The Innovator's Solution defines the actions and practices necessary for companies to embrace new disruptive innovations and avoid being disrupted themselves. It's also a framework at the core of High Alpha Innovation.
The Innovator's Solution is Clayton Christensen’s follow-up to the classic business book Innovator’s Dilemma. The title of this sequel is thus aptly named as it offers readers the solution to the innovator’s dilemma, which focuses on how business managers and entrepreneurs can sustainably create disruptive technology, and how businesses can take advantage of disruptive technology.
When you look at an Innovator’s Solution chapter summary, you’ll notice that the book is separated into two halves, with an additional final epilogue. In the first six chapters, author Christensen discusses market dynamics and how companies big and small generally react for success and for failure while the last three chapters talk about what you as a manager or business owner can do for your own success. Furthermore, the final epilogue offers a nice summary of action prompts for readers to follow. Another way of seeing this book is that it begins by describing one the business dilemma is and then proceeds to offer ingenious ways of approaching disruptive innovation for business success.
In offering methods to achieve the Innovator’s Solution creating and sustaining growth, Christensen highlights some very valuable principles. A few of these core and very valuable principles include:
Never use a sustaining innovation to compete with an incumbent. This is a very important principle for start-ups and businesses looking to add new products to their brand and you’ll find it prioritized in the Innovator’s Solution Wikipedia. Here, Christensen describes sustaining innovation as one that improves a given product for existing customers, such as by giving them better performance and better features. On the face, this seems like a good move right? You make something better to compete with the incumbent. However, Christensen notes that this move more often fails as the incumbent has the resources, customer base, and motivation to simply copy your ideas and put them into action while simultaneously using their existing customers to beat any newcomers. So instead, the solution is to create an innovation that does not compete with the quality or features of the incumbent but is instead desirable for being cheaper, more convenient, or in some way easier. Start low and go high.
Choose employees for their ability to learn and not just their track record. This is another great core principle of the Innovator’s method and one you’ll frequently be returning to when listening to the Innovator’s Solution audiobook. Here, Christensen expands upon while on the surface it may seem like a good idea to choose foremost those individuals who have proven success -- just like on the surface it may seem like creating a better, sustaining innovation is better than going for a cheap on -- it is actually better to look instead at an individual’s ability to learn. That is to say, businesses want and in fact, need managers who have the desire to learn and who have developed the skills and intuition needed to successfully approach new problems and create solutions.
Of course, these are just two examples of the incredible and thought-providing principles outlined and explored in Christensen’s business book. Following these principles, Christensen explores other key concepts such as laying out the differences between ‘good money’ and ‘bad money’ and how businesses can distinguish between the two to ensure they are investing in the right solutions for success. With such good theories and unique examples of how to take action on those theories, both young start-ups and established businesses will find value in this book.
While you don’t need to read the Innovator’s Dilemma to gain value from its successor, the Innovator’s Solution, reading this book is beneficial. Published in 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail continues to reign as one of the most readable and influential business books of all time. A succinct one-sentence Innovator’s Dilemma summary would be this: A classic business book that explains the power of disruption, why many market leaders fail when technologies change, and what incumbent companies can do to keep their market leadership. In other words, where the Innovator’s Solution is more about how to become an incumbent, this book is about how to say an incumbent. Thus, when considering which statement highlights the Innovator's Dilemma best, consider this quote by the author: “Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one.” This is probably one of our favorites of the Innovator’s Dilemma quotes.
So, what are disruptive technologies? Disruptive technologies are those technologies that either change the landscape of an existing industry or create a new industry altogether. This extreme shift differs significantly from sustaining technologies and innovations which, as noted above, enhance the performance of existing products, often via increased capacity, improved functions, or similar performance-oriented features. Like the book’s sequel, the Innovator’s Dilemma examples are great and offer comprehensive Innovator’s Dilemma case study stories.
Remember, this book is primarily aimed at those companies who are already leading their company and who are struggling with how to shift gears and stay leading even as the technology around them changes and evolves. This is an incredibly important concept in today’s era in which new technologies are constantly emerging and yet businesses also have to learn when the culture is ready for a new technology. For example, Apple developed the first iPad technology back in 1982 but that was too early and too expensive for consumers. Christensen continues and explains the importance of either partnering or acquiring subsidiary companies that match values but offer the right mix of personnel and resources to invest in disruptive technologies.
Those interested in learning more about the core concepts in this book can easily access it via the Innovator’s Dilemma PDF, the Innovator’s Dilemma Kindle, or the Innovator’s Dilemma audiobook. Wherever you get your version of the book from, read through the Innovator’s Dilemma review comments to learn more about how valuable readers just like you find Christensen’s groundbreaking book.
Disruptive innovation is the transformation of an expensive, complicated product into something more affordable, more accessible, and more available to consumers. Take for example TurboTax and how it used a disruptive business model to transform the accounting industry. Initially, TurboTax’s software wasn’t as good as an actual accountant but it was cheap and easy to use and so consumers gradually drifted towards it. As more and more consumers chose it over the leading accounting firms, TurboTax improved its features and capabilities and thereby became a leader in the tax preparation industry and one of the enduring disruptive innovation examples 2018 and disruptive innovation examples 2019.
Some like to say Uber disruptive innovation example but Uber doesn’t really fit Christensen’s theory nor that theory put in another renowned disruptive innovation book, The Innovator’s DNA. This is because by definition in the Innovator’s DNA chapter summaries, disruptive innovations must originate either in low-end or new-market footholds -- which is to say they must either provide the cheapest solutions (such as TurboTax) or they must open the door to a new market (such as how personal copiers made it possible for individuals and small organizations to make their own photocopies instead of relying on companies). Uber began as a San Fran company with customers who were already hiring taxis and simply offered an alternative. They thus worked first at building and growing a position in the existing market and then appealing to overlooked segments and targeting those who were previously nonconsumers.
Of course, disruptive innovation is not just about private businesses. You’ll find plenty of great examples of disruptive innovation in healthcare and disruptive innovation in education. For more information, take a look at the Innovator’s DNA review or getting started with the basics via a disruptive innovation for dummies video.
Before you start investing in the theories of disruptive technologies and disruptive innovations, you’d likely like to know a bit more about the man at the center, author Clayton Christensen. He was a highly esteemed American academic and business consultant who served on several boards and taught Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.
In addition to the many Clayton Christensen books that are available, there are a great number of interesting and engaging Clayton Christensen articles. Perhaps his best well known is his How Will You Measure Your Life essay. In this essay, he writes of how a person can sustain motivation at both work and life in order to spend one’s life more balanced with a happy focus on family, relationships, and personal self as well as work and finances. There is also a How to Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen TED talk and How Will You Measure Your Life audiobook. Both offer the same how will you measure your life theories but in different manners and different memorable how will you measure your life quotes. Perhaps one of the best and most thought-provoking quote Clayton Christensen has within this essay is the following:
“In your life, there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention. How are you going to decide which of these demands gets resources? The trap many fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.”