Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation

Larry Downes, Author and Internet Industry Analyst
Paul Nunes, Global Managing Director of Research, Accenture Institute of High Performance

Reviewed by Sam Narisi

We have entered a new age of innovation, one that presents opportunities for businesses along with significant challenges for established enterprises.
As Larry Downes and Paul Nunes describe in their book, Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation, the innovation timeline has shrunk. Whereas it used to take years or even decades for innovations to come along and disrupt markets, those changes can now happen practically overnight. Any stable business can be devastated in a matter of months or days by new competition, often from tiny start-ups with minimal capital, thanks to the declining costs of creation, information, and experimentation.
Some of the examples of Big Bang Disruptions cited by Downes and Nunes include:
  • Google Maps – The day that Google announced its Google Maps Navigation service, the share price for traditional GPS devices dropped by 15%.
  • Amazon Kindle – By waiting until the right moment to launch the Kindle e-reader, Amazon ushered in a trend in which sales of e-books are exceeding sales of traditional books by an increasingly wide margin.
  • MakerBot’s 3D Printers – Though not the first manufacturer of 3D printers, MakerBot has innovated by creating a free platform that allows users to collaborate with each other and share designs and expertise.
  • Uber – Despite the burdensome regulations surrounding the taxi and limousine industry, Uber’s ridesharing service caught on extremely quickly thanks in part to the fanatical devotion of its early users.
In order to stay relevant as disruptions such as those appear more and more often, companies need to change how they do business. That’s the lesson from learned from brands like Blockbuster, Blackbery and others that have been devastated by Big Bang Disruptions.
Surviving in the age of Big Bang Disruption requires companies embrace a radical new approach to business strategy, Downes and Nunes argue. All companies need to reinvent themselves as innovators that can anticipate changes and quickly adapt.
In their book, Downes and Nunes share the secrets of success learned through research from the Accenture Institute for High Performance, at which Nunes is the Global Managing Director of Research, and interviews entreprenuers, investors, and executives from more than 30 industries. They lay out a plan for action and describe how companies such as Philips, Citibank, Fujifilm, and Texas Instruments have embraced the new innovation model.
Key steps for adopting that new model include:
  • Find curious, focused individuals who can make sense of the hazy future of technology and strategy.
  • Engage actual customers using low-risk market experiments.
  • Capture winner-take-all markets by fulfilling all of that market’s needs.
  • Anticipate saturation and get out of market before the value drops, shed assets before they become liabilities, and avoid sustaining products that are no longer viable.

As Downes and Nunes show, every industry is affected by these trends and the situation is only becoming more challenging as disruptive innovations come faster and faster. The good news is that any company can master the innovation strategy of today’s start-ups, and, in their book, Downes and Nunes offer a practical roadmap for which to do so.
Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, Portfolio (272p.), ISBN 978-1591846901

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