Becoming a Disruptive Innovator

What is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation can best be defined, in my view, as the way in which an innovation changes an existing market by making things simpler, more convenient, more accessible and affordable where complication and high cost are mostly the status quo. This can best come about by, in my opinion, when new entrants enter a saturated market and provides the same service at a lower cost. Sustaining innovation can best be described as satisfying the needs of the existing market by designing new products that serve the needs of the future. The two are very similar, but sustainable innovation puts new products in an existing market and disruptive innovation creates new markets separate from the existing ones.

I think that disruptive innovation can be a good catalyst for change since it allows changes to an already existing market by allowing things to be better for the user. I believe this model allows for new solutions to be thought about and given to existing markets where they are sorely needed. If we take a look at few examples, one could look at our education system to find out. I have been hearing for years that we continue to decline in our education system, the only solution is to add money to it to make it better. In some cases where school districts are poor, this may very well be true, but in other cases it is not. We now spend more money on education than we have at any time in our history and continue to get poor results in the meantime. A disruptive innovation in this sense could be to look at things as “misdirected investment” rather than a lack of money. Instead of spending tons of money on administration, laws, and buildings in schools, we should spend every dollar on students and what their needs are. I think this is a good way disruptive innovation could make sure that our education dollars are being spent wisely. In other words, “think outside the box” on school spending. In this example, you could take existing monies and change the direction of cash flow to make sure all schools are getting adequate funding to run their respective institutions.  If we wanted to look at a historical example of disruptive innovation, I think another good place to look would be the library. For years we have had libraries filled with books, almanacs, encyclopedias, and magazines to do research from. All of a sudden, the internet came along and changed the way that we use our libraries. Now, every time that I go to a library, the card catalog and nearly all of the books are posted in online databases. The internet has been a catalyst for disruptive innovation in libraries by making it easier for a user or student to find what it is that they are looking for. Hence, the need to eliminate certain types of “old” written technology in most school libraries today. I think that this example is one of the best from the past.

Now, when I take a look at my industry, I think that disruptive innovation can provide a pathway by which new technologies can enter a company and make things better for the employees that perform certain tasks at a company. In my life, I am heavily involved with the HOBY organization, which seeks to train the future leaders of tomorrow by making them leaders. We put on local seminars and have to stay in compliance with the national curriculum and what its requirements are. For many years, we have used printed documents to send important information to the national headquarters and inform them about what we are doing. We are implementing a new software, called Activecollab, which allows all of this to get send through drop boxes online without all of the paper work involved. I believe that disruptive innovation can play a key role in this regard by providing a new pathway to make something better for our organization. Activecollab takes our original tasks and simplifies them, making them easier to manage. This is the vital role that disruptive innovation can help change. We can now “think outside of the box” at HOBY. I think that if we use this framework to change HOBY, we can change educational funding to make it better.

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Christensen, C. (2012). Disruptive Innovation. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from


A Reflection on Disruptive Innovation

When I think about disruptive innovation, I can only think of the fact that we live in an era of new things. Many people often think that the way forward is to keep things the way they are or to implement new things that would revolutionize the way a product or service is implemented in a company. According to Clayton Christensen, a “disruptive innovation” is a change in the process of a product or service where something takes root at the bottom and moves up to the top, replacing the established competitors. If one was to look at a historical example of this, we should only look to the library at most schools for a classic example. I, like many others, went to school at a time when there were large amounts of printed books and card catalogs in the school library. We learned all about the Dewey Decimal system and how it could be used to find books and other printed materials that we could all use in writing a paper or article for one of our classes. We also learned about how to print citations in a paper to make sure we were giving credit to other people who we were borrowing ideas from. Then, all of a sudden, along comes the Internet and it suddenly became much easier to do research. We could find printed material on computers very easily and my elementary school quickly embraced this as a new way of learning. My teachers did not like it too much, but it made things very easy for my classmates and me to write papers and do research.

If one takes a look at sustaining innovation, it is very easy to see how it is related to the above. Sustaining innovation seeks to listen to the customers in the existing market and create new products that satisfy future needs. The key point of difference of disruptive innovation is that new markets are created separate from the mainstream. In doing so, both of these theories create opportunities for businesses. If we were to use technology as an example, “cloud computing” is a good match. It is a relatively new idea that allows computers to store data in the “cloud in the sky” and automate the processes of business, people, technologies, and the Internet. Apple customers have the opportunity to store their information in the “cloud” and retrieve it anytime they need it. If someone stole your phone, you have the chance to recover the lost information and store it in a new phone without someone else gaining access to it. This means that the information you stored in the “cloud in the sky” can be stored in a vault and it is there for you anytime you need it. It has encryption and it is safe from anyone who might try to steal it. This saves companies time and money by automating their data storage processes.

In the instance of our education system, I look at the arguments put forward by Sir Ken Robinson as a good model for how we can improve it. For many years, we have based our educational model on the “industrial model,” instead of the “agriculture model” where all things are grown organically. I hold the opinion that too many educational systems in our modern world are built on the premise that everything has to be the same. We have added continuous amounts of standardized tests to our curricula that look at everything in the context of “industrial batches” being produced and not at the individual spirits of the people involved. We also fail to realize that in the modern world, learning environments fail to realize that life happens organically, and not in a linear fashion. All education should by customized to fit the understanding that not all of us “like our steaks cooked the same.” Rather, it should be built on the belief that all of us “like our steaks cooked differently.” Simply put, we need to “customize” all learning and not “standardize” all learning. Many standardized tests should be eliminated and all curricula should be designed around different learning abilities and not producing large “industrial batches” of the same thing. In using technology to enhance our curricula, we could use this model to use technologies like Skype or online portfolios to customize the learning experience for all students. Lessons could be taught from long distances apart and learning could be assessed through these portfolios to see what students are learning. From here, we could learn what benchmarks are being hit in our education system, with regards to quality assurance. If we all decided to make improvements like these, our education system would undergo an entire “revolution,” and it would be more engaging for students and teachers alike.

When I think about disruptive innovation being a catalyst for change, I can only think about the fact that it allows new technologies to serve new customers by improving what is already there. Disruptive innovation provides a pathway by which existing processes can be improved so that they are more convenient for businesses and people alike. In my industry, the non-profit sector, I can think of many ways disruptive innovation has occurred in my organization. In this instance, we will take a look at technology as a pivotal example. For many years, I have been involved with the HOBY organization, otherwise known as Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. This non-profit organization seeks to shape the leaders of tomorrow by making high school sophomores the leaders of today. We hold a yearly seminar in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in which we seek to change lives through achieving a set of national guidelines set by the national board of our organization. A number of years ago, the Web2Project was implemented to make it easier for each chapter of HOBY to achieve 100 percent compliance rates corresponding to the national curriculum. After that implementation, we had the chance to improve our processes by submitting all of our compliance paperwork online to improve our operational efficiency at the seminar. We since have had the chance to implement new software called ActiveCollab, which takes the process even further. Now, all of our documents and reports must be posted online along with indications of where our seminar committee is at in the seminar planning process. I see this as a good example of disruptive innovation in that we still have not gone 100 percent towards implementation in our seminar. There have been setbacks, budget reductions, and more that have been a hinder to the process. In this technology plan, I want to use my skills to implement this system across all of our data and make sure that everyone understands what we are doing to be successful. I think that if all of this gets implemented, then we are all making progress together. This can be used as an example of disruptive innovation since this is a new technology that seeks to improve the processes already used. If this process is successfully implemented, it can become a catalyst for change in my organization and assist us in providing a better experience for our “ambassadors.” This will go a long way to help us all.


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