Innovation is a disease

“Innovation is a disease.” This statement by Shoshana Zuboff is solidly reasoned and have been a key part of my work and thinking for the last decade. I’m mostly paraphrasing Zuboff here:

According to Zuboff: “innovations improve the frameworks in which enterprises produce goods and services. Mutations create new frameworks”. (1)

Companies innovate in order to KEEP customers in the CURRENT framework. But companies don’t decide on the framework. This is decided by the customer.

Whenever frameworks change it’s due to the “changing demand patterns” of our customers, as in what they find valuable to pay for changes. And this leads to “new business models and practices to produce the new value”.

“Every century or so, fundamental changes in the nature of consumption create new demand patterns that existing enterprises can’t meet.”

But at the same time customers aren’t producing their own food, clothes and so on .. they are “dependent on their companies for consumption and employment.” This creates the tension between the customer and the companies.

Now transformations are a long game and I don’t think we can design for them intentionally (but we can try to understand our customers better and keep up).

But it pays to be aware of the difference between an innovation, which is a technology or trick that attempts to keep the customers in the old framework and a mutation which offers the customer value through a new business model and practice.

The reason this has been valuable to me is because it helped me understand the importance of looking past the glittering lures of technologies, functionality and products and keep my eyes on the customer.

If you want to understand what the world will turn into and how to successfully play in it. Then the customers hold the key.





Founder and Principal at Jokull AS |

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Helge Tennø

Helge Tennø

Founder and Principal at Jokull AS |

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