What is true disruptive innovation and positive change?

Disruption is such a buzzword these days. It is even over-used in all areas of our lives: politics, business, technology, science…

I looked it up: A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network.

The “innovator’s dilemma” is the difficult choice an established company faces when it has to choose between holding onto an existing market by doing the same thing a bit better, or capturing new markets by embracing new technologies and adopting new business models.

We certainly live in a world of profound changes, for example in politics, business or our environment.

  • Mr. Trump sure stands for change and was elected because he challenges the established way of doing things. However, is it positive to reject climate change and to appoint a climate change denier to lead the EPA transition?
  • Michael O’Leary of Ryanair announced recently that he wants to introduce free airline tickets in the next 10 years. Is this really the kind of change we want?
  • Black Friday has made it to Europe. An evolution no one is waiting for in an age of overconsumption. I prefer REI’s Opt Outside anytime!
  • Climate change: Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) recently reported that each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. This continues a series of record hottest months, which started in September 2015.

In my view, the outcome of disruptive innovation should be positive. Change is forever and great, as long as it moves us forward.

A famous European economist told me recently that many economic thinkers are on board with systemic change in economic theory, aka changing the economic model to focus on prosperity rather than on short-term results and growth. This means that they agree with models as described in Tim Jackson’s book, “Prosperity Without Growth.” His statement made me hopeful that eventually politicians and investors will buy into this change for more balance, happiness and prosperity.

I guess we need more business leaders like Paul Polman (the CEO of Unilever) who decided in 2009 to no longer publish quarterly results. In the meantime, the publication of quarterly results is not required anymore in the U.K. – a positive move to focus the attention of investors on the longer term.

Luckily, the world’s optimism and commitment isn’t lost and there still is a lot of room for private and corporate initiative and innovation. To date, 200 large companies have committed to Science Based Targets to contribute to the world’s target of keeping global warming below 2 degrees (the COP21 targets). Many more are to follow. In fact, the topic is currently being discussed within the hotel industry.

Today, a multitude of new business models linked to the sharing economy bring positive change. I believe they should thrive – as long as there’s a level playing field in terms of worker protection, human rights, taxation, safety and security, and environmental regulation.

But perhaps the most positive disruptive innovations will come from social entrepreneurs who are inventing new ways of delivering education and health care for a fraction of the cost of current market leaders.

There are quite a few very interesting ones on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

You could consider this as my pledge for the new year:

Let’s continue to support positive disruptive innovation that benefits our people, our communities and our planet.