The (other) innovators dilemma

Everyone knows sooner or later some upstart is going to come along with something that disrupts your business. And everyone knows that the chances of executing a "disrupt yourself" strategy to avoid the upstart it is practically impossible, because you have all these incumbent people hell bent on preserving what's working now. That's the innovators' dilemma.

But there's another innovator's dilemma and it is this:

Faced with a disruptor, should you jump ship or persevere where you are, trying to save the future?

The qustion really boils down to something pretty basic: do you have the guts to wreck the present business to save the future when almost everyone has failed before you?  

Saving the future is the real mission of the corporate innovator.

Saving the future means standing up to the most powerful people in a organisation and letting them know they're part of the problem.

Because there is very significant personal risk in doing this, very few innovators rise to the saving-the-future challenge. 

And, as a result, almost all organisations face the original innovators dilemma eventually.

Practically none survive it.

3 Responses to“The (other) innovators dilemma”

  1. Stephen
    November 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    James, A very thought provoking and stimulating post. It made me think about economic and game theory, the ‘Concorde fallacy’, Behavioural economics, loss aversion etc. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs not to mention the personal and leadership risks of setting out an alternative course of action and sometimes having to swim against the tide, especially when rabbits have started to chase a headlight.

  2. November 13, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Fantastic oberservation, right on the money 🙂

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