Is disruption overload a reality?


Kobus Engelbrecht | Spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition | Marketing Head | Sanlam Business Marketmail me |

Can too much innovation cost your business? Ever heard the saying that too much of a good thing is bad? This is particularly true when it comes to innovation.

A cell phone that records meeting minutes and is also a high definition television screen is great, but imagine if that cell phone was enabled with artificial intelligence (AI) and could send messages without your manual input, making use of insight from your messaging and social media data history – one could assume that a few of your contacts might receive inappropriate messages.

While the technological age is full of brilliant innovations; Uber, Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb, Spotify and Facebook to mention a few – the temptation to create the ‘next big thing’ sometimes causes entrepreneurs to fall into the trap of disruption overload.

Too far ahead?

Disruption overload occurs when the innovation is too ahead of its time – meaning that the mass market is unable to access it.

While the makers of the original Macintosh computer knew that the world would one day become attached to their personal computers – they had to wait many years before the market could understand their product. However, for entrepreneurs with limited capital, it is not always possible to survive the wait.

Sometimes, it is not that the market is not yet prepared for the new technology, but that the product itself is far too complicated and consequently, not user friendly. Innovators, in their enthusiasm for advanced product making, sometimes forget that the mass market is not as tech-savvy as they are. It is important for the new product development process to involve input purely focussed on the user accessibility of the product.

Understand the market

From a South African perspective, while the emerging market has embraced many sophisticated tech products – it is important for entrepreneurs to recognise the needs of the entire mass market and understand that their business and product may not be appropriate for every sector.

In developing your business’ product or service, you need to be clear on the exact audience you are targeting, and ensure that your product is easily accessible, understandable, attainable for that specific market.

Not all tech

When talking about innovation, it generally likened to technological advancements. But, some innovative needs are not based on technology – these are perhaps the instances where a simple makeover of the current product into a newer, more efficient and cost-effective version is required.

For example, there is no need to automate washing powder, but liquefying it, or increasing the cleaning strength is a viable innovation with the capacity to reach the product’s existing market.


It is also important to take into serious consideration the sustainability of your innovation. Change is fast-paced, and your products need to hold up long enough for the market to understand them and build a loyalty to them. A sustainability strategy should be prioritised in the product development process.

Entrepreneurs need to strike the important balance between being innovative and accessible.