I deal a lot with digital transformation and the concept of disruption: it is one of the hot topic in business nowadays. It is common belief that technology is disruptive. Actually, it is not always the case, sometimes it is just avoidable nuisance.
I am an Amazon Vine reviewer. Hang on, it does have sense for the purposes of this post! Thanks to this program Amazon provides me with the chance to try products of all price ranges (from 2 euros to 1000 euros) for free in order to test them and review them in a honest and thorough way (yes, some Vine products got one star from me!). I have had the possibility to try products that otherwise I would have completely skipped. Why? Because they do not satisfy the main key requirement for being truly disruptive: that being finding a better way to satisfy a fundamental need of the customer.
Clayton Christensen introduced the concept of disruptive innovation with his seminal book “The Innovator’s Dilemma“. For innovation to be disruptive it has to be an advancement that creates new market value and in the process it disrupts and replace an existing market. This is what the iPod/iPhone and iPad did in the past, and what the new version of the iPad and iPhone are no longer doing.
But just because a product or service is more technological or digital, it does not mean that it is disruptive!
Let’s take dental care: the main goal of an individual is to avoid cavities and to have healthy gums and teeth. You can avoid cavities by brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes. Also the technique is important as you want to delicately get rid of plaque without damaging the enamel. You can achieve this goal with a manual toothbrush (average price 2 euros) or with an electric toothbrush (price starting at around 15/20 euros going up to +200 euros).
Amazon Vine provided me with a 230 euros (no, it is no a typo) electric tooth brush – the marketing claims said this is top of the range. It has bluetooth technology, an app that scans the mouth and shows how to brush the teeth correctly, it vibrates to tell me when to move to brush the next section of the mouth and also changes colour on the app, flashes with a red light if I apply too much pressure whilst brushing and scores my tooth cleaning technique after the 2 minutes are up! It has 4 different type of heads that are supposed to do all sorts of magic and a case that I can use to recharge my smartphone whilst I charge the toothbrush. Basically it is like throwing in the kitchen sink!
Problem: this is not disruptive, this is just expensive gimmick. Take away the app and the toothbrush does not do anything more than any other 15/20 euros electric toothbrush: clean my teeth.
This is an example of a company that jumped on the digital bandwagon and threw an app into the mix to make it more attractive – and much more expensive! – and just made the act of brushing the teeth a competition and a pain in the neck. Result: I keep on using my old electric toothbrush that costs less than half the price, is not gimmicky and cleans my teeth perfectly.
When we talk about digital disruption we have to understand what it is exactly and not falling into the trap of thinking that adding a couple of apps here and there just because it looks cool makes the product or service disruptive. Let’s go back to basics.
The real question that your organisation has to answer is “How can we create and provide customers with a product/service that they really want?” and not “How we can make a product that we can sell at a high mark up and make it look technological?”.