Ever since Clayton Christensen divided innovation into disruptive and sustaining, we have begun to praise the former and disparage the latter. According to this logic, we value precursors more than continuators. Unless the continuator successfully pretends to be a precursor. Sometimes thanks to this he wins. This is what we mean.
Let’s assume that a horse breeder trains strong stallions for long journeys and heavy loads. He cooperates with a constructor of light wagons. Together they develop within the framework of sustaining innovation. Suddenly the first car appears - a disruptive innovation.
Initially, cars are worse than horses. If Alexandre Dumas wrote “The Three Musketeers” then, he would not hesitate, how the heroes will get from Paris to London, to save the honor of the Queen of France - only horses! But over time, cars become better and better. Customers stop using the services of the horse breeder, and the constructor abandons the unfinished project of the wagon and builds a truck.
Sustaining innovations improve a product or service, while disruptive innovations change the rules of the game. Sometimes market leaders cannot keep up with the changes and lose to new players. This was the case with the horse breeder, Kodak, Polaroid or Nokia.
So are disruptive innovations better than sustaining innovations? This is the wrong question. Whoever ignores the technological revolution suffers defeat. Whoever uses it wins. Like the constructor of wagons, but also Steve Jobs. Yes, Jobs is an example of a continuator pretending to be a precursor.
Although considered a technology visionary, Jobs perfected existing products. He did not create a digital music player, smartphone or tablet. He merely improved them, commissioning developers to create new versions, even dozens, with minor tweaks. Apple promises customers that it will optimize its devices. Each improvement comes from adapting to the market and technology and listening to users. It's a feedback loop between design (and subsequent iterations) and reality. Jobs knew there was no point in planning everything in advance, but to be vigilant and change things on the fly.
The constructor of horse-drawn wagons can achieve greater success than the inventor of the car, if he can see and develop innovation - sustaining or disruptive.