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Difference Between Disruptive Technology and Sustaining Technology

Innovation is one of the most important driving factors behind every successful business venture. This is why every business, from small to medium enterprises target innovation opportunities to stay ahead in the game. Innovation not only drives your business forward in this highly competitive market, but also helps establish growth strategies for your business on the long run. Innovation not only affects businesses but the quality of life of people. Business mainly focuses on two types of innovation – disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation. We take a look at some strategic distinction points between what we call disruptive technologies and those that are sustaining technologies.

What is Disruptive Technology?

Disruptive technology or innovation is a term that we’ve been hearing a lot in the business world these days. So, what is disruptive technology, anyway? Disruptive technology is any innovation that potentially disrupts the existing market and value network, by changing the way businesses operate and the way people live. Disruptive technologies are not breakthrough technologies that change the whole business landscape; instead, they are innovative technologies that make products and services more accessible and affordable for their consumers, thereby catering to a much wider consumer base. Disruptive innovations bring to the market a different value proposition by underperforming already established products and challenging established incumbent businesses, so that smaller businesses could prosper. These innovative technologies cause disruptions across multiple business sectors, from manufacturing to retailers, financial services to industrial sectors, and business processes to payment systems.

What is Sustaining Technology?

Sustaining technology refers to the type of innovations that allow businesses to maintain their current customer base and improve existing products. The new technologies that foster improved product performance are called sustaining technologies. When a smartphone making company releases its new line of smartphones that is what we call a sustaining innovation. In fact, the current smartphone market is one of the best examples of sustaining innovation. Creating a smartphone in the first place is disruptive innovation, but competing with other players in the market to essentially improve your product performance in order to create a better value for your products is sustaining innovation. The term sustaining implies the ability to maintain a product at a desirable level of utility. So, sustaining innovation within organizations involves continuous improvement of industrial activities with respect to product sustainability, product quality, and time and cost efficiency.

Disruptive Technology vs. Sustaining Technology: Comparison Chart

Definition 

– Disruptive technology is any innovation that potentially disrupts the existing market and value network, eventually replacing the old business model with a new one. Disruptive technology is about change and creating new markets; it changes the way businesses operate and the way people live. Sustaining technology, on the contrary, refers to new technologies that foster improved product performance. The term sustaining implies the ability to maintain a product at a desirable level of utility. Sustaining technology is all about development and improvement, and listening to the needs of customers in the existing market.

Focus

 – Disruptive technology does not essentially refer to breakthrough technologies; it rather focuses on innovative technologies that make products and services more accessible and affordable for their consumers, eventually catering to a wider consumer base. These are innovations that significantly affect the way market functions. Sustaining technology focuses on improving your product performance to create a better value for your products. Sustaining technologies refer to innovations that happen on an incremental basis, often as a result of growing needs of consumers. It focuses on improving the performance of established products.

Market Trajectory

– Disruptive technologies are innovations that significantly change the way consumers or businesses operate by underperforming already established products in mainstream markets. It disrupts an existing market and value network, eventually creating a new value proposition for something consumers did not know they wanted. Sustaining technologies, on the other hand, are innovations that work with established markets and already existed products and ideas with respect to product sustainability, product quality, and time and cost efficiency. Sustaining innovations are about companies competing with other players in the market with similar offerings, in a race to sustainability.

Disruptive Technology vs. Sustaining Technology: Comparison Chart

Summary

Disruptive technologies are innovations that significantly change the way consumers or businesses operate by underperforming already established products in mainstream markets. These are not breakthrough technologies; rather, they are innovative technologies that make products and services more accessible and affordable for their consumers. Sustaining technologies, on the other hand, are innovations that work with established markets and already existed products and ideas with respect to product sustainability. The new technologies that foster improved product performance are called sustaining technologies. Making a choice between the two approaches is not that simple because both have their fair share of pros and cons. In a nutshell, sustaining technology drives long term innovation and is more incremental in nature, whereas disruptive technology focuses on creating new market value.

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References :


[0]Choi, J. Jay and Bora Ozkan. Disruptive Innovation in Business and Finance in the Digital World. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing, 2019. Print

[1]Lasrado, Flevy. Sustaining Creativity and Innovation in Organizations: A Tool Kit. Indiana, United States: Trafford Publishing, 2014. Print

[2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disruptive_technology_WikiWorld.png

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richmond_Accelerator_-_Infographic_-_clean.001.jpg

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