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Disrupt the status quo for growth

Innovation type 1: Disruptive

Being honest about your brand's capabilities and investment potential is vital in determining the right innovation strategy for you.

I'm sure we all remember the kid in school who used to be a nuisance to the teachers - chatting at the back of the classroom, forgetting their homework, never having their shirts tucked in - all regular parts of my early career in teaching for sure. But the one thing that they were was memorable. How many of us remember the quiet 'goody-goodies' who sat at the front, did everything they were told and never spoke out of turn?

The simple fact that by not doing what everyone expects or behaving in the usual way we stand out from the crowd - although hopefully not in the annoying way that some of my fellow pupils did! The same is true for brands. Every year the advertising awards for most memorable ads laud the ones we often hated and found irritating, but they were successful in cutting through the rest of the noise. 'Go Compare' anyone? And of course some were just amusing and challenged conventions, such as PaddyPower.

Disruptive innovation works in much the same way.

A simple description of Disruptive innovation is something that your brand uniquely brings to a market that you are already in, and has the power to create a longer lasting ‘edge’ by identifying something which doesn’t yet exist and creates a new product or service to fill the gap.

It isn’t as expensive or extreme as other types of innovation, but a strong brand story can uncover opportunities to create something unique.

This might take a little longer than Incremental innovation (see my separate blog on that later), but the payback can be significantly higher and produce a far more defendable position in the market.

Disruptive innovation requires more creative thinking as you need to get a different perspective on the actual consumer problem in order to create an compelling and relevant solution. Often other industries can have developed ideas that can provide some inspiration for innovation in your own sector, so it's worth casting your eye more broadly when setting out on the creative journey.

In my experience, the truth is that larger companies can really struggle with this type of innovation because by definition it is Disruptive. Their well-organised systems and processes are often designed to maximise cost efficiency rather than be truly customer-centric, as was stated during a recent We Who Do online conference discussing the latest retail trends, back in May. So this provides an advantage for smaller and more nimble brands like yours - and you need to grab with both hands.

However, smaller or medium sized businesses can also struggle because they don't have the resources or headspace to look more creatively at their opportunities, as this often requires stepping back from the day to day operational activities. This is why I have designed the 5-Day JumpStart programme - an outsourced creative brainstorming process that uses external expertise and so doesn't take a team out of the office for up to 35 'person-days' in order to get the innovation juices flowing. Plus a 'Fresh Eyes' approach is often a really great way of identifying disruptive opportunities that people involved directly in the business simply don't see.

You’ll also find some great examples of Disruptive innovation in the Stories section of my website, including one which more than doubled brand sales and created a new sector in a highly competitive personal care market within 2 years.

And if you aren't sure which type of innovation works best for your brand, take my interactive Innovation quiz ( to find out.

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