A Methodical Guide to Disruptive Innovation in Your Industry

Often referred to as America’s pastime, baseball is known as a popular team sport that requires significant practice and strategy. And baseball enthusiasts know that batters are considered successful if they get a base hit 30% of the time, despite the fact that the player is failing 70% of the time.

The topic of innovation is similar to this because of the failure that is required at the beginning stages of product development. There is upfront research, ideating, and refinement that must be done before reaching a disruptive innovation. Similar to baseball, if everyone swung for the fences rather than trying to get on base, the likelihood for failure is greater. Instead, it is important to focus on base hits and build from there, rather than having a breakthrough innovation every time.

Here are some things you need to do to be truly innovative:

Accept that deep work is required for big wins

The first ideas from companies like Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Tesla and Google were not always disruptive innovations. Just like every innovative company, in order for them to get their big win, they had to roll up their sleeves behind the scenes and explore different ideas simultaneously. For the iPod, Apple partnered with an outside consultant (Tony Fadewell) to spend a six-week period in R&D, meeting with everyone he knew in the handheld industry and studying competitors’ products before landing on a small and portable device with a large capacity and long battery life. For Tesla, they were on the brink of bankruptcy in 2008, but because of their leader’s (Elon Musk) perception of failure and deep work, they were able to succeed. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” -Elon Musk. Although there is no one true path to innovation, every innovative company is doing the deep work to achieve their big win.

Engage fresh eyes to discover new insights

“Open innovation” was a term that started in the early 2000’s and has been embraced and applied by many companies because of the value that “fresh eyes” and collaboration brings. Open innovation means not solely depending on a company’s internal knowledge and resources, but also using external resources to drive innovation. These resources could be customer feedback, market research, published patents or external agencies.

One of the key experts on this topic, Henry Chesborough, author of the book “Open Innovation”, describes this term by saying, “Companies can no longer afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should share with other companies.” It is naive to think that an organization has all the answers it needs. Innovation requires being open to new ideas and insights.

Start small, build trust, scale

Although innovation is only possible when dreaming big, it’s important to start small. It requires a process that starts with discovering customer needs, market trends, and industry dynamics to generate insights. Surpassing this step and starting with the last step or development, will not lead to disruptive innovation but will largely increase risk. Understanding what users need and want is gained in the beginning stages, not the end.

For example, at the beginning of our project with Herman Miller, the team thought their first step into the digital domain was a “smart chair” with sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. Through human-centered design, we soon realized that we should start with a connected desk and work our way back to the chair. Because of their openness to new ideas and perspectives – we were able to create Live OS, a system of cloud-connected furnishings, that provides a more connected and personalized workplace.

Don’t just “swing” – apply a disciplined approach  

Similar to starting small, innovation requires a strategy and a process. This can seem like a long journey to the finish, but it can pay dividends. The up-front process of discovery with key stakeholders to unpack the problems and needs of the people you’re designing for, is critical. This step is what leads to the analyze phase, where you can interpret that data and then identify opportunity areas. These opportunities areas are what fuel the creative process. Once these phases of human-centered design are complete you can start the creation of the design, and because of the up-front research, you can be more confident in the value your product will bring to users. After the prototype is created, testing and refining the products should be done using the lenses of usability and desirability before launching your product and enjoying the big win!

Disruptive innovation continues to be a challenge for companies across every industry. This is why a study by HBR found that only 9% of public and private companies are doing any kind of serious innovation, because 91% of companies don’t know how to get on base – or into the jet stream of technology that leads to innovation. To see how we partnered with clients to offer a fresh perspective, a proven approach to innovation and nearly two decades of experience, view some of our recent project work. If you’re interested in talking with a Twisthink leader about how we can help with your next disruptive innovation, contact us at hello@twisthink.com or 616.393.7766.

Twisthink is a professional services firm that partners with companies to develop digital strategies and solutions that create impact.

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