Disruptive innovation is the process of developing new technologies and markets that replace the incumbent. If continuous innovation is doing better then disruptive innovation is doing differently. The dilemma that organisations face is the balance between risk and reward of these two types of innovation. Continuous innovation is a low risk strategy that has gained popularity as agile methods of research and business become more commonplace.
Disruptive innovation is a higher risk strategy that is most often introduced into an industry by new competitors. Think of the way that Netflix has revolutionised film consumption habits, or how Uber is transforming taxi services.
But incumbent businesses must innovate disruptively to survive as well. When Microsoft launchedthe first graphical user interface for PC, IBM integrated disruptive innovation into its own business model. In addition to their mainframe server product, IBM launched a new business unit specifically to compete with Microsoft. As time passed, this became the core of the organisation while mainframe sales dwindled.
What Are the Challenges of Disruptive Innovation?
It sounds obvious that businesses should be engaged in disruptive innovation. Predicting the future of any market and ensuring brand propositions are aligned is a critical factor for any organisation. But disruptive innovation is still rarely found within established businesses. So why is this?
The main factor contributing to the lack of disruptive innovation is the level of risk involved. Researching brand new ideas involves considerable time and resources – and it may not always pay off. Take Google Glass for example; a long development cycle, an understanding of consumer behaviour and a significant marketing campaign were not enough to launch this project. Ultimately, it failed.
So it is easy to see why many businesses prefer to stick to continuous, agile methods of innovation. The customer base is well established, sales figures are steady. It is consistent. Safe. But eventually, the industry will move on. Nothing in business is fixed. Brands and companies alike ebb and flow. To survive, you must stay ahead of the industry.
How Can Qual Help?
Qualitative research suffers from the popularity of agile business development. Generating and understanding insight from qualitative data can take time. In a world where time is precious and performance is measured by speed, it is easy to forget the benefit of in-depth descriptive analysis.
There is a strong case for qualitative research to be further integrated into day-to-day business functions. But it can add even more value to a disruptive innovation process. With a longer development cycle and more information required to justify a launch – qualitative research is the perfect match for disruptive innovation cycles.
A truly integrated and innovative business will have these two processes happening simultaneously. Agile development cycles should repeat over a short period of time driven by regular qual and quant feedback. Over the course of multiple agile development cycles, a team can develop larger and more impactful changes, supported by bursts of in-depth qualitative research.
The Benefits of Online Qual
Companies that successfully embed online qualitative research into the disruptive innovation process will be rewarded for their investment. Online qual supports the process through understanding emotive feedback and observing interactions. It also helps businesses capture the ideas of a crowd and integrate them into every stage of innovation development. So how can this be achieved?
Through the use of mobile diary studies, participants can record in real time their interactions and experiences with the new product – capturing both functional and emotional data, and providing a solid platform for innovation development. Online bulletin boards and forums can be used to understand consumer behaviours in a non-intrusive format. As idea generation progresses, live chat focus groups provide a group social environment for target consumers to provide constructive feedback and generate new ideas for further development.
Longitudinal panels give organisations access to a pool of participants over the course of the entire development process, ensuring that company and consumer expectations are consistently aligned. As the prototyping and manufacturing stages are reached, online qual tools such as smartboards provide opportunities for product and advert testing.
With a genuine passion for co-creating the future, online qual enables consumers to help organisations stay ahead of the market by launching innovative, successful ideas. More than that, online qual ensures a more representative sample and non-geographically biased perception of the market. This is all whilst gathering real-time data, as it happens. It is the closest market research can come to an ethnographic study of consumer behaviour and new product adoption – within a safe and controlled environment.
Maria Twigge is a passionate insight and development lead at FlexMR, applying market research experience and psychological theory to understanding human behaviour in an ever-evolving technological world.