April 5, 2017
A Lesson From a Serial Innovator
We get too focused on the technology. Disruptive innovation comes from the strategy that uses technology, not the technology itself.
Disruptive innovation is not about technology
Systems that are innovative at one time can become the “good enough” systems we need to overcome as they age and calcify. While it’s inspiring to see new systems render old ones obsolete, this prescription of change creates a future where decisions about our collective future will be commercial engineering decisions and not social ones.
Disruptive innovation comes at you fast. It is not about creating the best products and protecting profits. For example, with the launch of ApplePay, the whole world can do something Kenyans have done every day for more than 10 years. M-PESA, the mobile payment system offered by Safaricom, has been used by most adult Kenyans and is the model for hundreds of digital payment startups around the world today.
See also: What Is the Right Innovation Process?
Kenyans don’t have bank accounts, making paper checks useless for all but the largest transactions. M-PESA was an appealing alternative to the status quo for transferring money from one city to another. Before you could transfer money through an SMS, it was common to give money to a taxi driver heading in that direction and ask him to deliver your payment for you. Safaricom, a leading mobile network provider in Kenya, captured consumers out of mainstream banking institutions and built customers — not the best technology.
Disruptive innovation refers to the strategy that employs technology; the technology itself isn’t disruptive, but rather the application of the technology can be disruptive or not. This depends on whether the technology is positioned with a disruptive strategy.