Driving Disruptive Innovation- The Importance of Knowing Your Potential Customer

Bringing disruptive innovation into the marketplace is exciting for a new company.  Day to day, innovation, process/product improvement and enhancement consume the start-up employee’s time, thoughts, and performance.  Working in this culture is rewarding, fast-paced, and ever changing.


And then the company meets the potential clients for their disruptive offering- and learns just how entrenched “the way we’ve always done things” has become and how much of a barrier it can be to adoption. For innovative companies, passionate about the value that they bring this resistance to change can be frustrating. It helps to always understand the buyer persona in this situation, so when clients are companies, they are comprised of the following:

  1. Internal Innovator– these individuals have been struggling to advance their work beyond the limitations of the technology or process they support. Thirsty for change, they are open to new solutions and approaches.  They are valuable sources of feedback for the new company and often become key market champions of the disruptive innovation.
  2. Internal Workhorse– these individuals have been accomplishing their goals through long hours, hard work, and jerry-rigging techniques. They are hard workers but don’t have time to view new solutions- especially when the market has previously advertised solutions that took their time and money to evaluate, then were rejected because they didn’t meet expectations.
  3. Internal Territory Owner– these individuals recognize disruptive innovations as a potential threat to the territory and team that they have built internally. Often kingdom building within their company becomes more important than achieving overall success of the company.  They are roadblocks to change both within and outside the company.
  4. Internal Uninterested Party– these individuals are not interested in the detail of the problem, and are focused solely on the cost of the disruptive innovation. These individuals are swayed only by the business case to decrease overall internal cost for business conduct rather than increasing innovation.

The most important thing individuals bringing disruptive technology to the market to remember is that all of these client buyer personas can be learned from, converted, and become ultimate adopters of the innovation.  The time taken to learn how clients are motivated will be well spent.  New innovations are sometimes complicated to understand, but as long as the end outcome is elegant and simple, market conversion is possible.

For executives working with junior team members facing what can seem, in the moment, high hurdles to success, finding ways to talk through lessons learned, pivot business approach when needed, and ultimately build their ability to connect with the client is key.  Once learned, all client interactions will become “validated” learning opportunities for the entire company, not just a yes/no adoption of the company product.