My wife and I visited the Fort Worth Zoo on Sunday, June 3, 2012. One particular sight – a mode of transportation for a young child – caught my attention.
I respectfully named it “The Red Wagon on Steroids.”
On one level, it’s just a neat wagon.
On another level, it can be used to start a conversation on the differences between sustaining and disruptive innovations.
A sustaining innovation takes a product or service and improves upon it. The Red Wagon on Steroids is an example of a sustaining innovation. It takes a product – a red wagon – and improves it. Yes, The Red Wagon on Steroids is different than your garden variety red wagon, but when all is said and done it is still a red wagon.
There are two categories of disruptive innovations.
One is a new product, service, or idea that replaces other products, services or ideas. An example would be digital photography and the film industry. The former – a new product – has replaced the latter.
Another type of disruptive innovation occurs when a low-end product, service or idea enters the market and eventually challenges its high-end competitor. One example would be tablets and laptop computers. The tablet (low-end product) cannot do all that a laptop computer (high-end product) can, but it can do a lot and it can do it at a substantially lower cost. And today, the tablet is challenging the laptop computer market.
At some point in time, all products, ideas, and services – including K-12 public education – face the challenges characterized as sustaining and/or disruptive innovations.