There have been many references to the dark side of innovation since my book was published in late 2013. If you have not read ‘The dark side of innovation’ you may have wondered what is the dark side and why should you care.
Businesses pursue innovation because it leads to higher profits, higher revenues and stronger strategic position. When you innovate, you create value for your customers and thus are able to price higher and gain more market share. iPod and iPhone innovations catapulted Apple from oblivion to the most valuable company in the world! That’s why innovation is good and why everyone must pursue it. Even if you are not the first innovator but an early imitator, you reap the benefits of the innovation. As an analogy, often innovations are like a train leaving a station. If you run fast enough and catch it, you will be onboard and will go places. If you miss the train you will be left in a lurch.
However, sometimes innovations punish you instead of rewarding you. They leave you worse off no matter whether you pursue them or avoid them. Think of what happened in the photography industry. Digital cameras eliminated the need for the most lucrative part of the business – the film roll. If photography companies embraced digital technology, they would cut their own profits. If they avoided it, and the digital technology succeeded, they would have been driven out of business. The dark side of innovation refers to all such innovations (and changes in an industry) that leaves incumbents worse off irrespective of whether incumbents pursue the innovation or avoid them. Such innovations are not like trains leaving the station but are like quicksand – whether you try to get out furiously or do nothing you will get engulfed by quicksand.
These quicksands of innovation have a mirage like quality around them that prevent you from seeing their true nature. I found that in face of such innovations, organizations often behave as deer in the headlights do. Moreover, if firms mistake the dark side of innovations, they may try to run after the train not knowing that running fast is taking them down in the quicksand. The book goes into details around these innovations, how you can predict them and respond to them effectively. If you are in any business, you cannot afford not to be aware of the dark side of innovation because this knowledge will be the difference between surviving the dark side and vanquishing it.
This book is different from all other innovations books in three important ways:
1. Innovation books talk about the bright side of innovation (the train leaving the station and how to get on to it fast) but this book talks about the dark side of innovation – about how to predict and deal with the quicksand of innovation.
2. This book is also about disruption. Disruption of companies happen because they are unable to innovate or transform themselves. Three barriers to innovation prevent firms from innovating and thus leads to disruption. Other books on disruption focus on informative (lack of knowledge) or normative (rigidity of norms) causes of disruption but this book details cognitive (things that distort your perception) causes of disruption. You cannot afford not to know about cognitive barriers to innovation as they are usually hard to perceive.
3. Finally, it doesn’t just provide high level advise but also provide a step by step methodology that anyone can follow to predict and respond to the dark side of innovation. In fact, you can conduct a full fledged analysis and create a robust action plan using the methodology explained in the book.
I hope the book’s methodology will become an integral part of your personal and professional strategy armor.