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Innovation: Disruptive, Sustaining or Rippling?

The Innovator’s Dilemma not only forms the foundation of Lean Startups and Customer Development, but has brilliant analysis on the role of disruptive vs sustaining innovation in large successful businesses. In a nutshell, big successful companies successfully adopt sustaining technologies that maintain a steady trajectory of performance/cost improvements. These same companies, however, fail to adopt disruptive technologies that radically change performance/cost trajectories. The success of the former dictates the level of success of that business as long as the adopted trajectory is dominant in the marketplace. These businesses tend naturally to move “up market” to maintain or increase margins as the (IMO) traverse into late majority adoption in the technology adoption curve. If and when, however, the disruptive trajectories become dominant (for whatever reason) these same businesses fail, because they are unable to respond to the startups eating up their core business.

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