Marketers are full of buzzwords, particularly when talking about innovation. Even the term “innovation” is a cliché in danger of losing its meaning.

disruptive innovation

In talking about innovation, it’s easy to get lost in the “strategery” and lose sight of the actual consumer need. We marketers tend to breathe our own exhaust after a while.

One of the more misunderstood and overused terms in innovation is “disruptive”. Contrary to how its commonly used, “disruptive” is not just another way of saying “really innovative”.

“Disruptive innovation” is a specific term coined by HBS Professor Clayton Christensen that refers to an innovation that overtakes an existing market by applying a different set of values and creates a completely new market. Digital photography was a disruptive innovation that overtook chemical photography. Wikipedia was a disruptive innovation that overtook traditional encyclopedias.

Very few innovations are truly disruptive. Yet rare is the innovation that doesn’t get pitched as “disruptive”.

The most powerful way to talk about a new product or business is Plain English. The more innovative your product actually is, the less you’ll need to use buzzwords to justify it.

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