As far as innovation is concerned, there is a misunderstanding regarding the terms disruptive and sustainable.
The fact is that the two terms are placed on two different levels of meaning, and therefore are not in conflict as it seems to most:
a disruptive product
to be successful
must also be sustainable.
In my opinion, the misunderstanding stems largely from a misinterpretation of the term sustain innovation (as explained below, the term is clearly different from sustainable innovation).
It must be taken into account that not all disruptive products are sustainable: most of the products defined as disruptive have not passed the design phase (or are soon failed), and others continue to be sold thanks to traditional forms of marketing (an example it’s the iPhone).
This is because because
Sustainable and disruptive
are both qualities
linked to the next generation of successful products.
The non-conflictuality of the disruptive and sustainable terms
Disruptive and sustainable appear to be conflicting concepts simply because they concern two different aspects of the market (it is a proverbial question of not being able to put oranges with apples):
– disruptive is the EFFECT OF A PRODUCT (of a strategy) towards the consolidated Business (of other Products, players, strategies, etc …). But it’s not a product quality!
– sustainable IS A QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT.
DISRUPTIVE is not a quality of the new generation of products, but it is only the effect that new strategies (the radically innovative ones) produce on the market.
With this term we highlight the characteristics of the phenomenon: the “revolution” in which we “deconstruct” the fundamental elements of the previous phase: mindset, strategies, etc. Thus making Market strategies in vogue until then obsolete < see “Limits in current interpretations of disruptive innovation” >
SUSTAINABLE: the term indicates instead a quality of the product.
The term sustainable means a new type of intrinsic value to the product brought by the disruption that is starting the new phase of the market (or the disruptive concept does not indicate, in itself, any value: neither for the players, nor for the users ).
the sustainability of the product
is his capacity
to provide a Value (utility)
Obviously sustainability regards both the User (the product should not create problems for those who use it) and the environment (the product must not create problems for the environment).
The sustainability must exist both from the physical point of view (“material” problems) and from the economic one (the product must not be critical for the economic resources of the User: the User must be able to purchase and maintain the product without problems).
The current institutional version of Sustainability is highly ideological (linked to an idealistic mindset, and not to rational concepts): it is argued that sustainable is something that can not create problems for future generations.
But today, having developed a greater focus on the social impact of a product, it has formulated a meaning more relevant to reality, more effectively useful: the product is evaluated for immediate consequences.
A trivial example: today it has been realized that there is no real sustainability if the product, does not actually create problems for subsequent generations, but produces a strong pollution that creates immediate problems (such as a strong noise that can disturb other people).
The key qualities of a sustainable product are therefore, among others: social impact, affordability, eco-friendly, compatibility with the current regulatory framework.
The coexistence of Disruptive and Sustainable quality in real innovation
A product that is able to succeed in times of change like the current one must be both disruptive (it can only represent a “new thing” compared to the products of the moment) and sustainable for the User (it must not present problems of purchase and management for it), for the Environment and for the Society).
a product that is Disruptive,
but not Sustainable,
can not succeed in phases like the current one.
This is the case of the vast majority of “disruptive” products announced by the big Players of the Market, which remain in the project or limited series status.
A case of disruptive but non-sustainable product is that of the Flying car, because of its unsustainability (due to the lack of quality as affordability, compatibility with the current regulatory framework, such projects are destined to remain on paper).
Flying cars will most likely exist, but in the “ultra-light” version (in the direction of the LiteMotive Project – INNOVA has developed a concept of this product).
In reality, projects like those of the Flyng Cars have their own reason for being that it is not at all that of having a sales success.
The task of these projects is in fact substantially of
1) to collect money in the initial stages of development of the product: both public funding (also in the form of reduced taxation) and funding from private (naive enough to “believe” in the project). And they also have the function of
2) improve the image of the company: by advertising these projects, the company conveys an image of a “disruptive” company.
Another advantage of this type of strategy is for Managers, as they thus gain prestige: even if the product eventually fails, in the current market culture it will be impossible to attribute to them the responsibility for failure (a company led by a Entrepreneur, and not financial capital, will hardly try to develop such types of projects).
Obviously there are exceptions: disruptive products that, although not sustainable, are successful,
One of these is the iPhone, a disruptive product (it has started a new course of innovation in mobile telephony that has led to the failure of previous leaders like Nokia and Blackberry) that is not at all sustainable (most of the follower products are sustainable ).
The non-sustainability of the iPhone is due to the following factors:
1) it is not affordable (affordability one of the key features of sustainable products)
2) the concept of the marketing strategies of the iPhone are the opposite of sustainability: ● it is not possible to change the battery, so it is better to throw the product after few years ● and in Apple they decided to put a “virus” on older models to limiting its performance and further favoring the User’s decision to buy a new model.
Apple products are disruptive-but-not-sustainable.
The success of the iPhone currently remains for the excellent strategy of traditional martketing, which has made a product that should be considered a utility, a status symbol.
The iPhone was however highly disruptive, since it created a new market with it.
But, because of its unsustainability, however the iPhone is now outdated by followers, who were able to produce products much cheaper really useful for the user comparable to his.
The need to define the meaning of Innovation
In order to understand the meaning of disruptive (and sustainable) innovation, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of Innovation in itself.
How can the Innovation be evaluated? How can innovation determine the success or failure of a product?
It is crucial to understand, above all, “why the innovation” in a broad sense? (with a quick look at History, and in the mind of the human being).
One of the main characteristics of humanity (which distinguishes, for example, the human race from other animal races) is Progress.
Two points are the key points of Progress:
● Man has created a civilization that is in continuous progress (this, for example, does not apply to cats: a cat of our day lives just like the cat of Julius Caesar lived; today’s men live in a completely different condition: evolved, advanced, innovated).
● in the periods in which the Progress has been arrested, the Civilization of man has entered a critical phase (today we have entered a period of poverty, social disorder, ineffectiveness of the government, retreat of the techniques, etc …).
That is, by studying the History of Man’s Progress, it emerges that the phases of progress (innovation) are followed by critical phases of regression (in which, precisely, we have lost those qualities of tools and best practices achieved previously).
And that the transition between the stages of regression and those of progress occurs through “leap” that represent a strong disruption of the status of the previous phase.
Innovation can therefore be defined, among other things, as the basis of Human Progress.
innovation is that mode of action of man
that allows it
to improve the quality of his life
under the aspect of comfort, security, organization of companies, etc.
In other words, processes that do not allow to effectively meet people’s quality of life, however disruptive – apparently innovative – they are in fact not innovative at all.
In terms of the market language,
the products that are successful
in the next phase of the Market will be those
that CAN OFFER A REAL USEFUL VALUE FOR THE USER.
The strategies of the dominant market today do not produce any value-useful for the User, but only an image-value (they are not aimed at satisfying real needs, but only “imaginary, emotional needs”).
The disruptivity of the current market phase is not an option: in the current moment of crisis, consumers can not afford to spend the little money available in the current generation of “emotional” products.