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As we mentioned in my previous post on PricewaterhouseCooper’s study on ground-breaking, disruptive innovation, One of the most important conclusions I have reached is the correlation between the use of social networks by the most innovative companies (67%) compared to the least innovative (39%), especially with external collaborators (34% vs. 10%), and particularly with new products and services in cooperation with external partners. Social networks show a special level of openness in top companies, making them better adapted to open innovation and allowing for more disruptive innovation.

So which one came first: Social networks or disruptive innovation? I believe these are interconnected elements that are not independent, but have always been there; the egg cannot exist without the chicken, and the chicken cannot exist without the egg.

Together they form a symbiosis that allows them to survive. The same goes for social networks, even if nowadays they are based on technology, in an evolution towards a digital transformation and collaborative processes, within a collective intelligence that keeps on growing. In the past, the way to do things was more physical and costly; we had to find ways to communicate in order to collaborate.

But these innovation networks have really always existed, even before we had words to define them. I remember, about five years ago, I cited the example of the automotive industry in the United States with Ford and Toyota and their patent networks, as I spoke of the need to collaborate with more people in order to grow and innovate.

The image shows the network of suppliers with patents shared by Toyota vs. the small network of three collaborators in this area for Ford.

There have been many more examples, such as the Starbucks network and the opening of Mozilla to collaboration from external developers, as well as IBM’s inclusion of Linux. 

All of this opening up has been a key to survivalwithout losing part of that new market that was being formed. That is what disruptive innovation creates: new markets that replace old markets, and when that happens you have to be in the right place.

Disruptive innovation and the creation, nourishment and cultivation of its value networks (which today are also social and digital) are the responsibility of everyone, not just of the CEOs and leaders of Innovation, because they are communicating vessels for growth in all companies and all markets.

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