Devastating Innovation Rules The Day

Thomson DawsonJanuary 9, 20145313 min

Hardly a generation ago, the Rand McNally Atlas was the beloved source for navigation and finding your way around. Then came satellite navigation technology and a host of innovators popped onto the scene. Brands like Garvin and Tom Tom were born and prospered for a minute – then Google maps became ubiquitous on smart phones and consumers quickly forgot GPS devices.

The same painful lesson was recently experienced by Blackberry – one of the early innovators of the mobile phone. Blackberry is now in the bone yard of companies whose businesses were devastated by rapid technological innovation.

Radical innovation has given way to devastating innovation. Clever brand strategy and marketing can’t save those aforementioned once successful brands. They are now buggy whips in an age of technology innovation that devastates whole industries in nearly the blink of an eye.

The human mind is an amazingly powerful technology. Seemingly there is no stopping the rapidity of devastating innovation. It’s happening faster and with more profound effects than anyone can imagine in real time.

Business and management gurus can’t keep pace with the proliferation of innovation. It’s hard to imagine that the smart phone would have such devastating impact on a host of products and industries like still and video cameras, recording equipment, publishing, travel, music and entertainment, even flashlights. No one could anticipate the speed and ferocity of the new normal.

Devastating innovation no longer requires a big strategy to dominate a market. Innovators hardly have a clue about the after effects of their innovations. Goggle Maps wasn’t originally created to help people find their way – it was about gathering more information about users to sell more search based advertising. I don’t think the innovators of Twitter had any idea their innovation would become the de facto method for breaking news, leaving powerful and influential media companies flatfooted.

New technologies in cloud computing and big data enable quick and nimble entrepreneurs to develop products faster, better and cheaper. In the analog era, consumers could only have two of those three in any product or service. There was always the proverbial trade-off in value between speed, quality and price. No longer.

The new normal is new everyday. Value creation is a blood sport. The good news is we consumers seem to be the beneficiary of all this technology led innovation. Now we can have what we want, from whomever we want it, at any price we want.

Of course devastating innovation has its devastating effect on marketers as well. Brand building, once a discipline requiring years, now has a window of success packed into a few short months. Consumers have shorter attention spans, avoid marketing at nearly every turn, and will abandon the market leader at the first sign of the latest, greatest innovation.

As the ancient expression goes “may you live in interesting times”, marketers are befuddled as devastating innovation brings more value to consumers while at the same time destroying without mercy those businesses and industries that fail to keep up.

What devastating innovation are you working on?

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Thomson Dawson


  • Mark Disomma

    January 10, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Thomson -I so enjoyed this article. Some wonderful and challenging thinking in here that I continue to ponder on. It prompted a question: what would a “devastating” brand look like? Surely if the innovation is devastating but the brand is lame or even has a reputation for just being radical, that could be a devaluing equation in the making. Cheers, Mark.

  • Serge

    January 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    This is a paradox of course.
    But, I guess that without devastating innovations our progress wouldn’t move so fast. On the other hand, we can see a lot of businesses ruined, as you said, as a result of those innovations. So, it’s kind of a tricky thing we can’t get rid of just right away.
    Thanks for a great and interesting post!

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