An innovation is a new answer to an old question.
A paradigm shift is a new question, resulting in a new answer.
When the first iPhone came out we were all absolutely blown away.
I had a friend named Johnny who was really into ‘all that stuff’ [most people were not back then] and he had watched the Steve Jobs’s keynote… so he informed me that we were all about to experience a miracle. He was right.
See… the first iPhone was a paradigm shift. It was asking a new question which was: What is a phone really?
Subsequent phones were ‘merely’ innovations [new answer to an old question]: How do we make the phone better?
That is why our hearts never skipped a bit again ever since the iPhone.
Another good example is Starbucks [tip of the hat to Purple Cow for reminding me of this…go read that book]
Growing up in South Africa, coffee was not the thing to be crazy about, I still don’t think we are that crazy about it.
But today, a lot of young folks, hang out at Starbucks sipping the various frappuccinos and discussing various high minded things.
Starbucks was a paradigm shift for asking the new question: What is a cup of coffee?
Now I get it. I love the new definition and utilise it every day of my life.
Paradigm shifts and innovation are both crucial.
The simple idea is this: be very clear with yourself and with your team about which one you are going after, and then plan and serve accordingly.
Paradigm shift: Instagram,
Paradigm shift: Airbnb
Innovation: Cab drivers
Paradigm shift: Uber
Paradigm shift: Paypal
Paradigm shift: Netflix
Paradigm shift: new question, new answer
Innovation: old question, new answer
A new answer to an old question is sustaining innovation.
A new answer to a new question is disruptive innovation.