2.6.2 Disruptive innovation
Disruptive innovation, as its name implies, is an altogether less cosy process. It enables us to do old things in new ways; or enables us to do things that were previously impossible or economically infeasible. Disruptive innovation challenges the established order and threatens to undermine established ways of doing business. It is the kind of innovation which the Italian political philosopher Machiavelli had in mind when he wrote that:
Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new.
The problem for admirers of incremental change is that it is disruptive innovation that fuels economic development and social change. Historians of technology will tell you, for example, that over the last two centuries five separate waves of disruptive technology transformed the societies in which they were conceived: water-powered mechanisation, steam-powered mechanisation, electrification, the automobile and the digital computer. So we have an interesting paradox: incremental change is the kind of innovation with which we feel most comfortable, but disruptive innovation is what drives major economic and social change.