Does Disruptive Innovation Create Sustainable Wealth?

by Rick Braddy on August 9, 2011

in Innovation,Leadership

Apple Inc. today became the world’s most valued public company, surpassing Exxon Mobile Corp., according to various sources.  Apple soared past its arch rival of decades past, Microsoft, last year, in terms of overall market valuation.

While on the surface it’s clear which products and innovations led to this amazing marketplace performance, what may be less obvious is how Apple was able to best so many more established players in seemingly entrenched markets like music, cell phones and computers.  Interestingly, it’s a combination of factors that combine to make this possible, but at the heart of it all lurks “disruptive innovation” (combined with mass distribution and the right industry partners).

In a recent post, I wrote about the visionary leadership that preceded the innovative breakthroughs.  Steve Jobs pinpointed one of the key “enablers” for disruptive innovation to take place – focus – and the ability to say No to most things, and Yes to the things that matter most.

Apple has always produced innovative, highly-usable products that are well-designed – one must certainly respect their refined usability and design practices and methods (not to mention personal oversight by Jobs himself).  But is that the key to Apple’s innovation successes?

Apple has always exhibited keen engineering skills and extreme attention to detail in its product development and engineering.  But is that the key to Apple’s innovation successes?

Apple has (more recently) been a leader in advanced technology creation and manufacturing.  I wonder if that’s the key to their success?

I would submit that there are many companies with great vision, design and usability practices, tremendous engineering discipline and skills and world-class manufacturing capabilities.

But the key to bringing all of these things together and EXECUTING against that vision is the result of LEADERSHIP – the kind of leadership we have seen from Steve Jobs and his management team, who have repeatedly nailed the innovations, product development and mass distribution deals required to achieve this level of success.

It takes a lot of vision, commitment and a willingness to “bet the company” (and be right) on what, on the surface, would appear to be a risky strategy – disrupting the music industry, followed by the smart phone industry, in order to create a formidable base to come full circle back around to attacking the computer industry once again – with an enormous war chest of cash and assets at its disposal.

There’s a lot to be learned by studying Apple’s successes since the difficult days Apple faced when the video in this post was recorded.

My hat’s off to everyone at Apple, as it was one heck of a team effort – I’m sure of that!

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