Tag Archives: dependence

Innovator’s Dilemma- A 1997 Prediction Borne Out?

I spent some time recently reading Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, which considers, using case studies of actual industries, how disruptive technologies overtake otherwise well managed and visionary businesses. While this book came out in 1997, some truths remain worth revisiting.

The innovator’s dilemma is illustrated where a technology becomes successful and takes on imitators and where its ongoing leadership in sustaining the original innovation is no longer competitively important.  The followers do as well as the leaders since the technology becomes understood, business plans routine, and customers expectations clear.   First mover advantages only occur in new technology and where disruptive innovation provides a new market and defines a new customer base.

How can one predict when a innovation will be disruptive? One of the main lessons is that when a  disruptive technology’s performance improvement  strikes a trajectory that exceeds the pace of improvement demanded by the market, it will overtake the existing technology and replace it.  This may at first appear unlikely.  However Professor Christenson profiles three industries to provide analytical illustration of his principles at work in the marketplace. Most interesting to me, he chooses to apply his theorems to a new technology in Chapter Ten as a case study.  For this he chooses electric vehicles.

Not really wishing to be a spoiler, I suggest you read his book.  However, in 1997, EVs looked very different than they do in 2011.  As a result, Christenson concludes that EVs cannot be used for mainstream applications because they don’t satisfy basic performance requirements.  He also suggests that no one can learn from market research what the early markets for EVs will be– because they are new and with as yet to be determined customer needs.  The only useful information will come from forays into the marketplace and testing of ideas through trial and error and by selling products to people who pay real money. Business plans must then remain flexible, tied to learning rather than a preconceived strategy.  What might emerge as the initial value network for EVs?   One in which its weaknesses will be seen as strengths- small parcel delivery, taxis, teenagers commuting to school, islands.  In all the likelihood the winning design will be characterized by simplicity, convenience, and reliability.  It must be capable of being designed with features, functions and styling that can be changed quickly and at low cost.  It must hit a low price point.   Clearly Professor Christenson has a lens to the future.  EV innovators would do well to consider how 1997’s premonition has borne out in 2011 reality.

Okay, now you need to read the full version.


Thank You for Not Smoking

While I do not smoke, smoking has been a part of my life.   While I could be referring  to my wife’s prior position as Director of Maine’s Center for Tobacco Independence,  I’m really thinking of the thousands of miles through space I’ve been encased in an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, spewing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other combusted byproducts.  The closer you look, in fact, the more you see how gasoline is like nicotine.  You need it. You spend money on it, no matter the price.  It gives you a rush.  There’s a supplier on every corner.  And most importantly, you can’t envision your life without it.  Like all addictions, it starts innocently and grows beyond itself until you are no longer in control.

Quitting cigarettes requires stages of awareness– thinking about quitting, seeking the best methods to quit, trying to quit, helping others quit.  Scolding and shaming are not the answer.   Altering one’s lifestyle requires making a commitment to economic and behavioral changes, sometimes painful ones. While nicotine is often referred to as the most addictive drug available, whether over or under the counter, I suspect that we would view gasoline the same way if the pump was empty when we drove up to it.

It is clear to me that smoke free driving is one of the unexpected pleasures of the entire EV driving experience. Though it sounds kind of ridiculous and overstated, when I drive this car, I really do feel somehow cleaner and healthier.  I still own an ICE.  I still use it- occasionally.  But I actually feel guilty when I do, perhaps like a smoker feels exhaling second hand smoke at the person sitting next to them.   I now appreciate the fact that I have a transportation choice and the more I change my behavior, the healthier I feel and the price you and I have to pay is less.   I choose to go smoke free  whenever I can.

You can kick the gasoline habit too.