Professor Clayton Christensen classifies sustaining innovations as those that continue to improve a product or service, and move it up and up and up along the customer’s need.
Sustaining innovations achieve a quality far in excess of what most customers actually need, and as quality improves, price and margin improve as well.
Professor Clayton Christensen says, competition in sustaining innovations has a tendency to increase the price of the product (in contrast to the common economic wisdom that competition reduces prices).
However, at some point below this level of high product quality and innovation (poorly served by the high-end products,) there are disruptive technologies that will always chip away at the higher end products.
He has a table showing different companies that had created innovative products at one time, then been successively replaced by cheaper products always moving up up up in this sustaining innovation trend.
General Motors had its business slowly eaten by Toyota, from the bottom up.
And now Toyota, competing with Mercedes and BMW at the high end, is going to have its business eaten by Hyundai, and maybe Tata.
Competing Against Luck – Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillon and Taddy Hall
In “Competing Against Luck,” disruptor and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen shares his theory for breakthrough innovation: the jobs to be done theory.
In the book, he and co-authors Karen Dillon, Taddy Hall and David S. Duncan share case studies and real world examples that provide entrepreneurs and business owners with the tools they need to become more innovative—and profitable.
In illustrating the jobs to be done theory, the authors pose a thought-provoking question throughout the book:
“What job did you hire that product to do?”