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What’s The Opposite Of Continuous Innovation?

Discontinuous innovation… Now, there is something to ponder!


Discontinuous innovation…


Now, there is something to ponder!

But, what is it? What does it mean?

Realistically, nothing, unless, of course, you compare it to something else. Like what? How about:
Continuous innovation? By now, you’re probably wondering: What the heck is he talking about?

I know, I brought it up and there are times I still wonder about it myself.

When you come right down to it, it’s all a function of reading and learning and thinking and growing. Things like continuous or discontinuous innovation are only meaningful or relevant if you are thinking about the changes that are occurring around you all the time. Thinking about all the changes you are experiencing is something that will occur only if you are aware. Awareness is nothing more or less than a perception of the realities we confront daily — the realities that surround all of us all the time. And, that’s where things can get interesting.


Most of the time, the majority of people wandering the planet are oblivious to anything and everything that doesn’t trip the “discomfort” switch or cause them personal pain. Since most things work tolerably well, most everyone is content to just tinker with the stuff they already have — a twist here, a poke there, an adjustment or two, all focused on making whatever they have just a little better. That would be continuous innovation: minor innovations and improvements that do not require additional infrastructure or significant adjustment on anyone’s part.

Change occurs — significant, disruptive, paradigm shift-inducing change — when someone introduces something new and different into the mix causing the dynamic to shift dramatically, and for most, without warning. Not because there was no warning, but because the warning signs went unnoticed or unheeded.


I have a colleague who rebuilt carburetors for a living. That’s what he did. He did it brilliantly and for a very long time, and probably made a nice living doing it.

Did he see the shift to fuel injection coming, coming when the first Bendix Electrojectors appeared on a 1957 Nash or a 1958 De Soto? Did he realize what was on the horizon when the first D-Jetronic found a home under the engine cover of a 1966 or 1967, Type 4 Volkswagon?

Did anyone?

Could they?

Could you?

What market segments, which categories, have been impacted most over the past few decades? Do you know?
Of the products that served as the foundation of your business just a few years ago, which no longer have a place on the shelf, in the warehouse or on your line card?


We’re servicing hybrids, lots of them… right now! We’ve made the shift from mechanical injection to electronic high-pressure diesel injection systems and are actively and aggressively preparing for the next wave of powerful, quiet, fuel-efficient diesels to appear. We’re working diligently to retain and enhance our position as a leader in the high-tech revolution that has continuously provided our industry with discontinuous innovation and I know that many of you will make that journey with us.

But, what are you doing to prepare your clients for the changes that are certain to come disruptive, destructive, discontinuous changes that are certain to impact what we do and how we do it? You certainly can’t help your clients prepare for a future you are unwilling or unable to see. You can’t help them get ready for a future you are unable or unwilling to admit, let alone embrace.


Discontinuous innovation and disruptive change are real. They have been a part of this industry as long as there have been cars and trucks and an integral part of our experience since we first stood upright, created language, discovered fire and began to impose our own will on the world around us.

So the question isn’t whether or not discontinuous innovation will continue, or even how it will impact us and the world in which we live. The question is, how can we make these changes work for us instead of against us? How can we benefit from this discontinuity? How can we prepare for it, harness it, make it our slave?


The answer is simple: The first step is to accept it, to acknowledge it is here and that it is real. The second is to prepare for it. The third is to embrace it.

I’m willing to bet this is something that can be accomplished better and more easily by working together than it could be attempted alone. It is something we could help each other survive more easily than we could survive it alone.

Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at [email protected]

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