Timing is Important to Make an Innovative Idea Disruptive

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Disruptive Innovation > Best Practices > Timing is Important to Make an Innovative Idea Disruptive

Timing is Important to Make an Innovative Idea Disruptive
Bernhard Keim, Business Consultant, Germany, Premium Member
America had to be discovered more than once, until it really had been discovered. The Apple Newton was a superior answer to a question that people did not bother at that time.
Likewise, Kodak invented the first portable digital camera (more), but the quality of the pictures was so inferior compared to traditional technologies at that time, that they dismissed it. The camera weight was 8 pounds, the resolution 0.01 Megapixel, there were no printers available nor internet services to transmit the picture to a laboratory. There were just floppy disks, and these were low in storage and high in size.

It's easy to claim that Kodak missed an opportunity at that time. But there was no opportunity. The time had yet to come for it.

Brilliant inventions need a supportive environment to innovate. That others like an idea is not nearly enough. There has to be a need, a real market opportunity. And you have to be able to find the people first willing to buy the product to finance its advancement. In other words: the timing has to be right. When the timing is right, innovation happens.

Yes, But You Can Decide and Make the Timing
Gabi Levin, Israel, Member
Kodak missed the opportunity. It's as simple as that. Yes they were the first and faced obstacles, but had they not been so comfortable with their success at the time, they would do what for some time General Electric did - set up a team with the task being: How can somebody destroy my business? Had they not been so cozy such team would say - OK 10,000 pixels will become 100,000, then a million, and figure out that with so many millions it will equal chemical pictures. They would also develop and work with people to develop the means to make it a reality. But Kodak were cozy, ignoring what other people were doing and aspiring to do.

Remember Leonarda Da Vinci
Bernhard Keim, Business Consultant, Germany, Premium Member
Leonarda Da Vinci made many inventions well ahead of his time. Why were people not interested? Another example: The first telephone has been invented by Philipp Reis, hardly known nowadays. Why didn't he succeed?
The same can be said about the light-bulb. It had been invented many times, not by Edison. Why did he succeed?

"Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come." as Victor Hugo said. A good idea is not enough. A good idea needs an environment where it can unfold. Without this environment there is little chance to succeed. Silicon Valley is a cluster where innovators and financiers meet. There is a supportive framework for fair valuation of ideas and a technological framework has been developed that supports these ideas (something Kodak was lacking when it developed the digital camera).
Last but not least: an invention becomes innovative when it delivers an answer society wants to see solved. That was the problem of Leonardo. He delivered many answers to problems people did not bother about at his time. The reason why people did not listen to him was not because they could not understand him, but because they had no use for his ideas at that time.

Where Good Ideas Come From
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
Steven Johnson in his 2010 book Where Good Ideas Come From identifies the need to enable "hunches" from people to collide and thus new ideas to emerge. While timing is vital, so is the connected community (e.g., Silicon Valley). His last statement in his YouTube video is "Chance favours the connected mind".

Timing is Critical
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
@Bernhard Keim: I suggest innovation can sometimes go further than delivering an answer society wants to see solved. And that's delivering an innovation that solves a problem society didn't even know they had.
Sony's success with the Walkman was because they created a new need - miniaturization.
Apple followed that with the iPod in 2001. Nice but not a big winner.
The real disruptive innovation was the iTunes store in 2003. The ability to download digital MP3 music for 99 cents emerged because of Napster's failure. It took Steve Jobs years to convince the music industry moguls disruptive change was here to stay. The above is delightfully captured in Adam Fisher's book Valley of Genius.

Kodak Could Read the Writing on the Wall (but Wasn’t Willing to Pay the Price)
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
@Gabi Levin: I recently read about Kodak's failure in the book Shift Ahead. I think Kodak gets an unfair rap about missing the next technological wave. There WERE people in Kodak who did see the train coming, or the writing on the wall. Jim Patton, an executive at Kodak for over 30 years states in the book: “We had some really good technical forecasters. As a matter of fact, one of them nailed the basic concept, the basic shift from film to digital right to the year it happened. I want to make it very clear that we knew that digital was coming. There was a fork in the road and they took the wrong fork. We knew we had to replace film, but the problem with film at the time was that the earnings from film were probably 110 percent of the corporate earnings. And that was not a slip of the tongue. The explanation from the company was, ‘This is what we do. We have no choice to be there.’"

I garner there was a rift between the technology pioneers and money-makers. The message to me is not only is a diversity of perspective key, but so is the capacity to communicate and willingness to be influenced.

Short Versus Long Sightedness
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
@Gary Wong: I agree Gary. I am sure that there are many cases where the short term greed of the bean counters outweighed the foresightedness of the innovators to the detriment of the organisation's survival.
The large companies going under as a consequence of hanging on to the high-street shop rather than investing in internet shopping also seems proof of this.

Relying too much on the Historic Core Business
Charles Alter, Consultant, United States, Member
@Maurice Hogarth: I agree the case of Kodak and many other companies that have been disrupted, including their Rochester, NY neighbor Xerox is one of relying too much on the core business.
This strategy worked fine as long as the core business was robust and was adapting to changes in the marketplace and technology, but becomes a disaster when companies get lazy. McKinsey's Three Horizons of Growth is an excellent guide to balancing the Core Business, New Innovations and Building New Businesses to mitigate the Kodak problem.

Can't Ignore Other Factors Conducive to Disruptive Innovation
Helen Strong, Business Consultant, South Africa, Member
Totally agree that timing is important, even critical, BUT you have to have the whole environment. This would include trends in lifestyle/business practices; finding the right target markets; finding early adopters that are also role models. Then - of course if the innovation has significant and relevant advantages - the disruption will happen.
This is where visionary leaders guided by marketing research should play a part -- identifying the problems and determining where to place their resources and efforts for maximum market take off.

Timing and Technology Impact
Allemeersch, Interim Manager, Belgium, Member
A technology upgrade which is not disturbing the human effort to work with it can be introduced relatively quickly.
However a major technology change, where you need the human intervention to change, takes a longer time, and requires very close monitoring of marketing and effort to enter gradually in the market.
For example, to change over from a vinyl disc to the Compact Disk, took more time than to introduce DVD. The step from CD to iPod took shorter as it went together with the "mini" computer and digital receivers. Timing is of the essence and the total package (support, hard- and software, applications) must be introduced in the same timeframe.

PEST as Disruptor
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
You can use the PEST Factors (domains) to explain the disruptive innovation process at a high level.
Consider: Changes in the TECHNICAL DOMAIN (vacuum cleaner to telephone to the digitals of today) disrupt the SOCIAL DOMAIN (as well as the WORK AND LEISURE DOMAINS) driving change (the technology is integrated and life styles / work patterns change) driving disruption of the ECONOMIC DOMAIN and demanding change (pay demands, credit etc.) which then feeds and drives the need for policy changes (new legislation etc.) in the POLITICAL DOMAIN.
Agreed, it's a bit more complex than this, with a web of feedback and feed-forward links and drivers between each of the domains, causing the turbulences and disruptions that hinder our progress towards civilisation.
Remember that Da Vinci (and others) were fighting religious dominance as well as inadequate technology. Further inventions were required to enable fruition of the earlier ones. Also an inventor is not necessarily business-orientated and it is the later entrepreneurs who do the market-driving, frequently against blockers (from the old businesses).

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Rick Mueller

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