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In the world of technology, new or better doesn’t necessarily mean disruptive. Unless ‘new’ means revolutionary and ‘better’ means businesses and markets have to think or behave differently, then it’s not true disruption.

Do an online search for  ‘disruptive technology’ or ‘disruptive innovation’ and you’ll see they stir up discussion and debate. Talking of Google, here’s a good example: the Google search engine algorithm was not in itself disruptive. It was AdWords, its advertising service. By offering a self-service ad product for as little as $1, it disrupted the previous model sustained by Yahoo who in turn had sustained the traditional advertising model of premium rates for display advertising.

Combine disruptive technology with business models, sales, market and economic dynamics and it becomes part of a bigger displacement which is disruptive innovation. Computers are a prime example of disruptive innovation. Whilst the original mainframe computers were a technology innovation, they only began to create significant, global disruption when the concept of ‘one computer, many users’ was overturned with the introduction of personal computers which enabled ‘one user, many computers’.

People don’t buy disruption, they buy ‘better’. Understanding what’s better can often be a challenge with disruptive technology. Sometimes, it doesn’t fall neatly into the categories of bigger, better, faster or even cheaper.

The first mobile phones were certainly bigger than we’re used to today and they could in no way claim to be cheaper than landline phones. Whilst they were seen as ‘desirable’ they were also open to derision, accusations of elitism and viewed by horrified company accountants as unnecessary and very expensive. And of course, early mobile phones also had limited, unreliable network coverage for the small minority of early adopters who used them.

Taking disruptive technology and innovation to market means communicating effectively with early adopters right through to laggards. It means harnessing enthusiasm and managing scepticism with neither being confined exclusively to users and buyers – internal sales forces and external channels can be evangelists and sceptics too. With clarity, context, joined up thinking and realistic timescales, it can be done. And when it does succeed, the prize is much bigger and longer lasting for those technology companies that aren’t afraid to cross the rubicon.

Find out how TRA takes disruption to market at the point where technologies and business models are being displaced – when opportunity and threat co-exist.

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