there? Fortunately, smaller companies fighting to climb the ladder can use this secret weapon to gain a competitive edge.

*Drum roll, please*

Disruptive innovation! *Crowd cheers*

Using disruptive innovation as a competitive advantage is the beginning of the classic underdog story rising to the challenge. And everyone loves an underdog. (We could watch the 1980 Olympic USA miracle on ice team beat the USSR over and over again, we digress)

We’ve discussed disruptive innovation in previous articles, but for old time’s sake, we’re going to quickly run through the basics again before giving you the cheat sheet to get your strategy in place and on the move.


What Is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation is a strategy that creates a new market by providing a different value network and eventually overtakes an established market-leading firm, products, or services. Specifically, disruption is when a smaller company sees a product on the market inaccessible to large numbers of people and makes it accessible.

In some cases, many people use the product or service, but they’re paying a lot of money for more than they need. Your company can transform that product into something easily accessible, affordable, and better-suiting customer needs. There's no reinventing the wheel—just continuous growth and improvement on something pre-existing.

For example, minicomputers were initially presented as an inexpensive alternative to mainframes, but mainframe manufacturers didn't consider them a serious threat. However, the market for minicomputers eventually became much larger than the market for mainframes because of how easily accessible, affordable, and equally efficient they were.

Another quick example would be Apple. They blew cell phone and electronic companies out of the water. Do you remember Nokia? We'd be surprised if you did. They gave a valiant effort, but when Steve Jobs came into play, Apple went from a nobody to reshaping the entire industry with their disruptive innovation.

Have room for one more? Let's talk pharma and healthcare. Although the healthcare industry had already embarked on a digital transformation journey, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic fast-tracked innovation in these areas and put it right into people's everyday lives. Pressure from the pandemic forced the healthcare industry further and faster into the virtual world. Tech giants like Google and Amazon developed online portals for patients to find information and live healthier lives. The healthcare system can look to these giants use disruptive innovation as a competitive advantage in things like: 

  • Apps 
  • Portals, 
  • Wearables, 
  • And integrated software platforms.

So now that we have gone over what disruptive innovation is, let’s get you started on your disruptive innovation strategy.


4 Steps to Use Disruptive Innovation as a Competitive Advantage

It's not uncommon for companies that lack innovation to fall behind. But, come on, it's the 21st century. Ignore the “it’s all been done before” bologna and get creative.

If you've decided to take the leap and start your disruptive innovation movement, you just got through the most challenging part. Well, we suppose that's open to interpretation, but we're trying to amp you up.

Here are four steps you can take to embrace that creativity and get this innovative party started.

1. Determine Your Disruptive Potential

Before you’re off and running, although we admire the enthusiasm, you must determine where your company already stands in the market, in your capabilities, and your commitment.

First, we note that disruptive innovation works with any size business.  Apple did it with the iPod and iPhone, and small start-ups do it every day too. So regardless if you are the new guy on the block or have been around the block a few times.  Disruptive innovation works.

Now, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the product (or service) target people whose only options otherwise are to buy nothing, or to target people who don’t want to keep paying a lot of money for more than they need?
  2. Will your disruptive innovation stand apart from the existing product and measure performance (value) differently?
  3. Is it more convenient or more affordable?
  4. Is the product able to improve continuously and move up in the market?
  5. Are you pairing it with an innovative business model that will keep the product sustainable?
  6. Are you excited to target consumers that market-leading giants otherwise ignored?

Analyze your answers, and you can quickly determine whether you're ready and able to use disruptive innovation as a competitive edge. If you aren't, that's ok! There are other paths you can take or reconfigure your innovative strategy. The bottom line is to dive deep to validate your idea before moving forward.

2. Tap Into Expert Sources

Businesses always seem too paranoid to share ideas and learn what they need to drive disruptive innovation. Sure, nobody wants their ideas stolen, but remember, you’re building off a pre-existing product or service, so learn everything you can from expert sources to refine your plan.

Actively solicit insights from abroad to expand your thinking. What you learn from another industry could be adaptable to yours. So be curious, keep asking questions, and keep learning.

Does this step sound controversial? Isn't innovation supposed to be unique? It is. But it isn't limited to making something out of nothing. Otherwise, you wouldn't focus on disruptive innovation. Still unique, just without starting from scratch. It doesn't take away from the value of your idea.

Look at Elon Musk, for example. He took cars, which aren't a new invention, and made them better. The start of Tesla Motors was and continues to be ground-breaking. He builds rocket ships! As if his cars weren’t cool enough, he’s also a space engineer?!  Musk admitted to reading up to two books per day in subjects including physics, engineering, business, technology, and more to give him insights on innovations and new opportunities—and it worked.

3. Find Opportunities

A golden rule of business—do your research. Whether you already have a specific idea in mind or are unsure which part of the market you want to disrupt, research customer buying behavior. Research it in each market, not just one. With this, you can determine the performance changes of certain products and what customers are demanding.

Or, perhaps, instead of researching which part of the market you want to disrupt, consider stretching the limits of the current market to create entirely new space within that market. The Blue Ocean Strategy allows you to find new opportunities and different parts of the value chain that can be done differently.  This provides advantages such as: 

  • Creating uncontested market space 
  • Creating space with zero competition
  • Creating demand that previously didn't exist

By researching which part of the market you want to disrupt and armed with the right tools, you might just uncover an entirely new market sector ripe for the taking.

4. Make the Commitment

If you want to use disruptive innovation as a competitive advantage, you need to prepare yourself for the ongoing commitment. Disruption is not a one-time investment but rather a continuing pledge to transform, develop, and innovate. It isn't easy to achieve profitability quickly with this strategy. Gaining visibility and traction in the market takes time.

The focus is to create something that will continuously improve and grow as time goes on. Before you commit, think carefully. Gaining a competitive advantage requires giving more than 100 percent because if you don't, somebody else will.


Take Charge in the Market With rready

Developing innovative capabilities is a sure way to drive your company forward. Starting your disruptive innovation agenda while consistently fostering a culture brimmed with innovative collaboration in and outside the company won’t be easy, but it is well worth it. Take advantage of existing products and services, commit, and you’ll ensure your business is well-prepared to ride the wave of disruptive innovation success, now and for years to come.

rready provides leaders with all the right tools to build an innovative work environment. Your team members look to you for guidance and inspiration. Be the innovative leader they want to see and guide your organization down the path to success. You already have your company's ideas and big plans. You’ve harnessed the greatest characteristics of innovative leaders. So take action and keep the inspiration flowing.

rready provides innovation management as a service to help companies like yours transform into disruptive geniuses. It's time for you to take a stand and get your team out from under the thumb of market-leading giants. Instead, embrace disruptive innovation as a competitive advantage and shake the market up. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to get your journey started.

Get started today