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Sustaining, Breakout, and Disruptive Innovations

October 12, 2011

Over the years, Jump has devoted significant thought towards how to create a portfolio of innovations, and we’ve developed a framework called Sustaining, Breakout, Disruptive to classify different offerings. My overview of this work is now up on Fast Company.

As an introductory piece, there’s obviously a lot we didn’t cover. E.g., How you classify a particular product, how to rein in a far-out concept to gain adoption more quickly, how to structure and manage different projects, how to link SBD concepts together in order to roadmap and build over time, what different archetypes of healthy portfolios look like, how testing with customers differs across SBD, and more. We’ll follow up with more on these issues in the future.

That said, given my role I did want to make a few quick points here specifically about Sustaining, Breakout, and Disruptive for startups.

Common wisdom asserts that all startups should be disruptive – they disrupt the incumbents, after all. But that’s oversimplifying. Many successful startups begin as breakouts that solve a defined pain point in a compelling way, and then need to follow up with a larger, more disruptive ambition. In other words, they mask their disruption – or learn from their initial efforts and stumble into it, as the case may be. Some fail to build upon their initial interest. Some get acquired and rolled into a larger company’s portfolio. Others become Google.

Don’t be ashamed if your initial, minimum viable product isn’t disruptive. You can choose to focus on a breakout feature to gain some quick traction, or decide to prove your concept by demonstrating that the need exists without building the full-blown disruptive solution. Just be sure you have a longer-term plan for growth – even if that plan will inevitably change.

If your solution is squarely in the disruptive camp – hard to explain to folks at first and requiring significant behavior change – be sure early on to give users simple ways to try it out, even if it’s just a fraction of the functionality you provide. Otherwise, gaining adoption will be even more challenging.

Finally, as a startup you might think SBD as a planning tool isn’t really relevant because you only have one product. But startups can use SBD to classify features as larger companies might categorize product portfolios. You can’t be disruptive in all dimensions. SBD can help you prioritize: what features are table stakes, in what scoped way are you going to be 10X better than current solutions, and what will your long-term secret sauce be? Given startups’ tremendously limited resources, putting thought into prioritizing efforts can be time well spent.

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