Disruptive Innovation is About Making Connections No One Imagined Before

When we throw around the phrase “disruptive innovation”, we like to imagine people are creating entirely new industries out of thin air. There is something incredibly appealing about this kind of pure innovation—this kind of pure creation. But by and large, it doesn’t really exist anymore. There is no such thing as a truly new idea.

Now this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It just requires a change in mindset. Innovators aren’t the sort of people that have some strange epiphany and pull a game-changing idea from the heavens. Instead, they are incredibly adept at looking at the world around them and creating powerful, new connections that no one imagined before.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo—the largest conference in gaming—held its show this past week. Every year video game players and shareholders come to Los Angeles to be dazzled by the latest and greatest creations by all the juggernauts of that industry.

Every year, without fail, the same formulas are trotted out because companies have seen them work in the past. And every year, without fail, their user base is exhausted by these tired tricks. They want something new. Like every other industry, they want something that’s going to change the game.

Ubisoft—one of the titans of that space—is particularly notorious for its tried and true formulas for gaming. They love creating shooter games with dark, gritty color palettes, heavy themes, and big worlds to explore. They’ve been doing it for years and they do it because it sells.

But gamers are starting to get tired of the formula and Ubisoft noticed. The very first game they brought to the stage was something no one ever expected before. It was called Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and it was one of the strangest connections to grace E3 in years.       

This is not the first time that two intellectual properties that seemed incompatible came together in a new game. That’s old hat for Ubisoft and Nintendo both. No, what really moves the needle with Kingdom Battle is to take these characters we know for jumping and running and drop them into a tactical, turn-based roleplaying game.

It was a move that nobody expected and excitement flared up across three completely separate markets. The tactical RPG is very popular, but was never associated with something like Mario before. Something about that mix is so radical and so unexpected that the pure insanity of it is engaging on its own.

And somehow, it just seems to make sense when you watch it all play out. Mario and his well-known squad of friends move across a map in tactical formation and use their well-known jumping tactics to systematically deal with the hordes of enemies. Different people that never would have found themselves playing a game like this are excited to pick it up on day one. And above all, they are excited because it captures the essential element of gaming. It looks fun.

We live in a remix culture. There’s no such thing as a new idea anymore. Everything has been tried to a greater or lesser extent. We push forward when we can look at the way the world is working today and make a connection that seems just as intuitive as it does ridiculous.

That’s exactly what’s been done all the way from Facebook to Uber. All they did was observe the world and put something together that seemed impossible. You can do that too.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment