Understanding the Car as a Natural System
Chapter 10: How does change happen?
Innovation is studied by many different academic disciplines and this has resulted in a vagueness of terms and explanations (Garcia and Calantone, 2002). I do not intend here to review them all or to come down in favour of any of them. Instead I will touch on a few, but conclude that a more useful understanding may come from taking an ecological perspective. I will put all this in the context of an automotive model in need of change, if not radical transformation, in order to make it anywhere near sustainable. Such a transformation would require both technological innovations and organizational, social and cultural changes. In more conventional approaches, Christensen's work is commonly used to illustrate how, in a business context, incumbent firms are exposed in a market with innovations (Christensen, 1997, 2006). Christensen's work focuses on a description of how successful firms fail with the introduction of 'disruptive' innovations. In this context the distinction between 'sustaining' and 'disruptive' technologies is crucial. Sustaining technologies are the ones that improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions that mainstream customers in major markets know and love - when applied to environmental measures this is known as 'eco-efficiency'. Disruptive innovation refers to a new technology that emphasizes innovative attributes and qualities that are significantly different from those valued by the mainstream market. When disruptive innovation is first supplied to the market it only appeals to a small group of consumers and 'diffuses' through society from this early base (Rogers, 2003).
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