Brussels, 01 Feb 2006
Can you imagine your desk without the 'Post-it' note? This simple but revolutionary product was born out of US firm 3M's open innovation culture. For European companies to succeed in today's fast-paced business world, innovation needs to fuel new products and services and shake up traditional markets. How can they do this?
Disrupt-It, say EU-funded researchers who are now marketing tools to help businesses harness the competitive advantages of 'disruptive innovation'.
What is disruptive innovation? It sounds like industrial espionage but is far from it. Originally the subject of an IST programme-funded project, Disrupt-It is now a commercial product giving companies the ability to gain an edge in their market – 3M style – by harnessing and rolling with ideas from all employees, regardless of corporate hierarchy.
"If a company wants to be successful today, it is necessary for it to innovate and find ideas that can lead to new products and services that shake up the market," says project coordinator Santi Ristol of Atos Origin in Spain. He offers the example of low-cost airlines which effectively 'disrupted' the traditional air travel market. "Similarly, the invention of CDs made vinyl redundant and, today, MP3 is doing the same to CDs," he told IST Results.
The Disrupt-It tools and framework methodology help firms use the market-moving power of disruptive innovations to generate competitive advantages for their creators and early adopters. While appearing to threaten traditional businesses, it issues them a challenge to shape up or ship out. The longer-term benefits of which could be a more dynamic innovation sector overall and an added boost to European competitiveness.
"If we want that our business improve and [grow], we have to assume challenges, propose new objectives, break paradigms," the project website notes. Ignoring innovative spirit, it continues, is a risky move. Not only does innovation create competitive advantages and expanded market opportunities, it also improves efficiency and motivation within the organisation.
Fast-track from idea to implementation
With the help of €1.85 million in EU funding, "We created a conceptual framework combined with software tools to stimulate, compare and evaluate new ideas that will enable companies to use disruptive innovations to their benefit," says Ristol.
The 30-month Fifth Framework Programme project is leading by example, by shaking things up with a book on this subject, called Are you ready to Disrupt-It?. It outlines the method and advantages of companies carrying out ORW (Opportunity Recognition Workshops) to get people thinking about innovative products. It also employs online tools based around commercially licensed open source software to feed ideas into a workflow process.
It allows new ideas to be shared in a matter of minutes, quick and basic business plans to be elaborated within hours, Ristol goes on, and for these to be expanded upon by different members of the company, regardless of its size.
Having validated the system in trials involving four industrial partners in France, Israel, Spain and Sweden, the Disrupt-It system has since been adopted by Spain's largest electricity company Endesa, which is using it to harness ideas from its 30 000 employees worldwide, as well as the savings bank Caja Madrid.