I’ve been reading tons about innovation – particularly social innovation. I have lists of definitions,criteria, descriptions, and examples of innovation and social innovation.
But my latest insight came yesterday when I was listening to the a16z Podcast on my way to visit friends.
Amidst the techno jibber-jabber, most of which went over my head, the hosts had a conversation about two types of innovation they see in the tech landscape; sustaining innovations and disruptive innovations.
A ‘Sustaining’ Innovation occurs within the existing environments and aids to reinforce the existing business model. Moving online shopping from the desktop computer to the mobile applications on the smartphone.
A ‘Disruptive’ Innovation will interrupt the existing business model. Online media and news sources have eviscerated the revenue sources curbside newspapers traditionally used to run their businesses, forcing them to change their business models to survive.
Applying these definitions to the social sector would lead to some valuable, insightful conversations while developing approaches, programs, or interventions aimed at addressed complex problems.
Social Sector Sustaining Innovation – would aid to reinforce the status quo.
Social Sector Disruptive Innovation – would disrupt the status quo.
So a conversation might begin with the question;
To what extent is our idea (approach,intervention, service or program) a Sustaining Innovation and to what extent is it a Disruptive Innovation?
To be clear, this kind of conversation is most valuable when the group:
- Is open to being honest with themselves about the way(s) in which the idea might be contributing to the problem they are trying to address.
- Sets aside any preconceived notions about either type of innovation being inherently better than the other.
If you are similar to a couple of my friends, and enjoy the techno jibber-jabber, I certainly encourage you to check out this podcast.
Even if the techno jibber-jabber is not your bailiwick, the podcast is safe way to listen to folks who talk tech without feeling embarrassed about not knowing what’s going on part of the time.
Link to the episode: a16z Podcast: Technological Trends, Capital, and Internet ‘Disruption’