Product Innovation Trends

Routine or Disruptive Innovation: Which Is Best for Your Business?

Marc Oppy | April 23, 2015

Despite What You Might Believe, You’re Better Off With Both

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Morpheus, The Matrix

Neo’s choice was one or the other, and when you’re in the business of building new products, your choices can feel just as limited. Stay on a path of steady innovation and you’ll soon find yourself outpaced and uncompetitive—or so contemporary reasoning goes. Disruption is where it’s at—but that’s valuable only if you’re the disruptor with the billion-dollar idea, and not the disrupted who didn’t see it coming.

The noisy logic surrounding the presumed “correct” way to innovate can be deafening and maddening. But you don’t have to enter this rabbit hole.

As author Gary P. Pisano makes clear in his Harvard Business Review article, In Defense of Routine Innovation, “all the excitement about disruptive innovation has blinded us to one simple but irrefutable economic fact: The vast majority of profit from innovation does not come from the initial disruption; it comes from the stream of routine, or sustaining, innovations that accumulate for years (sometimes decades) afterward. An innovation strategy has to include both.”

Download his insights and learn why it’s important to seek an optimized, balanced approach.

Professor Pisano’s article is just one of five written by organizational leadership experts that you’ll find in our HBR Leading Innovation Bundle.

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About the author: Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie, Jr., Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a member of its U.S. Competitiveness Project.