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Incremental or disruptive? This is the question!

The interesting thing when times are changing, is that established companies don’t just wait and try to fight back as much as they can.Blockbuster did so, Polaroid also. And, these are just two example of companies that used to lead an industry and that could not adapt to a changing environment. They tried to be more customer-centric and they tried to invest more in the new technology.


What they didn’t do, was keeping their leadership position. Blockbuster asked their clients again and again what they need, just to try to find out what’s the right mix. The only problem was that their existing client was giving them the wrong answers, clients being notorious for asking just incremental change and not having any idea about what would be the future of the industry. So asking the soccer mommies for advice in an industry that proved to be for the internet enthusiasts, was one of the issue.

Polaroid actually had some digital capacities, but it was too late when senior management finally got out of their mental blockage and accepted that this is the future. Polaroid’s management was in a “razor and blades” mentality and simply had a difficult decision ahead when adapting to the new digital technology. They did not understand where are “the blades” of the new technology. Hence they were out with digital cameras when market was already taken.

One new thing was that demand for non-hits is an important side of the new online business, while brick and mortar was making 95% of its income from 5% of what they actually had in the inventory. In today’s world the product that is on position 992 can have good sales if this particular product finds its niche and the right marketing campaign for its target. One difference of the many that made it difficult for the incumbent champions of their market to defend their titles.

Disruptive have been criticized for disrupting the market and hurting the business community, yet reaction is the key issue here. New technologies will emerge, like it or not. On the other side there is the risk of throwing lots of resources on a technology that won’t work on the long time, on the other side the risk might be of adapting too slow or not adapting at all to change. But, there is hope. Some say that creating small subsidiaries completely detached from the mother companies when a technology is ripe and can be with some risks adopted can be the key to success.