15 Breaking Disruptive Innovation Examples
Published: 20 June, 2022
Introduction to Disruptive Innovation
Sometimes, building a unique brand that stands the test of time isn’t just about finding out where you fit in the current market. It’s more about finding an entirely new way to break even. To help you begin your journey towards disruptive innovation, we’ve put together a list of disruptive innovation examples.
These are some of the best companies that, one way or another, have transformed their industries. With these disruptive innovation company examples, you can also learn how to position your brand or business for success.
You can learn much more about innovation in our new book, How to Create Innovation, which describes comprehensive approaches including mindsets, structures, and strategies to innovate in less time, with fewer resources, and more success.
You’re invited to register for the download now!
But before we proceed, let’s take a closer look at what disruptive innovation is.
What Is Disruptive Innovation?
Disruptive innovation is the process whereby a new company storms a market, outperforms, displaces, and disrupts established brands and players. Such a company eventually transforms the market and changes the way successful businesses operate.
It is usually an innovation that makes highly sophisticated and expensive products or services, which begin by being available only to high-income consumers, more affordable, and accessible to a larger consumer base.
This transformation and innovation disrupt the market by displacing established and long-standing competitors.
Disruptive innovation does not improve or enhance products and services for the same target consumers. Rather, it is a process that leverages technologies to make such products and services affordable and available to a larger, non-targeted market. A perfect example of disruptive innovation is seen in the introduction of music downloads, which replaced compact discs (CDs).
When it comes to growth, most organizations think about revenue. The revenue model is however only one part of the equation. Achieving an “unfair advantage” and establishing an operating, value, service, and experience model are all important sections to look at. The UNITE Business Model Innovation Patterns allow you to accelerate or even create exponential growth by including a unique set of patterns in your business model!
How does Disruptive Innovation Work?
Disruptive innovation begins with a new brand identifying a gap in the industry that has been neglected, or a fraction of the population overlooked for a while. They will eventually develop an improved product or service that is more affordable and convenient, reaching the target population and consumers who had been previously ignored.
Disruptive innovation views less profitable spaces as the entrance point to gaining a foothold in the industry. Then, through continuous innovation and improvement, these companies can break even in the wider competitive market. Usually equipped with better products and services and an understanding of customer experience, the company can displace other established brands from the market.
These established brands tend to make the initial mistake of overlooking the strategy and approach of the new entrant, and before they know it, they are displaced for good.
15 Examples of Successful Disruptive Innovations
1- IBM Disruptive Innovation
IBM (International Business Machines Company) is a multinational technology company based in the United States. The company is recognized globally as a disruptive brand, thanks to its innovative computer hardware and incredible technology. The International Business Machines Company launched into the technology market, intending to make the most outstanding solutions around. And today, they are the world leader in mainframe computers and nano-technology.
The Disruptive innovation of IBM Brand
Moreover, they helped NASA track the flight of orbital technology. The company also created the first computing machine globally and is the brains behind the development of the first universal product code and barcode reader.
Indeed, without IBM’s disruptive innovation, we would not have recorded tremendous success in innovative technology as we have today.
2- General Electric Disruptive Innovation
General Electric is also one of the best disruptive innovation examples. It is an American multinational conglomerate based in Connecticut. General Electric is considered a disruptive innovation company example because it founded the first Radio Corporation in 1919 and pioneered electric motors, electric lamp manufacturing, and lighting fixtures.
The Disruptive innovation of GE brand
Without this disruptive company, the radio as you know it today would never have been in existence. General Electric is the company behind the establishment of international radio stations and the manufacturing of radio sets. The company also made the first TV broadcast demonstration.
Moreover, their technical know-how in power generation indicates they created the first aircraft turbo-supercharges, which ushered in jet engines in 1941.
Indeed, General Electric owes most of its innovative technologies to the research of scientists like Thomas Edison and Michael Faraday, who discovered electricity. Nonetheless, the world would have been a much darker place without the technology/innovation of GE. Before the innovation of General Electric, we didn’t have the electrified, brightly lit, and modern world we have today.
3- Ford Motors Disruptive Innovation
Ford might not have been the automobile company responsible for the creation/manufacturing of the world’s first car, but it did change the way automobile companies made automobiles.
Therefore, it disrupted the automobile industry for good. In 1913, Ford positively affected the automobile industry forever by designing the world’s first moving assembly line. This innovation meant that the company could mass-produce new vehicles that were affordable for all customers.
The disruptive innovation of Ford Motors
Before Ford’s disruptive innovation, it was practically impossible for anyone outside the high/royal class to own a car. However, with Ford’s mass production strategy, it became possible for the average class to own a vehicle.
4- FedEx Disruptive Innovation
FedEx is another disruptive innovation company that transformed its industry. It single-handedly helped to deliver the concept of “express” mail. Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, beat all limitations to change the way mail and packages were transported worldwide by purchasing an aviation firm.
The Disruptive Innovation of the FedEx brand
FedEx began with a mission and vision to tackle the challenges and inefficiencies in the shipping practices. As a result, the concept of “express mail” delivery was birthed.
FedEx’s disruptive innovation became a reality because one man decided to beat all odds and make a difference. This is the core value of all disruptive brands.
5- Google Disruptive Innovation
As the list of disruptive innovation company examples goes on, Google is one brand worthy of mention.
Google is at the forefront of coming up with new ways to change the world. It is a search engine solution that made it possible for the world to find answers/solutions to pressing questions with just one click. Today if you want to find the answer to “anything,” you simply “Google it.”
The Disruptive Innovation of the Google Brand
The Google brand is far more than just a search engine solution. Over the years, it continues to pioneer new innovations and technologies like virtual assistants, smartphones, and more.
Google now gives IT experts access to open-sourced technology in the developer space, which they can use to develop their own customized machine learning-powered apps.
6- Sony Disruptive Innovation
From 1950 to 1980, the Sony brand changed the way the world perceived video and audio products. Although the company was not responsible for the manufacturing of the world’s first transistor, it introduced a classic design in 1957 that altered the way people listen to music.
The Disruptive Innovation of the Sony Brand
In 1960, Sony introduced the first color television, thus changing the global standard for entertainment technology. Again, in 1979, they came up with another innovation that transformed our ability to listen to music. Over the years, Sony has carved a niche for itself as an industry innovator and disruptive brand.
7- Walmart Disruptive Innovation
Most disruptive brands made their names by making their products and services more accessible and affordable to a wider target market. Netflix, for instance, made movies more accessible to people who did not want to go out to buy movies whenever they wanted to watch movies. On the other hand, Walmart made shopping more accessible to everyone regardless of their locale by offering the lowest prices possible for all products.
The Disruptive Innovation of Walmart the Brand
Within a short time, Walmart became one of the most popular online stores in America because it came up with an innovation that seeks to make products and services available and accessible to consumers at cheaper prices. The more they experienced rapid expansion, the more they were able to discount their products and services. Thus, they attract millions of customers weekly across different regions.
8- Visa Disruptive Innovation
Visa is the first disruptive innovative brand in the financial industry. In 1958, the world experienced a radical change in the way people spent money when the Bank of America issued their first credit card.
As at that time, the credit card had a small spending limit of $300, and the unfortunate part was that the card only worked in California. However, this ushered us into an era where people could spend credit rather than physical cash.
The Disruptive Technology of Visa brand
The credit card innovation was a welcomed development, and by 1974 it had gone global. In 1976 the marketing department decided to change the name to a universal one- as such, the name “Visa” was birthed.
Visa literally changed the way we buy things. With a quick flash of a card, you can instantly pay for products and services without carrying piles of cash everywhere you go.
9- McDonald’s Disruptive Innovation
You might want to wonder why McDonald’s is featured in this disruptive innovation company example. But the fact is, without McDonald’s innovations, you might not have fast food the way you know it today.
This brand started small in San Bernardino, California, with two brothers making fast but delicious burgers. It became a global brand through the collaboration of a man called Ray Krok for $2.7 million.
The Disruptive Innovation of McDonald’s
Currently, the McDonald’s brand is one of the most renowned brands in the world. They are unique arches in over 119 countries, with numerous burgers and fast-food restaurants established on the foundation of their concept and vision of fast food.
10- Facebook Disruptive Innovation
Obviously, Facebook is one of the best disruptive innovation company examples that changed the way we communicate with people across the globe. Facebook is one of the most significant disruptive brands online with its numerous social media platforms.
The Disruptive Innovation of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg, the brain behind Facebook, was a Psychology student at Harvard who wanted a simpler way of connecting with friends online. Facebook was originally designed as an application to help undergrads connect and meet with each other in college.
The initiative quickly outgrew the Harvard campus and today it’s the most popular social media platform in the world.
Facebook currently has over 1 billion active users, and over 50% of adults check their accounts immediately after they wake up every morning.
11- Amazon Disruptive Innovation
When Jeff Bezos wanted to start his own online retail company, he originally intended to call it “Cadabra.” However, when someone mistakenly confused the name for the name “Cadaver,” he immediately changed the name to Amazon instead.
The Disruptive Innovation of Amazon Brand
The name of this innovative brand is more significant than you can imagine. Bezos chose the name “Amazon” with the intention that it will rank and come first in the search list- as algorithms were in alphabetical order back then. Moreover, he also liked the fact that the name contained both an “A” and a “Z” since he wanted the online store to sell products from every niche across the globe.
Amazon was the first company to disrupt the way we buy products online and is one of today’s ultimate disruptive brands. It had grown to become the one-stop-shop for practically everything you need.
12- Apple Disruptive Innovation
When Apple first stormed the technology space. It wasn’t a disruptive or innovative brand– it was nothing but an overpriced computer company. Then, in 2001, Apple released its very first innovative iPod, which made it easier for people to carry music wherever they went.
The Disruptive Innovation of Apple Brand
The success of the iPod led to other innovative devices from Apple. The company made one of the world’s first mobile touch-screen devices and led the mass production of other important smartphones. If it wasn’t for Apple’s disruptive innovation, there’s little chance that we will have touch-screen smartphones by now.
Although many other companies have emerged over the years offering mobile touch-screen devices like Apple. However, Apple remains the company that changed how we use technology and ensured we always have portable devices within our reach.
13- Netflix Disruptive Innovation
Netflix is another disruptive innovation brand in the world. They initially started as a pretty boring innovation, mailing out DVDs to customers who wanted a blockbuster-like experience at home.
The Disruptive Innovation of Netflix Brand
Initially, the company targeted people looking for easy entertainment who might not be interested in watching the latest chart-topping movies. However, after they experienced a level of success in the marketplace, the founders and brains behind Netflix decided to restrategize their business model. They moved from their (digital) business strategy of mailing DVDs to streaming.
The exclusive decision to grant customers access to streaming movies online meant that Netflix could officially displace Blockbuster out of business. Now, many people across the world use Netflix as their official movie streaming platform.
14- Uber Disruptive Innovation
Uber is one of the most disruptive innovation companies in the world. In towns and cities worldwide, taxi cabs have proven to be the best form of public transport, especially when you are in a hurry and cannot wait for a bus, train or even your car. Naturally, therefore, you need to shell out extra cash for a taxi cab.
The Disruptive Innovation of Uber
Uber decided to carve a niche for itself as one of the ultimate disruptive brands by making transportation more available, accessible, comfortable, and affordable. With just a push of a button, you can have a car sent to you right where you are without wasting much time.
Uber created lots of opportunities for people by allowing them to become passengers or drivers based on their individual needs. If you’re looking for a ride, you can get something more modern and cheaper. If you need extra cash, you can use your car to make additional income. Uber is transport re-defined.
15- Crypto Currency Disruptive Innovation
Disruptive innovation has entered the world of finance. Bitcoin along with other digital currencies are altering the way we view money. According to Peter Diamandis observes, cryptocurrencies have made cash “more digitized, dematerialized, and democratized than ever before.”
Bitcoin is also a method for individuals to take “money” from the hands of bankers. What is the reason bankers, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve have so much control over financial and economic affairs, in the first place?
Disruptive Innovation Contention with Example
There is a contention as to what makes an innovation or technology “disruptive.” The term has been used to describe technologies and innovations that are not truly disruptive.
We want to state categorically that technology is only disruptive if it had never been in existence and is not an iteration of existing technology. For instance, the internet was disruptive because it was not an iteration of previous technology.
A classic example of the disruptive nature of the internet being unleased was how it restructured the bookselling industry.
Amazon Kindle displaced and disrupted the bookselling industry because it could display its innovation and inventory without owning a physical store in any location. By so doing, it makes books available and accessible to all customers, regardless of their physical location.
In contrast, the Model T car is not a disruptive technology because it improved existing technology, and it wasn’t generally accepted upon its launch. However,
the automobile industry witnessed a major turnaround when mass production brought down prices; thus moving the entire transport system from hooves to wheels. The system of mass production, in this sense, meets the criteria for disruptive innovation.
Here we have them: the top disruptive innovation company examples. Each of the companies featured in this post has significantly disrupted and transformed their industries. You don’t necessarily have to impact the world like the brands mentioned above to get ahead of the current market, but you need to find a unique way of standing out from the crowd.
In a world where self-differentiation is becoming more of a challenge, disruptive innovation companies will always stand out.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy our articles on Innovative Strategies and Innovation Strategy in Business, Creativity and Innovation , Customer Jobs to be Done, Disruptive Technology Trends & how to measure innovation.