Leveraging market, technology, and organizational S-curves to drive breakthrough growth by Soren Kaplan, Managing Principal, InnovationPoint LLC
ll too often, companies’ growth agendas rest upon tried and true strategies, tactics and other best practices that are “proven” to drive results. And why shouldn’t they be? They’ve worked in the past and are often associated with the success of the core business. The problem is that these strategies and tactics can often be misaligned to the unique market, technology, or organizational requirements for realizing future opportunities and breakthrough innovations.
to cycle more quickly while certain consumer products move more slowly.
Lifecycles and Market Adoption
The Lifecycle model suggests that market adoption reflects a bell curve that tracks to customer/consumer adoption of a new technology, product or service. First come the “early adopters” who are interested in testing out and trying something new. After the early adopters come targeted market beachheads that represent segments with specific needs that become reference points for other segments. The technology then moves from custom solutions for specific segments to mass manufacturing and distribution of standardized products for the mass market. From there, the market matures. This is when late adopters who are adverse to “risk” begin purchasing the tried and true solutions. Competitiveness becomes almost entirely based on incremental improvements and economies of scale.
Through understanding innovation lifecycles, it becomes possible to address the following questions: • Which products, services and technologies are most vulnerable to competitive disruption? • Where are the greatest opportunities for breakthrough innovation and growth? • What specific growth strategies are appropriate across the portfolio? • What organizational strategies – leadership, structure, processes, and metrics – best support businesses, products, and services at different points across their maturity?
S-curves visually depict how a product, service, technology or business progresses and evolves over time. S-curves can be viewed on an incremental level to map product evolutions and opportunities, or on a macro scale to describe the evolution of businesses and industries. On a product, service, or technology level, Scurves are usually connected to “market adoption” since the beginning of a curve relates to the birth of a new market opportunity, while the end of the curve represents the death, or obsolescence of the product, service, or technology in the market. Usually the end of one S-curve marks the emergence of a new S-curve – the one that displaces it (e.g., video cassette tapes versus DVDs, word processors versus computers, etc.). Some industries and technologies move along Scurves faster than others. High tech S-curves tend Innovation & new S-curve Market Adoption Bell Curve
Early Adopters Mass Market Adoption Mature Market Late Adopters
A simple example of these dynamics comes from the “typewriter” industry. The advent of the manual typewriter was a true breakthrough. But then came the IBM Selectric from “outside” the industry, displacing the manual technology and creating a new “electric typewriter” industry. The word processor followed, driving IBM’s business into obsolescence. And then of course the computer, Microsoft’s Word and desktop printing represents the latest S-curve. This begs the question as to what will come next.
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drive differentiation and growth. Incremental innovation is not a new business creation strategy per se, but a method of sustaining growth in the core business by:
Adding minor features and functionality to create greater variation and options Tweaking existing technology to create the “next iteration” of products