Does Innovation have a Dark Side?

As innovation lovers, we always like to describe innovation as a great, positive and helpful thing. However, as Clayton Christensen describes in his famous article “The Innovator’s Dilemma“, a lot of companies, oftentimes incumbents, experience in their industries, innovation has a negative, darker side as well. This side can damage these incumbents and wipe them away. Exactly on this topic, Dr. Ankush Chopra, has written his book The Dark Side of Innovation.

The Dark Side of Innovation

Defining the Dark Side

The book starts with defining what is this dark side, Dr. Chopra chose like many other innovation theorists to base his book on Kodak and its well-known failure. Therefore, he uses this use-case along the book. Besides Kodak, he uses other prominent examples such as Polaroid and the Swiss Watch industry in order to highlight and emphasize specific topics.

Using Kodak is a good choice because it shows how a company that was a market leader and was aware of the disruptive technology that will impact its industry (the digital camera), still did not manage to address it properly and therefore failed eventually.

Kodak

A Framework to Avoid the Dark Side

After defining the problem and giving several examples of companies that failed in addressing it properly, Dr. Chopra establish a 4-layered framework that will assist executives to overcome the dark side of innovation and prepare for it best.

The first phase in the process is to identify what are the threats in the company’s industry. To do this best, Chopra provides another framework that can assist executives to understand whether a specific technology has the potential to disrupt their market completely or just incrementally affect it (based on parameters like shift in norms, bundling capability and others).

Then after identify the threats, Chopra propose a second phase, to imagine the possibilities of these new technologies and how they will impact your organization’s industry. In order to provide a holistic MECE (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive) view of the impact of the new technology, he provides another framework for use.

After these stages, Chopra proposes a third stage, design value strategies. Here, he asks executives to ideate around possible strategies to address these. Again, here as well Chopra provides a framework that covers all types of value creating strategies that can address disruptive technologies (e.g. Customer-Based, Competition-Based) and then he highlights possible Value Resurrection strategies as well (e.g. through Aesthetics, Aspiration, etc.) On this phase, as in the other parts of the framework, Chopra provides real business cases that exemplify his suggestions very good.

The final phase of the framework, creating pathways, is to connect the current state of the company to its ideal one as defined by the executives. To address this well known issue, again Chopra defines several parameters and processes that should be taken care of in this critical transition.

Connecting the Dotes

As you have probably noticed, the book has a lot of theoretical content. Therefore, in order to give a better feel for the reader, the author decided to follow a hypothetical case of a Cell Power company that need to deal with a new disruptive technology in its industry, Wireless Electricity. Gladly, this practical example assists a lot in connecting the dots between the concepts covered in the previous chapters of the book.

Conclusion

For me, one of the favorite parts of reading this book was the many anecdotes and short stories about different industries and how different companies reacted, for better or worse, to new disruptive technologies. This factoids provides some color while the author presents his detailed frameworks and concepts.

An interesting perspective in this book, that is not that common in other innovation books,is looking on innovation from the defeated side, and based on that try to avoid losing the market. I liked this perspective because it is a unique one that provides a lot of value to executives.

What do you think about this book? Did you enjoy reading it? Let me know what do you think by commenting below!

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