The basic message of The Innovator’s Dilemma is that "successful" organization’s rarely make a timely shift to newer (and eventually winning) technologies because the old is still working so well.  Because the old is still working so well, budget and energy are poured into improving the old in the form of "sustaining" innovations (doing the old thing incrementally better).  Meanwhile, disruptive innovation (ideas and technologies that will one day outstrip the old) is gaining steam, building a customer base outside that of the old, picking off a growing number of the old’s customer base, and improving the disruptive technology along a different trajectory that will one day intersect the needs trajectory of the largest segment of the old’s.

How does this apply to all of us?  Think about your existing customers.  They’re paying your bills.  In a sense, you exist to meet their needs.  Although you want to grow your customer base…you’re a realist and you know you’ve got to take care of the customers you have or you won’t be around to go after the ones you don’t have.

Make sense?  Now you are at the root of the innovator’s dilemma.  The old adage that you need to "stay close to your good customers" is actually the foundation of the issue.  Your existing customers don’t want what’s next.  They want what’s working for them already.  In fact, they want you to improve what you’re already giving them and make it even better…just not different.

At the same time, there’s an unreached segment (that is often even larger) that don’t want what you’re offering because it doesn’t meet their needs.  And then along comes a new idea that captures their attention, gathers steam, and eventually begins to chip away at your customer base.

What’s the solution?  It isn’t continuing to focus solely on your existing customers and their needs.

What is it?

Stay tuned.

Innovation: Sustaining vs Disruptive