Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Clay Christensen vs. Jill Lepore – Brian Solis Weighs in at CMSWire

CMSWire’s Noreen Seebacher tackled the recent brouhaha between Harvard’s Clay Christensen and Jill Lepore over “Disruptive Innovation.” Seebacher reached out to leading experts including Jeff Dachis,  Professor Howard Yu and Brian Solis to debate the debate.

Excerpt from “What’s the Deal with Disruptive Innovation?

Brian Solis:

Living in Silicon Valley, the word disruption is heard as often as “please” and “thank you.” I’m exaggerating of course, but in all seriousness, there’s an unsaid belief in the technology businesses that all innovation is potentially disruptive. At the same time, almost every tech entrepreneur, investor or executive that I’ve worked with has quoted Clay Christensen’s model of “Disruptive Innovation” as much as Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm.”

I’m not sure of Jill Lepore’s motivation to revisit Christensen’s 1997 work. Perhaps like many, she’s tired of people using or misusing the word disruption. Maybe, she’s simply causing a stir to draw attention to herself. Either way, many people in Silicon Valley, I guess everywhere, generalize Christensen’s model and confuse the differences between creativity, innovation and disruption. Certainly, I’ve noticed the interchangeable use of those these words ad nauseam.

What’s the difference?

Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas in the production of an artistic work or work where creativity is usually not part of the equation.

Innovation is something original and new that “breaks into” a market or society.

Disruption … disrupts markets and introduces new direction and changes behavior. In this sense disruption is an effect.

I work with a commercial b2b and b2c insurance provider that is taking an innovative approach to disruption … word choice intended. It believes that to disrupt markets it must start by disrupting its own business. It is setting out to do what the New York Times apparently is not doing, and that is investing in technology and the companies that are setting out to defeat it. Doing so is counter intuitive for some but also one way to ensure long-term relevance.

Christensen’s work, for better or for worse, is beyond reproach at this point. Most who cite his work can’t even define it accurately. But it is in the spirit of progress to innovate, disrupt and even cause disruptive innovation that fuels ideas not only in Silicon Valley but also around the world.

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