Is your organization a disruptive innovator? Are the new things you're doing completely new ideas designed to reach customers you're not currently reaching? Or are you really only incrementally improving what you already do in an attempt to continue to please the customers you already have?

The disruptive innovation vs. sustaining innovation idea is a core concept introduced by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator's Dilemma.  It's pretty simple…but very important.  The essence of the idea is that most innovation is sustaining in nature.  It is innovation.  By tweaking something in what you're already doing you improve its performance and continue to satisfy your current customer.  By continuing to ask your current customer how you can better meet their needs it's always clear what you should do next.  After all, you're listening to the customer.  Right?

Only one problem.  By listening to the customer (existing) you're probably missing the chance to truly innovate in a way that will meet the needs of the segment you are not currently reaching.  And, if you're like most organizations, the group that you're not currently reaching is actually larger than your current base.

Suddenly, you're looking squarely into the face of the dilemma.  Do we improve what we're currently doing to continue to satiate the appetites of the current customer?  Or, do we put resources toward a more disruptive opportunity that could reach the larger segment?

Need a little perspective?  How about this line from Craig Groeschel's Summit talk:

"If you want to reach people that no one else is reaching, you'll have to do things that no one else is doing.  To do things that no one else is doing, you can't do what everybody else is doing."

Sounds pretty disruptive. 

Is Your Innovation Pattern Disruptive?