7 Strategies to Leverage Disruptive Innovation in Your Business

Do you come from the generation that saw Dodo birds and compact digital cameras? Whether you have seen or only heard of them, this is what you should know.

They are nowhere to be found now. They are extinct!

Let’s take a look at these seven amazing ways of ensuring your company does not face the danger of extinction.

What Is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation, a term coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a new product or service that is so innovative that when it is introduced to the market, it disrupts the market and forces the business operating in that market to change their business or suffer grievous consequences radically.

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Disruptive innovation examples include digital imagery that is now even on Smartphone cameras. Initially, all virtual photography was film-based until a few years ago.

Currently, teenagers and young children have no concept of a film camera; all they know is looking at every picture they take as soon as it is taken.

No wonder you need to be in the know on how to leverage disruptive innovation for your business.

1. Use a Disruptive Innovation Lens

It is uncommon for a new product or technology to be inherently sustaining or disruptive.

The disruption theory does not dictate what management teams should do once a new technology is developed. However, it offers you great insights into making strategic decisions on whether to adopt a sustaining path or take up a disruptive one.

You must look at the immediate and long term future of your business through the eyes of disruptive innovation. It is the surest way of achieving sustained stability.

From the theory of disruption, you get the prediction of how your business is expected to respond.

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When an entrant tackles incumbent competitors head-on by offering better services or products, the incumbents respond by accelerating their innovations to defend their business.

You can choose to beat back the entrant posing a threat to your business by offering even better products or services at an affordable price.

You could also consider buying the entrant so that your company becomes the agent of disruptive innovation. From the theory’s prediction, “Entrants pursuing a sustaining strategy for a stand-alone business are likely to face steep odds.”

Therefore, it requires calculated moves and a comprehensive view of the likely outcomes and the determining factors.

Remain ahead of your competition by using the disruption theory to make strategic decisions when new technology arises.

2. Evaluate New Technological Developments

You need to be a step ahead with new technological advancements, never mind that it is not directly linked to or enhanced in your industry.

It is most likely that the very technology that will cause a revolution in your industry in the future is already revolutionizing an entirely different industry currently.

To make the most of the disruptive innovations, do not wait to be in the loop on new technologies until it is too late. Having a proactive approach to new technologies gives you an upper hand when those advancements begin to cause dramatic changes in your industry.

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Technology is a form of social relation that is always evolving. No technology remains fixated over the years. It starts, develops, persists, declines, or advances at given points in time.

The changes experienced throughout the evolutionary lifecycle in the use and development of any technology are significant to your business. As a new high-technology core emerges, it challenges existing technology support nets, which are, in turn, forced to evolve with it.

No wonder you need to take note of the changes in technological developments.

3. Keep your eyes on your Competitors

Look out for your competitors; it is the best way to know how to achieve disruptive innovation in your industry. When it comes to the part of competitors, you should be ready to match and even overtake actions geared towards disruptive innovation.

By predicting the disruption theory, you have the necessary tools to anticipate your competitors’ plans and stay five step s ahead of the competition.

Disruptive innovations deliver important benefits to the competition levels in a given market or industry. Maximum benefits are enjoyed by consumers who are always looking for new and better products and services.

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From the introduction of new disruptive innovations, you must keep up with new products or services and offer competitive prices. The effects of the stimulated innovation result in price competition among the already established providers.

Interaction of the forces of price competition may cause changes in policy and regulations.

As such, you must be actively involved in the competition so that your business does not face out from the effects of disruptive innovations coming from new competitors in the market.

4. Stay one step ahead of the Disrupting Forces

Initially, the theory of disruptive innovation was merely a statement about the correlation between market forces. As empirical findings on how to innovate revealed, “Incumbents outperformed entrants only in a sustaining innovation context, but they significantly underperformed in the disruptive innovation contexts.”

Smart disrupters do not only improve their products and services; they are also a driving force of the market upswing.

The inclination of your company towards strategic change is intensely affected by the interests of your customers, who are the providers of the very resources that your business needs.

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You need to find a balance to overcome the limitation of only listening to your existing customers, which means you can only concentrate on sustaining innovations.

As an incumbent, do not have your management solely fixed on the existing customers; give them room to consider shifting investments into disruptive innovations. Watch out for the forces that cause incumbents to ignore the early-stage disruptions.

It is these same forces that compel the disrupters to ultimately disrupt and dramatically change the market.

5. Keep Your Customers Close

A remarkable turnaround in market forces occurs when the flow of customers’ needs is diverted or met in a new amazing way. As a business owner, the heartbeat of your progress remains in the customer satisfaction experienced by your clients.

Beyond providing them with good products and services, you need to keep them close. Place a finger on the pulse of your customers; they can be your early-warning system.


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Keeping your customers close will give you access to signals on the changes in the market. Knowing your competitors’ efforts to take away your best customers will give you an upper hand in the face of disruptive forces.

You will be able to react to the market changes in real-time. Be sure not to create products and services for a market that no longer exists by gathering information from your customers.

You could also take a look at this quick guide on Disruptive Innovation: how to anticipate and manage disruptive forces that come to your industry.

6. Savour the Surprises

Disruptive innovation is a process loaded with surprises: unexpected technological advancements, customer feedback, competitive moves, and shifts in the political and regulatory policies, as well as other unforeseen happenings around strategic involvement.

Most businesses assume that all these surprises should be avoided. However, equip your management team to be made up of leaders who recognize that surprises are an unavoidable part of the business.

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An equipped team of leaders that appreciates the inevitability of unexpected happenings is best suited to use surprises as a strategic tool that makes them understated, more agile, and highly effective in capitalizing the unexpected events.

You need to embrace the new skills in today’s increasingly disruptive competitive environment to make a significant difference for yourself and your business. Leading disruptive innovation requires that you operate with a new set of assumptions, most of which include recognizing that you cannot have all the answers.

You must remain open-minded because disruptive innovation is about finding clarity, but you need to embrace the uncertainty and restructure your components, respectively.

7. Embrace Adaptive Planning

After you are flexible enough to adjust and embrace unexpected happenings within your industry’s market, it is time to patch up your planning process.

To lead disruptive innovation and make the most out of it, you must be in a position to manage high levels of uncertainty. You need to embrace adaptive planning.

Adaptive planning is an approach that makes use of repetitive corrective action to achieve a given set of desired results. Using this approach, you will learn from the variable factors in every set of actions, modify the assumptions and approaches according to achieve the desired results.

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Regardless of whether the results are desired or not, they will get you closer to the breakthrough as they offer you new insights and perspective into the approaches taken.

Adaptive planning will help your organization move away from the view that failure is not achieving a desired pre-defined goal.


Leveraging on disruptive innovation requires a high level of flexibility. As a leader, if you are not proactively creating disruption, at some point, you will have to respond to it.

Whether as the causative agent, or an incumbent protecting a brand for your product or service, you need to be equipped to make the most out of the disruption within your industry.

You must make calculated moves with your eyes set on your customers.

Embrace a life of continuous uncertainty and ambiguity as you navigate through disruptive changes and create breakthroughs that have profound effects on the ways of doing business.

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About the Author

Eugen Spivak - Award-Winning Business Strategist and Business Coach - 150x150 px

Eugen Spivak is a multi-award-winning author, business strategist, and a business coach. Eugen is the founder of the Canadian Institute of International Business, an organization dedicated to bringing practical and hands-on business education for modern business leaders.

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