Don’t Use The Phrase “Disruptive Technology”– It Will Kill Your Product Launch

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27/01/2017

Don’t Use The Phrase “Disruptive Technology”– It Will Kill Your Product Launch (Unless You Are Elon Musk!)

I test drove a Tesla yesterday – I loved it! I am not really in the market for one, having recently acquired a BMW hybrid, but Tesla were kind enough to let me have the test drive anyway. I came away, not regretting the BMW, but thinking how can I get a Tesla in future? The technology was really something special, the finish excellent and the acceleration mind-boggling! The thing that is really amazing for me though, is the audaciousness of the concept; to completely revolutionise how large executive cars are powered.

But I am not Jeremy Clarkson, and this is not an article about a car. It is an article/discussion paper about the term “disruptive technology” and how it relates to medical products.

Is it a term you should be using for your products? I suggest that on balance it should be avoided. “Surely, not”, I hear you cry, “we have a product that is going to revolutionise xyz, abc; we have the health economic data, we have efficacy proof and FDA approval, CE mark, and we are going to take the world by storm”.  

So what are the upsides to the phrase disruptive technology? Well, generally it is true to say that investors seem to like it. The idea of starting from new, completely overturning the old order and getting your company to be the Tesla of the medical device world is highly seductive. Early-adopter customers may like the phrase also; they are the types that love technology, love change and embrace the concept of putting their head above the parapet and shouting “look what I’ve got/done”.

So why not use it? The reason is that essentially your global market is one of the most conservative there is. With the exception of a relatively small group of individual early adopters, global healthcare organisations are strongly resistant to substantive change. They don’t just dislike change, they loath it, even though they know that it is happening and it is being thrust upon them. Barriers to entry are often not logical or medico-economic; they are emotional, or relate to existing clinical practices that are established and would take years to break down.

The question is therefore, do disruptive technologies work? Yes, of course they do, but the marketing of them needs to be considered and cognisant of the barriers to entry, and what you are prepared to invest in infrastructure (see the Tesla story) to ensure launch success. We know that medical products are not cars, but who would have thought even 10 years ago that Tesla would be where they are now. Elon Musk has in fact said that he is “not really a fan of disruption” (for disruptions sake), but that that disruption only happens when people try to develop "fundamentally better" options. So there, we have it, it seems that maybe even he is cautious about the phrase!  

What do you think? Do you have a product that is a “fundamentally better” option, and will the market recognise that? Do you disagree with my premise and think the phrase “disruptive technology” is one you should be using to your customers? Have you used it? What was the outcome? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Go on, agree, or disagree, (be disruptive)!

Contact: Nigel.Job@remtecsearch.com

Tel: 01223 550 860

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