Joanita.M. Menya, the Managing Directorate at Unilever Uganda giving her remarks.

Sustaining Innovation Vs Disruptive Innovation: An Innovator’s conundrum

Innovation is not just introducing or implementing new ideas or methods. Innovation is a process that involves multiple activities to uncover new ways to do things. It should not be confused with creation since this can be defined as making, inventing, or producing something. New innovations can be realized through creativity because people need to think outside the normal to create incremental enhancements. 

Usually, when we think innovation, we think of disruptive or breakthrough innovation, which is more exciting than sustaining innovation. Understanding the differences between disruptive and sustaining innovation, and the reasons you need both in your innovation strategy will better equip you to drive results and business profits by developing and applying ideas that improve the way things are done

Through innovation, entrepreneurship is steadily accelerating development and growth In Uganda. There are many ways to think about the process of innovation, but you almost never hear entrepreneurs, business analysts or corporate strategists openly discussing the rate of change that’s occurring  because of innovation. Many organizations are adopting new ideas and if you look closely,  every industry in our economy is doing things differently or attempting to do things differently. However, To be truly disruptive, an innovation must entirely transform a product or solution that historically was so complicated only a few people with a lot of money and skills had access to it. 

While everyone prefers disruptive innovation because it is a much simpler, low-grade solution that’s more affordable and accessible to a larger population and opens up businesses to an entirely new market, the after effects often upturn established industries and overthrow existing market leaders. On the other hand, a sustaining innovation could be more important happening on an incremental basis more often in response to customers and market demands or the ever evolving technology.  It is more disruptive with the ability to create an entirely new and better business model making it harder for corporations to defend the status quo. It is fueled by a better rationale and is more collaborative thus inspiring growth in profitable strategies.

Innovators are always in a conundrum trying to discover better innovations . Deciding between sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation is not simple because there are practical problems with neglecting either form of innovation. While disruptive innovation may change the whole ecosystem and can generate attractive profits, sustaining innovation can help businesses grow through better technologies and products.  

The Innovation Village through the FutureLab hosted its first inaugural Corporate Innovation Summit on 29th October 2020 under the theme “Building a culture of innovation to fuel business and economic recovery” to kickstart conversations on how organizations, sectors and industries can be restructured, re-modelled and redefined by embracing innovative cultures. Additionally, the event sought to emphasize collaboration between corporate Uganda and the Small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, before corporates usually decide the SMEs to work with, they first determine whether the type of innovation chosen by the startup resonates and works with their target audience.

During the summit, corporate companies and startups were encouraged to embrace both types of innovation because they complement each other and do not compete with each other. Entities should take on innovation and change in order to create value and  keep clients engaged and keep thinking differently, they should always fix what isn’t even broken yet, and keep learning to reinvent themselves because Innovation can be a great competitive advantage as it is a huge driver for creating value if you want to be remarkable in the market. “You have to keep innovating before you’re kicked out of the market. It’s much easier to innovate while the water is still warm in the bath because no one wants to get out. This means that you shouldn’t wait for trouble or problems or competition to innovate.” – remarked Simon.J. Mawer, the Innovation Strategist and Managing partner at Blue Wren during his presentation at the Corporate Innovation Summit.

The event was concluded with remarks from Joanita.M. Menya, the Managing Directorate Unilever Uganda who encouraged the companies aiming to leverage innovation to always consider the consumer when creating  new innovations, “The consumer is the boss and therefore all the new innovations should make sure to target and test the right consumer.