“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”– This famous quote by the late co-founder of Apple Inc. – Steve Jobs, one of greatest innovators the world has seen, explains how critical innovation is!
Innovation is, in fact, the biggest USP that any start-up can bring to the table, since it’s all about offering a disruptive solution to a problem. There is nothing wrong with average or ‘me-too’ products or ideas, but they are not exciting enough and find it difficult to garner the attention of customers or investors, compared to the attention that innovative ideas/products can get. Entrepreneurs should therefore, focus on developing an innovation-led business model as the best way to differentiate themselves in the cut-throat market.
Look at any startup that has seen gigantic growth over the years – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Paypal or Whatsapp. Innovation is the one thing that they all have in common and the reason behind their exponential growth. They all made innovation the backbone of their business and created something the world had never imagined before.
Unless your new offering in an already established space introduces a startlingly new and creative idea that advances the entire product category, you’ll be seen as a ‘me-too’ business. Sometimes companies think that they can hop on the “me too” bandwagon and be seen as innovative simply because they are doing something differently or better, but unless the idea is disruptive in nature, you may fail to get noticed by investors and customers. The only possibility of achieving success as a ‘me-too’ business is if you manage to solve the problem better than your competitors, which too requires some degree of innovation.
Innovation is no longer a choice, but a necessity and offers a long-term sustainable advantage to a startup. If you look at any successful business across the globe, you will see that innovation is part of its DNA and has been built into its culture, be it a new-age company like Google or a more traditional business like 3M. They are constantly reinventing themselves to retain their leadership position in the market.
Disruption is how startups thrive and steal market share from legacy companies. The term, ‘Disruptive Innovation’, was coined by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School Professor who has been widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading thinkers on innovation. Disruption is about changing how things work in a certain industry and innovation is the only way to get there.
Take the case of Uber. There were no ride-sharing apps and companies before March 2009 and it was a totally new and unheard of concept. The company gauged a whole new opportunity and offered a convenient solution to people looking at hiring cabs. The company is now worth over $40 bn and still growing.
While the path to disruption is not easy, start-ups should consciously focus their efforts around it in order to thrive and build something that can add value to the lives of others, and in the process create value for themselves.
There are many aspects that are critical for any start-up to succeed but at the core of it lies the idea or product. So a business could have the best team to execute the plans and the necessary resources in place, but if the idea/ product is not right, nothing can prevent the ship from sinking.
Moreover, it’s no longer about just starting up with a disruptive idea, since in today’s dynamic startup scene an even better product will be ready sooner than you know it, and for all you know, your idea will become obsolete. Only a culture of innovation can ensure that you invest time and resources to beat yourself at it every day, fail and then start all over again to stay till you come up with the next big idea to stay ahead in the race.
The path to disruptive innovation is filled with fast-failing, big-dreaming aspirants but if handled well, it gives you a lasting edge over others!