Disruptive Innovation

Disruption is a game changer. In simpler times we humbly referred to a disruption as an unforeseen and perhaps unwelcome intrusion or disturbance to an event, agenda or personal time. The last minute meeting, a child sent home with a burgeoning cold, or the sudden appearance of a friendly neighbor on our doorstep in need of a chat; each likely result in eleventh-hour schedule changes.

Disruptions might have wreaked havoc with our precisely plotted time management process but they are not typically life altering occasions. At present, the expression disruption is often partnered with the term innovation. Disruptive innovation, often referring to smaller companies that implement innovative processes and technologies that thwart the growth of their more established counterparts, has kept even the most formidable of enterprises on their toes.

According to Harvard academic Clayton M. Sure, the usage has changed, but the concept has been in practice since the beginning of time.

A few examples?

The accompanying graphic from LiquidHub illustrates budding disruptions throughout the centuries. For the sake of brevity however, let’s consider the progress of communication technology since the prehistoric implementation of smoke signals.

Prior to the printing press (~1440, when Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing), communication was transmitted through word of mouth, via town criers and, for lengthier distances, trained messenger pigeons. The printing press facilitated brisk and accurate widespread dissemination of information, putting the carrier pigeon business model out of business. Considered one of most notable inventions of all time, the press helped society evolve by drastically increasing literary rates globally.

Several hundred years later, the telegraph (~ 1830s by Samuel Morse) debuted, offering even swifter communication by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations – instantly. This rapid transmittal of information principally benefited industry and governments by making it easier to do business during the Industrial Revolution, unlike the subsequent form of communication, the telephone, which provided greater impact on everyday human lives.

With the introduction of the telephone (~ 1876, Alexander Graham Bell) the novelty of voice had arrived. Long distance telephony, with two parties in real-time conversation, made it even easier for companies to do business and expand their markets. However, unintended consequences led to employee messengers and telegraph operators becoming expendable. The social impact was revolutionary.  People no longer had to wait weeks or months for mail, depending on their location, to receive vital news. As a result, it kept families and friends, who were disconnected geographically, increasingly connected; and calls for emergency help was just just a dial away.

Adding real-time, live video into the long distance conversation was truly groundbreaking. The massively groundbreaking smartphone, readily accessible in one’s pocket, offered an instant, wireless communication and video experience from anywhere to anywhere in the world.

Each of these progressive inventions didn’t necessarily render previous technological advances completely useless, but they certainly disrupted old markets and helped create new ones.  After all, although the introduction of massive, high-speed freight ships disrupted the logistics transport market, clipper ships and steamboats, the preceding goods-transport counterparts, still enjoy a niche market as leisure conveyance in resort towns – same ships, new markets.

The 21st century supply chain is vulnerable to disruptions, too.  Manufacturing.net recently published a piece enumerating the technologies disrupting the supply chain.  Among the culprits are blockchain, data analytics, transportation automation, and workforce technology. What is an enterprise to do?

What differentiates SDI from our competitors is our steady persistence in embracing the technologies that result in a lean, agile and optimized supply chain.  We’d love to help your supply chain do the same.  Information on how we can be your supply chain or help re-engineer your supply chain can be found here.