While innovation does involve exciting new ideas in technology, products or services, the success of innovation cannot be measured by ideas alone, or number of patents, or the density of high tech start ups. True innovation is more than that. If the ideas do not create new commercial value, then they are simply a measure of creativity.

An innovative idea must therefore be matched with a marketable solution in order to create real value. True innovation can then be measured by either the sudden positive change in fortune of existing businesses, or in the creation of new commercially successful ventures.

Timing is key

No matter how good an idea is, no matter how great the people around it are, and no matter how much money is thrown at it, if the timing is not right then nothing is right.

Disruptive innovation

This is a term coined by Clayton Christensen (author of “The Innovator’s dilemma”), and it goes a step further than basic innovation. It involves a process by which a new product or service starts off in simple applications at the low end of a market and then moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors. This can involve todays start up companies eventually displacing the contemporary corporate giants.

Without considering all the further complications of Christensen’s explanations, which include margins, pricing etc, from an Innflect perspective you can simply consider any innovation that eventually replaces the old way of doing things as being disruptive.

For example, the innovation of the railroads disrupted the horse; the big supermarkets disrupted the corner shop; the flat panel LCD screen disrupted the bulky CRT screen; the PC disrupted the mainframe computer; the DVD disrupted the videotape and now streaming video has disrupted the DVD; CD’s disrupted the LP and cassettes and now streaming music has disrupted the CD; the cloud is disrupting the hard-drive and local software applications;  the electric car is disrupting the combustion engine, the mobile phone is disrupting the landline…and the list goes on.

Disruptors may be all innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors.